Rise & Fall of Empires (1)

As we journey through any study of the end of civilizations, Christians must always remind themselves with the following statement of King Asa of old as he faced his enemies and the probable end of his kingdom:

“Lord, it is nothing with You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power. Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You and in Your name we go against this multitude, O Lord, You are our God. Let no man prevail against You” (2 Ch 14:11).

And then there were the words of the psalmist, who at the time, was evidently experiencing traumatic times in either social or national upheaval.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Ps 46:1,2).

No better words could have been spoken when God’s people stand against the onslaught of opposition that would prevail in a world of evil. It is always as Jonathan said to his armor bearer as he was about to engage the enemies of God, “… there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” (1 Sm 14:6).

With that encouragement, we rally our thoughts around what many historians believe is the final century of Western civilization as we know it. It is not a matter of if, but when. And when we speak of the fall of civilizations, we speak of decades, if not centuries. But one truth is always axiomatic when historians contemplate the end of empires. All empires eventually reach their consummation. Only the naive assume that what they have and enjoy in the present will continue forever. In the history of civilizations, that is simply not possible.

We must sometimes live for decades before we can be aware of centennial transitions in civilizations. As Western civilization now transitions into its finality, our experience of seven decades speaks no different than those of past millennia who have experienced the fall of empires in their time. As Israel’s prophets cried out against the majority in their final years, so we would today as we experience the winding down of the great Western civilization. If one would question our concerns, we do not stand alone. A simple Google search on the Internet will reveal an overwhelming amount of books and articles on this subject. So bear with some of our own speculations, if not postulations concerning what we have gleaned from the material that has been researched and written.

Rachel Nuwer, in a featured BBC Future’s Best of 2017, was right when she wrote that the collapses of many civilizations …

“… have occurred many times in human history, and no civilization, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end.   Regardless of how well things   are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora [combination] of factors that contribute to collapse. What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path—but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?” (Emphasis mine, R.E.D.).

[Lecture series continued.]

Defending A Divergent

There are few things more difficult to accomplish in the realm of religious discussions than to defend Christianity with someone who has defined Christianity as something that would be viewed through the Crusades, or some divergent cult. This is particularly true in reference to the non-Christian world that has a concept of Christianity that is so different from what we read in our New Testaments.

Nevertheless, this is the challenge every true Christian has in a world of the international news media whose definition of Christianity is often based on the behavior of the “Christian” religious establishment of our times. There is Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and then they just throw in “Christianity.” The news media knows no difference. One religion is just as good as another. The international news media is as blind as the world of non-Christian religions in their view of true Christianity. And sadly, many of those who would “classify” themselves as “Christian,” are just as guilty in their dysfunctional understanding of true Christianity because of their lack of knowledge of what should define their faith (See Rm 10:17).

But this challenge also faced the early Christians. The government figure, Felix, considered the Christians of his day to simply be a “sect” of Nazarenes who were divergent from mainline Judaism (At 24:5). When the apostle Paul finally extracted himself from the religious establishment of the Jews, he looked back and called the religious canonization of rules and traditions in which he once lived to be the “Jews’ religion,” or “Judaism” (Gl 1:13).

The international news media today has a difficult time in understanding true Christianity.   When divergent becomes the norm by which the “Christian” religious establishment is defined, then simple Christians are thrown into a difficult predicament. In their efforts to explain themselves, they are more often talking past those to whom they would explain themselves.

I have always wanted to write a letter to the government of China. That I will eventually do, for one of the difficult philosophical predicaments that “divergent Christianity” has produced in this world is a twisted understanding of Christianity. What has been presented to the world of politics, unfortunately, is simply not who Christians are. Subsequently, the government policies of some nations of the world are often antagonistic against a “divergent Christianity” that finds no definition in the Bible. I would defend before such governments that the establishment of “divergent Christianity” in the West does not explain who true Christians are.

Here’s a suggestion for every Christian: What we should do, as those who are seeking to emulate in our lives the true faith that we discover in the word of God, is preach and live the person of Jesus Christ.   In the presence of those who are a part of “divergent Christianity,” we will defend Jesus, and live according to His gospel.

To most people of the world, “Christianity” is simply viewed as just another religion among the assortment of choices the religious world offers. But such cannot be said of Jesus Christ the Son of God. If we focus on Jesus, and not “Christianity,” then the world must deal with the origin of our faith. Instead of being antagonists against an established religion, they would have to deal with Jesus Christ. If we could somewhat rephrase a statement of a particular religion, we would make some changes by saying, “There is one God, and Jesus is not only His prophet, but also the only begotten Son of God.” This belief is the beginning of the separation of true Christianity from the beliefs of all other faiths of the world.

Russia

If I were a Russian today, I would have somewhat about which to boast. I know this is difficult for the Western liberal to understand. Being overwhelmed with all the bad things that Russia seemingly has done, or does, we must not forget that there is nothing that Russia has done on the international scene today that has not been done by Western countries throughout their history, including interference in the leadership of other nations. (We have not forgotten the meddling the West played in Latin American countries during the 1960s and 1970s.) We seem to forget that spies and covert operations and all the rest of the 007 influences is a part of what world countries do among themselves.   Therefore, no one has a right to judge another in these areas.

Unfortunately for Russia, their meanderings here and there have come at a time in history when the West is becoming increasingly liberal, both in culture and faith.   Combine this liberal philosophy of morals with the demise of religiosity in the West, and we have the perfect storm for a confrontation between the liberal/nonreligious West to be in conflict with an increasing growth in religiosity and conservatism of Russia.

Every nation would be envious of Putin as a leader. He is conservative. He is direct. He is subtle. He is religious. He is a no-nonsense leader who presently has a phenomenal approval rating of the people. Tell me of another president who has as high an approval rating as Putin who has been president of a country as long as he has? Nevertheless, as a leader of a Russian people who are becoming more conservative and religious, Putin becomes the ideal scapegoat for the Western liberal, both in morals and religion.

Since social and religious liberals of the West did not recently get their way in their movement of the Western nation of America to the far right, they have concluded that here must be some demon who was the vermin that stopped them from their efforts of the moral degradation of Western civilization. But we are not deceived. This is not a political matter of international election meddling.   It was and is a confrontation between a Russia that is becoming increasing conservative and religious, and a Western culture of people who are becoming increasingly liberal and nonreligious. I will have to side with the Russians on this one.