[Midwest Christian Outreach Editor’s Note]: Over the past eighteen months or so one of the questions we receive most often is how did Western culture change so rapidly? Our response is it didn’t. All of this has been in the works for a very long time. We and others have been writing and speaking on this for decades. In the process of reformatting our past Journal articles into web ready blogs I came across just such an article, written over seven years ago and printed in the Summer/Fall 2014.
As a youth, I grew up in a family that was not Christian. My father was an Atheist but not really a philosophical Atheist….My mother, although having gone to church as a child, did not bring her former experience into the home.…She would go to mediums to have her future read; and one of her best friends, after my parents divorced, was a practicing witch. In spite of all this, we grew up in an essentially Judeo/Christian culture.
Were There Warnings? The short answer is “yes.” However, because Christianity was so comfortable, and its morals and ethics were such an integral part of cultural thinking, the warnings went ignored or unnoticed. We have written on many of these issues in the past, but a recap might be in order.
During the 1950’s, psychiatry/psychology really began to come into its own with the advent of Abraham Maslow’s humanistic psychology. Maslow’s theories included the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, and peak experiences as a way to become fully human. Intellectual elites and cultural thought-shapers began changing the way man thought about himself and others. Psychiatrists and psychologists became the new priests of the new religion. Both of these were road markers or warnings about what was coming, but few recognized it.
The false worldview of Darwinism eliminated the need for a Creator. In this view, we and, in fact, all of creation are little more than accidents in time and space. Once accidently and for no apparent reason sparked, the universe simply mutated and changed until everything we see came to be all by itself—unguided over time and sheerly by chance.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow impacted a young pastor by the name of Robert Schuller who founded a church at a drive-in theater in Southern California that later became the Crystal Cathedral. Up until then, humans were viewed as flawed—basically not good—and laws, morals, and ethics protected society from bad individuals. Psychology, on the other hand, persuaded its adherents that everyone is a victim. Whatever angst you felt, issue you faced, or sin to which you were prone was no longer to be viewed as your own fault, but rather, it was the fallout of someone else’s actions. Schuller grabbed on to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and built a church based on satisfying your “felt needs.” Armed with a “positive self-esteem” (you really are good) and “the power of positive thinking” you could accomplish anything. As Schuller wrote: "Sin is any act or thought that robs myself of [sic] another human being of his or her self-esteem.”
Feelings became the arbiter of what is true. As the high priests of psychology invaded culture and psychology became the grid through which the Bible would be interpreted, the church began changing direction and its understanding of human nature.
By the mid-1970’s, some new movers and shakers in the church concluded that evangelism was supposed to be done in the church by professionals….The ministry of the church [i.e.: training, equipping, praying (with and for), and comforting believers] was gradually abandoned, and the mission of the church (the proclamation of the Gospel outside the walls of the church) replaced it.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the shift away from belief in objective, knowable truth was under way in earnest, and “relative truth” was embraced by culture. Morality was no longer considered objective and knowable, because truth—according to the new thinking—was not objective and knowable.
Subsequently, sexual sin is now outdated. Homosexuality must not only be affirmed as normal, but also must be celebrated; and marriage can be redefined to include same gender unions! This slippery slope will be further expanded to include those beliefs that advocate other deviant sexual proclivities.
There has been quite a bit of angst that the current President [Obama] and his administration are fundamentally changing America, and it does seem that way. In reality, they have merely pulled back the curtain to expose all of the fundamental changes that these four tributaries have already brought about as they flowed into the river of culture.
In many ways, we find the church is in the same type of culture in which it was born in the first century. It was not embraced by the powers that be, was not welcomed, or made to feel comfortable. Christians rejected the idea of multiple gods, insisted that there is only one true God, and were condemned as Atheists. All truth-claims were regarded as equally true, valid, and tolerated provided one swore, “Caesar is Lord.” Christians refused and refused to participate in Caesar worship. This comes through clearly, as Paul instructed in Romans:10:9-13, that salvation comes by swearing, “Jesus is Lord.” This differing affirmation was a punishable offense. In their context, the church was the place where ministry occurred. Sound biblical teaching informed right Christian thought and living. In a culture that reveled in sexual promiscuity, Christians were to refrain from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5).
Christians were pro-life, regularly went out in search of abandoned babies, and took them in to raise as their own. They demonstrated the power of Christ living in them by the way they lived their lives (Col:1:27) and were trained to defend their beliefs to the non-Christians around them (Jude 3; 1 Peter:3:15). Each believer was a missionary to those they met (2 Tim:4:2). The idea to figure out ways to get non-believers to come in to church so the professional could sneak up on them with the Gospel is foreign to Scripture.
This really is what we see in Scripture [as] elders were commissioned to guard the flock from false teaching creeping into the church and from false teachers rising up within the church (Acts 20: 28-31). They were to teach and practice sound doctrine (1 Timothy:4:11-16). Yes, they would be ridiculed. No, they did not have a comfortable faith. They were dragged before the authorities and publicly accused, well let’s read it: "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus" (Acts:17:6-7).
Do you suppose that’s how they transformed civilization?