It’s a word we hear a lot in the 21st century.
Pop-culture, cross-culture, multi-culture, western culture, eastern culture, counter-culture, culture shock, culture wars, sub-culture.
In the 21st century our culture is described by some as post-modern or post-Christian.
This statement advances the view that Christianity is no longer the dominant civil, moral religion of our society. The evidence that would seem to support this view is that in the U.S. and parts of Europe since the 1960’s there has been a shift away from traditional Judeo-Christian values.In 1910 66.3 of the worlds Christians were Europeans.
In studies performed in 2011 the number has dropped to 25.9% *
World-wide there has been increased persecution, imprisonment and death of Christians unlike anything seen in modern times. Islam is said to be the fastest growing religion in the world along with an interest in and resurgence of other world religions. This would certainly seem to indicate a world-wide shift and trend towards a post-modern/post-Christian world-view.
But in reality is this an accurate assessment of the culture and world at large?
It is important to note that in our day of instant information and social media a lifestyle, an idea or a movement can seem to be the “majority” view when in reality it is not.
Joseph Goebbels minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany said it well all those years ago.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
And when you mix some truth with the lie it is especially effective. Consider this explanation of propaganda:
Historically true propaganda hasn’t always been full of outright lies or deception, as many people believe. Rather it’s the statement of facts and beliefs with the intention of influencing a particular audience, trademarked by the omission of any details that might persuade the audience to the other side. So we are bombarded with persuasive messages on a nearly constant basis, sometimes by paid advertisers and other times by groups looking to forward their own interests.
The entities behind these messages all have the same idea in mind: Convince the audience to agree with the message presented and adopt it as their own belief, thus rejecting the viewpoints of the “other” side. We call it propaganda first coined as a term by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 to win back Catholics who had taken up the Protestant faith during the Reformation. **
In our time the purpose of a post-Christian view is to convince us that the world has changed and along with it the need for Christian morals, values and beliefs.
A second question we need to consider is should our culture be of importance or of interest to a Christian? I believe the answer to both should be yes.
1. In an age of pluralism where all world-views are correct, where it is intolerable to state otherwise, secularism reigns. Absolutes have ceased to exist and truth is relative. Jesus commanded his followers to be light and salt. To refuse to have any interest or place any importance on our culture and those living in it would be to refuse an important command.
2. We must decide what we will be defined by. As Christian values and beliefs are increasingly presented in negative ways, the danger of allowing “unpopular opinion”to cause us to compromise or abandon the mission altogether is a danger we must avoid. To do so would be spiritual suicide.
3. We must understand that no culture or even national stance defines everyone. World-wide the number of Christians in Africa, Asia and the Americas are on the rise. The U.S. based Pew Forum reports that the number of Christians in the world is currently 2.18 billion with a total population of 7 billion, one third of the worlds population. This number represents a rise from the 1910 population, when the world had 600 million Christians with a total world population of 1.8 billion.
Reaching out to the world regardless of the culture or opinion of the world was and still is most important in expressing our faith. It was the foremost issue to Jesus “You have heard others say, Be patient; we have four more months to wait until the crops are ready for the harvest. I say, take a closer look and you will see the fields are ripe and ready for harvest”. John 4:35
I want to leave you with some thoughts that will hopefully encourage you as you engage our present culture.
It is His story. God’s hand is on history at every point, kingdoms, culture and all history indeed, is no more than “His story”, the unfolding of the eternal plan, and the kingdom that will triumph in the end is God’s*** Revelations 1:4-8
Times and culture may change but the mission is the same. “Go and make disciples”. Matthew 28:18-20
Do not be afraid. Jesus said this many times. He knew what was ahead for his disciples. His word to the disciples then and now has not changed. “Do not be afraid”. John 14:25-31
Fight the good fight. The apostle Paul used the imagery of running and fighting many times in describing his battle to stand for and share the gospel. His race was not without hardship and struggle, ours will not be either. In his last letter to Timothy he writes:”I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept the faith.
May that be said of all of us!
* Pew Forum
** How it works
***J.I. Packer “Knowing God”