“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the age of faith, it was the age of doubt,
It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
-Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities
Thus the great Charles Dickens described another revolutionary era in which all assumptions and values were severely challenged. As men and women of the 21st century, we are in the midst of a similar era. Twenty-first century Christians are called to follow the Lord and be His disciples at a supremely strategic moment in history.
In the era that Dickens so eloquently describes, the American and French Revolutions took place within a 25-year period that encompassed the last quarter of the eighteenth century (1775-1800). The struggle for hearts and minds between the core elements of these two revolutions and their opposing worldviews continues almost unabated today, both nationally and internationally.
Many observers have commented at length on the increasingly dominant influence of what Carl F. H. Henry as early as 1946 called “the secular philosophy of humanity or naturalism”.1
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Soviet exile, provided one of the most insightful analyzes of this evolving cultural crisis and is considered by many, myself included, to be one of the greatest men of the 20th and 21st centuries. In Solzhenitsyn’s commencement speech at Harvard in June 1978, he sounded the alarm, warning of the dire consequences of this erroneous worldview:
“The humanistic way of thinking, which declared itself our guide, did not recognize the existence of fundamental evil in man, nor did it see any task higher than achieving happiness on earth. Modern Western civilization has started on the dangerous trend of worshiping man and his material needs…as if human life had no the meaning of my name “.2
As Christians, God’s providence has called us to know and follow the Lord and to be His disciples at a supremely strategic moment in history. It is a moment full of devastating problems and full of promising opportunities.
Christian theologian Carl F. h. Henry of Christians 40 years ago saw the extreme extent to which educational philosophies and theories succumbed to this human-centered rather than God-centered focus and orientation. Henry notes that man rather than God “now defines ‘truth’ and ‘good’ in most modern universities and that this is the culmination of ‘the greatest inversion of ideas and ideals in the history of human thought'”. Such human-centered thinking “assumes the universal possibility of all things.” , including God; the total temporality of all things; the radical relativism of all human thought and life; and the absolute autonomy of man.”3
This humanistic philosophy has now completely fueled all aspects of our American culture, including our nation’s public schools. As a result of the COVID shutdown, millions of parents across America were shocked to find out what their children were learning in their public schools.
Morally relativistic and humanistically influenced, education prompted a deconstruction of American history and a complete rejection of traditional sexual mores. As former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained:
“If our kids don’t grow up understanding that America is an exceptional country, we’re done. If they think it’s an oppressed class and an oppressed class, if they think the 1619 Project, and we’re raised on a racist idea—if these are the things that people in seventh grade have entered so deeply into their understanding of America.” It is not difficult to understand how Xi Jinping’s claim that America is in decline would not prove correct.”4
In fact, after surveying the impact of the massive implementation of these philosophies in public schools, Pompeo called the president of the teachers union, Randy Weingarten, “the most dangerous person in the world.” (ibid.).
This morally relativist humane community has been permeating within American society for generations, and its destructive chickens have come home to live.
Popular culture has always reflected this trajectory. John Lennon’s “Imagine” has been voted the most popular “rock” song of all time:
“imagine there’s no heaven.
It’s easy if you try.
There is no hell below us
Above us only the sky.
Imagine all people
live for today.
Imagine there is no state.
It is not difficult to do this.
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion either.
Imagine all people
live in peace
Imagine not having property
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger
Imagine all people
Sharing all the world.
You can say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
I hope you will join us one day
And the world will live as one.”
Such naive and erroneous thinking about fallen human nature could not be sustained, even by Lennon. The next song on the album was also written by John Lennon, and it is titled
“You can polish your shoes and wear a suit,
You can comb your hair and it looks very cute.
You can hide your face behind a smile.
One thing you can’t hide
When you are paralyzed from the inside.
You can wear a mask and paint your face,
You can call yourself the human race.
You can wear a collar and tie,
But one thing you can’t hide
When you’re locked inside.”
This false optimism about the truth of human nature should come as no surprise to anyone who has read the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. As American Christians in the twenty-first century, we now face not a secular society, but a society of new origins with its new idols and its new gods.
As C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) noted many years ago,
“When people stop believing in God, it doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in anything. They believe in anything. Now we have supposedly intelligent people from the 20th century who wear pyramids around their necks and believe in the power of crystals.”
Now, with the transgender phenomenon the latest example of the triumph of relativist mentality in the United States, we seem to be closing in on J.K. Chesterton’s (1874-1936) dismal 1900 prophecy (heretics) that the West would come to a point. In the future when “fires will be kindled,” he said, “to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.”
Chesterton predicted in 1900, “The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be rejected. Everything will become dogma.”
So, how should Christians respond to this existential crisis regarding an objective understanding of reality and the belief that life has meaning and purpose?
Today’s Christians should derive inspiration and encouragement from the fact that we face a situation remarkably similar to that faced our spiritual ancestors in the first century.
Like our Christian brothers and sisters in the first century, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1-2). To be truly effective in changing lives and changing culture, we must first experience this spiritual change for ourselves.
If we are to be the salt and the light that Jesus commanded us to be (Matthew 5:13-16), we must be in the world (the salt must commune with what he desires to preserve and the light that “shone before men” must be seen by men). We must be in the world, but not in the world (James 1:27).
As we face our neopagan cultural milieu at our command to be salt and be light, we must recognize that our ability to do so successfully will be governed first not only by his presence in our lives, but also by how much we surrender on a daily basis to his lordship. As W. Graham Scrooge said beautifully:
“Christ’s presence in us has its degrees and progressions, less and more, external and internal. Life may be truly Christian but it is far from being entirely Christian. This is what distinguishes one Christian from another. Some have made little room for Christ, some have given him more, and in others he has been He has the whole house. Or, from another point of view, in some cases Christ is fully present, in others he is conspicuous, and in others he is again superior.”
Let us renew our faith in our Savior and Lord this Christmas season. May God use our faithfulness as His instrument to bring about revival, renewal, and spiritual reformation in America and the world.
May God bless America and make us worthy of blessing.
 Henry, Carl FH Remaking the Modern Mind, Wm. Erdmann, 1948.
 Berman, Ronald (ed.) Solzhenitsyn Harvard, Center for Ethics and Public Policy, 1980.
Richard Land, BA (Princeton, summa cum laude); Dr. Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans School). Dr. Land served as President of the Southern Evangelical School from July 2013 through July 2021. After his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and continues to serve as Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Ethics and Religious Freedom (1988-2013) where he was also honored as Chairman Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as executive editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
explore d. Land covers many crucial and timely topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Idea Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.
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