by Eugene Clingman, Executive Director, International Church Council
Western missionaries continue to carry the teachings of Jesus to the nations as they have done for more than two centuries. Christianity is flourishing in many of those nations while at the same time, the Christian West (Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand) has been drifting from Christianity. During the last 100 years, Western missionaries turned Africa from a continent of 9 million in 1900 to 400 million Christians today; this amounts to 59% of the population. On the other hand in the 18 years since 1990, Christianity has decreased in America from a nation in which over 86% identified themselves as Christian to below 70% today. Why is Christianity growing in many nations America helped disciple while she herself is declining?
For many American Christians it has become more important to be American than Christian. Some for instance have absorbed the culture of tolerance. I am talking about the new tolerance that requires all ideas to be considered of equal value. But to be Christian is to understand that Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2-3), has the only ideas that will stand the test of time and eternity (Matthew 24:35).
Consider the difference between Post Modern tolerance and Christ’s Great Commission. Jesus told his followers to be about the business of getting other people, whole nations in fact, to trade in their ideas for His ideas! – “teaching them to obey all the things I have commanded.” Christians should never acquiesce before the idea that non-Christian ideas are as good as Christian ideas. Rather we Christians should help non-Christians junk their non-Christian ideas and replace them with Christian ideas and beliefs.
When it comes to non-Christian ideas Paul speaks in violent terms of warfare. He said we should “pull down strongholds,” and “cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,” and bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-6). This sort of thing is very un-American!
When Paul spoke this way, he was not talking about his internal struggles as a believer. He was saying the job of ministers and of Christians is to pull down non-Christian ideas because they exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. The Christian worldview alone conforms to the real world of sin and redemption; this is the only world there is! The Christian Worldview alone tells of creation out of nothing, of the fall of the human race into sin, and of Christ the only remedy for sin. These things are not just ideas, they are the realities of planet earth. Anyone who seeks to live life outside this Christian worldview lives in a fantasy world! In addition, to the degree the Christian consciously or unconsciously adapts to the non-believer’s ideas, he himself is living partially in unreality. The Bible and Christian doctrine apply to all people, to Adam’s entire race! Those who are not conforming to Christian doctrine are living in lies, they live a fantasy! It is for this reason Paul exhorts us to “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
So why are America and the West declining? When Jesus directed, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you,” He used a Greek word that comes from the same Greek root translated “doctrine.” The Third World is growing in Christianity while the Christian West slides away for this very reason – doctrine is little esteemed in the West, and in fact is commonly despised. It is not uncommon to hear a Christian say something like, “I do not like doctrine. Doctrine divides people.” Yet it is Christian teaching (doctrine) that defines the world as it really is. The Christian must be filled with Christian doctrine to understand the world, life, love, sin, death, eternity and everything else. The ICCP seeks to promote right doctrine, a true Christian worldview.
Real World vs. Dream Worlds
Contrary to the Post Modern claim that all ideas are of equal value, there are ideas that conform to reality and many that do not. Ideas that do not conform to reality are lies and fantasies. Jesus came to redeem us from the Lie. Jesus spoke doctrine to people as a means to that end. He said to his listeners, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:16-17). One of the doctrines Jesus taught is that the Old Testament is God’s Word, saying, “…the Word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Jesus endorsed the entire Old Testament as the Word of God. Jesus told His Apostles that the Spirit of God would come and lead them into all the truth. We believe that as the O.T. prophets were directed by God to write what God wanted written, so also were the New Testament writers directed. We have God’s Word to mankind, the Bible. From the Bible we derive Christian doctrine which is doctrine in conformity to Christ’s teaching and this is always in agreement with the entire Bible. It is Christian doctrine from the O.T. and N.T. that enables us to live in the real world. It is by Christian doctrine that we are delivered from the Lie.
Consider this – America and the West are in a life and death struggle. Vishal Mangalwadi recently observed that the sun is setting on the west. But, says he, and I believe it, the West can be turned around. In the International Church Council Project we pray that God will pour out His Spirit in revival and restoration, and that he would allow ICCP to have a part in the new Great Awakening we believe God in His mercy will send in this generation. We pray that America and the West may energetically repent and return to the doctrines that originally made her great. ICCP is serving to help America do this very thing, even as we seek to facilitate the international Church in setting “a biblical-theological standard of doctrine for the Body of Christ…consistent with the mainstream theology of the first 20 centuries.” We are grateful for your support and prayers to this end, that God may be glorified in all our labors and entire lives.
By knowing the only True God and Jesus Christ whom He sent we know ourselves and also the world around us. God who made the universe is the starting place and ending place for thinking. Thinking not in conformity to God’s thoughts is mistaken thinking, sinful thinking! God made reality and we cannot re-make it other than it is. I do not mean we are unable to change things on planet earth; there are many things we can change. However, we cannot change the reality of gravity, nor can we change the standard right and wrong, nor judgment for sin. We cannot change the fact that this is a fallen world, that sin is pervasive in the human soul, and that the only answer to this devastation is Jesus.
Adam and Eve chose to not live in God’s reality. They chose to attempt to live in a world not real. The devil said, “You will not surely die!” Now they certainly knew that God who created the Forbidden Tree and also created themselves could accurately tell them whether or not eating such a tree would cause death. Yet they chose to believe the Lie! They rejected the reality God made and accepted the Devil’s suggestion that the penalty of death would not come. Death came!