Should Christians be angry or excited about the decline of cultural Christianity in America? Based on the posts I have written thus far, you can likely guess my personal leaning in this matter. At the same time, I cannot deny the general or common grace benefits resulting from a moral consensus having its basis in biblical teaching. So, the question remains, “Is the decline of cultural Christianity good or bad for the Church?”
I believe the best way to approach this question is to remember that Christianity’s influence upon culture waxes and wanes according to God’s good plan. Whatever transpires in this world, though perhaps not good in itself (e.g. sin, war, decline of churches etc.), is nonetheless encapsulated within and overridden by God’s perfect, righteous, and holy will for history and humanity. This must be the starting point for understanding any event. Then, rather than doing what most Americans, particularly American Christians, love to do by finding comfort in a label (“good / bad”, “Christian / non-Christian,” “woke / non-woke,” etc.), it is more profitable for us as believers to evaluate things humbly, boldly, and according to Scripture.
I like to tell myself the decline of cultural Christianity in America “is what it is.” On the one hand, in God’s good providence, the decline is supposed to happen and accomplishes the greater plan he has foreordained. On the other hand, in this fallen world, bad things happen because of sin: professing Christians make poor decisions, compromise their beliefs, hurt others, commit apostasy; and some churches exchange the true gospel for a false gospel. By saying the decline “is what it is” and by looking at both sides, I am seeking yet again to escape the dangerous “either-or” dichotomy. God is in control, not me; people will sin, and I cannot change or prevent what they choose to do; and God’s plan is good no matter how I feel or what I think about it. Only after acknowledging these things can I begin to evaluate with greater objectivity both the good and the bad in the decline of cultural Christianity.
Here are two articles – one positive, one negative – about the decline of cultural Christianity. Learn from both of them!!!
The “both-and” approach might seem like a cop-out on my part, a refusal to answer the question honestly. If that is what you are thinking, I completely understand! However, in hopes of providing clarity, I want you to consider what happened to Christ Jesus during his passion. Was the passion of Jesus a good thing or a bad thing? On the one hand, it was the worst atrocity committed in human history. The perfect, sinless, son of God was tortured and murdered because of the wickedness and sinfulness of the human heart. It was bad! On the other hand, Jesus’ suffering and death ransomed his people from the clutches of death and served as the all-atoning sacrifice through which they could be reconciled to God. It was good! Thus, what at the time seemed like very “bad news” for Christ’s followers on earth was, in fact, “good news” and cause for rejoicing in the heavens. Only after the resurrection were people’s eyes opened to the all-encapsulating / overarching goodness of God’s plan. There was no “bad news” after the resurrection (except, of course, for Satan, the demons, and those who refuse to repent and believe in Christ) because God’s final word about what Jesus endured was that, in the eternal scheme of things, it was good. What men intended for evil, God purposed for good.
Ultimately, you and I must be humble enough to admit that our perspectives on current circumstances are, at best, limited. Our attempts to label things “good” or “bad” are, at best, only partially accurate because we cannot see what the Lord is doing from beginning to end.
Does all of what I have written mean we as Christians must waffle back and forth between whether something is good or bad, never making any judgment calls about either? Of course not! We must still discern and judge right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, profitable vs. unprofitable. Yet we must balance our discernment, judgments, and limited perspectives with two truths: (1) God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, both good and bad, and (2) God works all things together for the good of those who love him.
And so it is with the decline of cultural Christianity. In writing these posts, I am pushing all of you to evaluate both the good and the bad of cultural Christianity’s decline. At the same time, I want all of you to recognize God’s overarching goodness in all circumstances we endure. The decline of cultural Christianity in America “is what it is,” both good and bad. But I am thankful for God’s goodness and grace in teaching me to stop fretting about things that are, to stop feeling the need to decide whether they are altogether good or bad, and to start trusting all the more in the great I AM.