02 July 2013

Has Christianity Lost All Moral Influence in the West?

Recent (meaning the past several decades) events in the US and other western nations certainly seem to indicate that Christianity has little, if any, sway over the morality of peoples and nations. A cursory perusal of any newspaper will indicate the depth of the moral degradation. This has not always been the case. From the conversion of Constantine (312 A.D.) until the middle of the twentieth century, western civilization and Christianity had been viewed as virtually synonymous. Though commentators disagree on the point at which Christianity lost its influence in society, few deny that this is the case.

Psychohistorian Rudolph Binion writes that “Christianity lost its credibility by and large in the course of the eighteenth century.”[1] In a volume replete with historiographical resources, Binion makes a fine argument for what he calls “Christianity in collapse.” Through extensive literature analysis and polling data, Binion asserts that though western society retains links to historic Christian doctrines, it has shed itself of belief.

Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey have claimed that “today’s culture not only is post-Christian but is also rapidly becoming postmodernist, which means it is resistant not only to Christian truth claims, but to any truth claims.”[2]

Evidence that Christianity has lost its leadership role and moral influence in western culture can be found without difficulty. We need look no further than the church. Denominational debates seldom focus on doctrine today. More likely discussion will center on social policy. Ordination of homosexual clergy and marriage rites for homosexual parishioners have long since trumped doctrinal debate as fodder for the annual meeting of most church groups. Mainline churches advocate for the availability of abortion services, but few argue against the growing Sunday youth soccer schedule. Sunday School curriculum, where any at all is used, is often infused with the Values Clarification thinking of Sidney Simon.[3] This philosophy teaches that there are no right or wrong values. We simply must be clear as to what our, individually created, values are.

Robert Bork, in Slouching Towards Gomorrah, captures the decline of the influence of Christianity this way,
It is not helpful that the ideas of salvation and damnation, of sin and virtue, which once played major roles in Christian belief, are now almost never heard of in the mainline churches. The sermons and homilies are now almost exclusively about love, kindness, and eternal life. That may be regarded, particularly by the sentimental, as an improvement in humaneness, indeed in civility, but it also means an alteration in the teaching of Christianity that makes the religion less powerful as a moral force.[4]

Despite the demise of Christianity as its moral anchor, western civilization is still associated with a religion. That religion is humanism. In a religion which is self-centered there is no room for a God who asks for repentance or obedience. There is only the drive to homogenize all experience; to make life easier and more palatable for the masses. R.J. Rushdoony, more than 40 years ago, warned of the logical conclusions of humanism. He wrote, “In all religious faiths, one of the inevitable requirements of logical thought asserts itself in a demand for the unity of the godhead. Hence, since humanity is god, there can be no division in this godhead, humanity. Mankind must therefore be forced to unite.” [5] “The goal,” Rushdoony adds, “is not communion but uniformity.” This lemming-like march toward sameness, he asserts, leads to a “pro-one-world” philosophy which pursues pacifism, yet actually requires war, “in that it insists on irreconcilable and contradictory things.”[6] This crying of  “peace, peace” where there is no peace is but one indication that humanism is a flawed replacement for the Christianity of our fathers. Rushdoony insists that Christians must resist this “leveling.” Referring to the concept of a United Nations, the outgrowth of humanism, he writes,
First, it insists on uniting a world and leveling all differences….Second, it seeks to create a super-state which must increasingly coerce every state, civil government, and person into line with its dream of messianic power. Third, it seeks to arrest history and freeze it into a particular mold in terms of Enlightenment thought. Inevitably, this faith is anti-Christian, and a conflict with Christianity is requisite to its being.[7] [Italics added].

So, therein lies the problem. We have a form of Christianity in the west, without it's substance. Will this ever change? Some suggestions in that regard in our next instalment. 

[1]  After Christianity (Logbridge-Rhodes, Durango, CO, 1986), p. 9. No friend of Christianity, Professor Binion offers much food for thought and an absolute goldmine of historiographical resources.
[2] How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, IL, 1999), p. 22.
[3] Sidney B. Simon, Leland W. Howe, and Howard Kirschenbaum, Values Clarification, available in numerous edition, it was first published in 1978. One reviewer of this book described It this way: “This important guide presents numerous strategies for analyzing values without teaching a particular moral viewpoint. Through more than 75 intriguing and stimulating question-and-answer exercises, this book makes readers aware of their individual feelings, ideas, and beliefs so they can make choices based on their own value systems.”
[4] (Regan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, NY, 1996), p. 293.
[5] This Independent Republic (Ross House Books, Vallecito, CA, reprinted 2001), p. 130. Originally published in 1964.
[6] Ibid, p. 131.
[7] Ibid.

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