Rev. Daniel Fleischer
“Post-Christianity is the loss of the primacy of the Christian worldview in public affairs, especially in the Western world where Christianity had previously flourished, in favor of alternative worldviews such as secularism, nationalism, environmentalism and militant atheism amongst many other ideologies.” The above online definition of post-Christianity is more succinctly described by Merriam-Webster as the “decline of Christianity as a majority religion.”
Decline of Christianity does not mean that the Word of God is no longer among us or effective. It is among us despite the competing and growing anti-Christian forces in the world. The Word they still shall let remain, Luther wrote. Jesus said in His Olivet address, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). It does not mean that Christians will disappear from the earth. Jesus said again, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). It does not mean that the Word has lost its influence on hearts, nor lost its power. The Spirit recorded, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through [worldly] wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through [what the world perceived as] the foolishness of the message [the Gospel] preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). The Word remains what Paul called it, “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
The Lord does not convert hearts by force of arms or through threat or deception. He works through His divinely inspired and inerrant Word which can be rejected because of sinful man’s perverseness. Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You… make the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down” (Mark 7:13). Doom would fall on Judah and Jerusalem, “Because I have spoken to them, but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered” (Jeremiah 35:17). The decline of Christianity today is not the fault of the Word. The Word of God does not influence a rock.
Christianity is based upon the Word of God. Faithful Christians whom we prefer to define as “Christ-believers” recognize the Word of God as the one and final authority in matters of faith and life.
The foundation, heart, soul, and life of Christianity is the Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the one living and only true God. Holy Scripture is the conveyor of the truth that mankind, lost and condemned by reason of sin, is “justified by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Who gave His life a ransom for all “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Faith unto salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. These truths are not communicated today in the manner the Lord spoke in the Old Testament, namely by direct communication. Today He speaks to us through the recorded, revealed Word, preserved in the Bible.
Through the ages false prophets have arisen in the Church who undermined the truth. In this morass, the Lord raised up Martin Luther and through him brought about the Reformation, a return to sound, fundamental teaching of Scripture. Nevertheless, Satan, who knows he cannot overcome Christ and the Word, trains his guns on gullible mankind to bring down to hell as many as he can.
The Lord through the apostle Paul says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires…” will seek out and listen to false teachers who “will turn their ears away from the truth” and lead people to believe fables. To counter Satan’s efforts, our Lord says, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Through Jeremiah the Lord said, “He who has My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).
Two things have occurred that lead to the post-Christian world. One reason is the existence of false teachers who do not preach the Word faithfully. The other is as the Lord said, “I have spoken to them, but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered.”
Consequently, “secularism, nationalism, environmentalism, and militant atheism amongst many other ideologies” have arisen. We should not be surprised. We have been forewarned. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy… (1 Timothy 4:1-2). The above ideologies and religions appeal to the sinful flesh. All of them influence those who do not listen to the Lord. All of them are spread through various media in a fallen world – heterodox churches, the public press, television shows and commercials, newspapers, political platforms, government schools from preschool to liberal universities.
These contradict the Lord and ridicule His word to undermine the foundation of the Christian’s faith. The effort to undermine the faith starts subtly. Some buy and promote the lies. Others are naïve to what is happening. Others do not take it seriously. Some do not perceive the threat until finally defenses are worn away, and hearts are turned away from the truth. Error and worldly philosophy eat like a canker, imperceptibly, but surely.
“There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). How better to introduce secularism, socialism, environmentalism, and atheism” that leads to decline in Christianity and loss of faith than to plant the poisonous seed in youth? The antidote to “garbage in, garbage out” lies in faithfully immersing ourselves in Scripture truth and training up our youth in the Lord. In home, in school, in church, by example and teaching.
In his book, Christianity and Liberalism (1923), J. Gresham Machen, lamenting the influence of liberalism in the church, said, “In countless cases Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is… The development is due partly to the general decline of education… The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd notion that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be ‘drawn out’ of the mind before anything is put in.” Is it any different in 2023? He went on to say, “The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine…It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by whatever other educational agencies the Church can find” (pp. 174-176).
Cherish your Christian Day School if you have one. Use it, and, yes, consider your children’s spiritual growth. The spiritual life of children, the future of a confessional Christian Church, the rejection of “secularism, nationalism, environmentalism and militant atheism amongst many other ideologies” calls for “holding fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9), that by sound doctrine those who gainsay it might by exhorted and corrected. Whether they will listen or not is not in our control. Nevertheless, the Lord calls us to preach the Word, be bold in the conviction of sin, and even bolder in the proclamation of the Gospel, through which faith is worked, and fruits of faith (sanctification) are created.
Unless they to whom we preach listen to the Word and are convinced by the Spirit, the post-Christian atmosphere will persist. Manifestations of it will grow more bold and more uncomfortable for Christians in general, and bold confessors in particular. Through it all, the Lord has and will preserve His Church and the Gospel. Machen again, “But He has always saved it not by theological pacifists, but by sturdy contenders for the truth.” (p.174). Think of Luther and the confessors who stood with him!
“Yet there is in the Christian life no room for despair. Only our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand. It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God” (Machen, p. 178). That is a call to immerse ourselves in Scripture where these promises are recorded and confirmed for us by the Father, Who in the fulness of time sent His Son into the world. To His redeemed children, our Father says, “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, Who has mercy on you” (Isaiah 54:10). The Father’s promises are confirmed by Jesus’ word from the Cross, “It is finished.” Jesus’ resurrection is the exclamation mark to every promise He has made! Jesus has assured us that even in a post-Christian age we live in a pre-Life atmosphere. Our citizenship is in heaven. He told soon to be orphaned disciples He would come again for them that they might be where He is (John 14:1-3). That promise is ours also.
In his ministry, the apostle persevered in the faith, in prayer, in preaching. In prison, facing death by Nero’s hand, he trusted God’s promises and Christ’s merit. He said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
In a post-Christian world pray for endurance. Fear not; better days lie ahead. “Rejoice,” for with the indelible blood of Christ, “Your name is written in heaven” (Luke 17:20).
Rev. Daniel Fleischer is a retired pastor, former CLC president, residing in Oakdale, MN.