Thursday, September 24, 2015



Sometimes it is helpful to step back from the short term skirmishes and look at what is happening locally, internationally and on a generational time scale - many Christians seem clueless, fighting badly or even fighting on the wrong side of the culture war. 

In the 1980s, we had a four way cut-throat fight in South Africa.  Marxism, National Socialism, Christianity and Liberalism competed for dominance.  At the time, the two most powerful seemed Marxism and National Socialism (Apartheid).  Marxism and National Socialism both collapsed in the early 1990s, leaving the fight to Christianity versus Liberalism.  While the African Nationalist brand of Marxism and National Socialism (Apartheid) were supposed enemies, they had a lot in common: Both drew on ethnic support and both believed in an 'super powerful state' to solve all problems.  The fall of the Soviet Union took away South African Marxists funding, arms, their inspiration and training.  It also removed the main argument used by the apartheid government to stay in power.  Liberals, who were a small minority at the time except in academia, seized the power vacuum and gained key positions in government, the judiciary and the official opposition.

In the early 1990s, most Christians viewed their faith as a personal or church matter and were poorly equipped to engage culturally.  After decades of international isolation due to apartheid, they were unprepared for the tidal wave of liberalism arriving from the West.  Liberalism was boosted by the media and an influx of foreign money to fund liberal lobby groups that push agendas like abortion, pornography, condoms in schools and prostitution.  Two exceptions were however Community Radio and Education.  Christians took the initiative to start up radio stations, home school children, start private schools and serve on school governing bodies – successfully wresting power from the state, with Christian lobby groups defending their right to do so.   While state control of pornography was lost, most shops stopped stocking it due to consumer pressure.  Had we not won these key battlegrounds, South Africa would probably already be in a state like Europe.  Instead of South Africa being taken over by Marxism, South African missionaries penetrated every part of the former Soviet Union and its allies with the gospel – most significantly our neighbour MozambiqueNamibia, instead of going Marxist as feared, kept the Christian laws and got rid of the bad laws of the Old South Africa.

What happened to the Church in the 1990s? The Protestant mainline denominations allowed their ministers to be trained at state funded universities – which all except for NorthWest went liberal.  Disastrously, these denominations are now liberal dominated.  But liberalism itself had its own revolution – moving from Modernist denial of the supernatural to Post-modernism.  Most church growth was within the Charismatic oriented Churches – which began as a supernaturalist rival to Modernism within the Mainline denominations, but these left to form their own churches – leaving most of Protestantism to the liberals.   A minority of Protestant churches, mostly English Calvinists, who did not rely on Universities for training pastors maintained a modest but steady growth.  Afrikaans Calvinist Churches relied on state funded universities for pastors, and mostly went liberal.  The new Charismatic churches rapidly absorbed the youth of the liberal denominations, but in many cases were hijacked by personality cults.

In the mid-2000’s many evangelical churches began to try to adapt to the changing culture to attract youth – first the seeker sensitive movement, followed by the postmodern movement – which took things a step further.  Many young pastors didn’t know where to stop in accommodating culture – and ended up with a loss of quality in holiness truth in favour of entertaining the masses.  The result was short term unhealthy growth, followed by long term stagnation.  Spiritual decline is eventually followed by numerical decline.  The Postmodern movement, unlike Modernist liberalism was open to the supernatural and thus could penetrate Charismatic churches, albeit with a false spirituality. A few Charismatic pastors studied for degrees at liberal universities and ended up liberal themselves – no one is immune.  Positively, the 2000s saw a surge of interest in prayer, with prayer rallies filling major stadiums.  Unfortunately, when these got really big, the focus moved off repenting and seeking God for revival and church leadership politics and the media limelight.

Internationally, Western liberalism followed the decline described in the Bible in Romans chapter 1.  Ironically, the ex-Marxist nations have not.  Each year, more depraved laws and entertainment come from Europe and America and South African liberals in and outside the church march lockstep following these fads.  In the mid 2010s (now), Western postmodern liberalism shifted from individual rights emphasis to fascist ‘political correctness’ – attempting to bulldoze away Christian religious freedom, attacking us by any means possible. This trend naturally arrived at South Africa – most aggressively led by gender and sexuality revolutionary activists. 

But at the same time the West is declining, our cold war enemy China, which had around a million Christians in the 1970s, now has around 100 million, outnumbering communist party members.  It is a matter of time, before this translates into political change.  Central Africa, once called the Dark Continent – and predicted by Christians a hundred years ago to become Islamic - is being cited even by liberal scholars as ‘The Next Christendom’.


* We must realise there is a culture war on and help other Christians to do so.  Some haven’t got that far yet.  Some haven’t even realised the Bible has anything to say about culture or if they do, that we have any hope of changing it.

* We must protect the church from becoming corrupt by:
- Keeping pastor training in church control and out of state control.  We need men full of the Word of God.  Degrees are optional. 
- Realising every Christian denominational grouping is vulnerable to corruption.
- Maintaining biblical checks and balances, realising the sinfulness of human nature, to prevent fascist personality cults and cartels governing the church.
-  Church adapting to culture in every generation is necessary but must be done carefully, lest we absorb cultural corruption.
- Aiming for healthy church growth through spiritual revival rather than through cultural adaption.
- Keeping the focus on seeking God for spiritual revival.

* We are in an international fight – for the whole world. 
- Our modest investment in missions has had a huge return in other nations.
- Bad ideas from overseas tend to come to South Africa and we have to fight them as they arrive.  We need thus to watch overseas trends and learn from Christians there fighting these battles before us.

* The successes in schools, shops and community radio should be an encouragement that we can substantially influence the culture.

* We have to fight for our freedoms, otherwise we will become just a persecuted minority.

* While Western liberalism seems powerful in the 2010s, so did Marxism and National Socialist apartheid in the 1980s.  Liberalism doesn’t have to be the future.  Our enemies are not invincible.