The Defeated Church Syndrome
Unquestionably we live in turbulent times, with the threat of world terrorism, a volatile Middle East, a shaky world economy, and an assortment of possible traumatic, earth–shattering scenarios presented to us daily by the media, people are increasingly pessimistic about the future. Unfortunately, this is not limited to those who have put their hope in the world system, whose “bankruptcy” in terms of having answers for the problems facing mankind, is becoming more and more evident, this negative outlook has infected the Church as well.
For over a hundred years, there has been a growing pessimism within the evangelical community concerning the future of the Church. This is, of course, the result of an eschatology that views the defeat of the Church on the stage of human history as inevitable. From this perspective every gross manifestation of evil is seen as increasing evidence of “the soon coming.” There are those who suggest in the midst of a “loss of traditional values” that perhaps the quicker the Antichrist comes and tribulation envelopes the world, the better off we will be, for then follows the rapture and the final solution to everything. Proponents of this theology reason, we can’t polish brass on a sinking ship, or why arrange deck chairs on the Titanic? The problem is the Church has focused on a sinking world rather than on a risen Lord. This has lead to what has been described as an “eschatology of shipwreck.” Evangelism rather than “discipling the nations” (Matt. 28:19), has become the handing out of “life jackets.”
Ideas do have consequences, and it does matter what we believe about the Church and the future. R.J. Rushdoony writes:
“In the modern era, the Church, while numerically strong, has grown less and less influential and more and more peripheral to everyday life, to politics, economics, the arts and sciences, and all else. For most people, the Church is irrelevant to the “real world” of human affairs. It provides a limited moral training for children, a social focus for the family, and not much more. Churches have numbers, not strength. Both in membership and leadership, the churches are radically weak.”
On the other hand, the faith of the Church fathers and the Reformers was victorious with a triumphant Christ revealed in His Church. This victory was indeed the hope of the Church. Their hope was in a gospel that would go out into the entire world and which would find its culmination and inevitable conclusion in Jesus’ glorious appearing. Charles Spurgeon, in his exposition on Psalm 86:9, stated:
“David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness and idolatry. Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed.
Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, ‘and shall glorify thy name’. The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven.”
Sadly, it has not been driven out of the Church but grown increasingly since the time of Spurgeon. The popularity of the Scofield Bible and its dispensationalist theology, at the turn of the century, propelled a pessimistic view of the future, which Spurgeon opposed, into mainstream evangelicalism.
Unfortunately, a great percentage of believers see themselves on the losing side of history. Whitaker Chambers, who became a Christian after leaving the Communist party in the 1930’s, and later testified against Alger Hiss, stated that when he left the Communist party he believed he was joining the losing side. But what has happened since then? We have lived to see the collapse of the Soviet Union, something most Christians did not believe they would ever see. As I heard Bob Mumford say years ago, “The Kingdom of God is ‘God’s bulldozer’ that runs over all who stand in it’s way.” Today Islam stands in the path of “God’s bulldozer” and it to will be run over. I may, or may not, live to see it, but I know with biblical certainty that Christ’s Kingdom will conquer.
Here are the questions we must, as the Church, ask ourselves:
Do we believe in the triumph of Christ over the Devil at the Cross? (Heb. 2:14)
Do we believe that the Church will overcome the “gates of Hell?” (Matt. 16:18)
Do we believe that the weapons that have been given the Church are powerful enough to bring down Islam and the New Age movement? (II Cor. 10:3-5)
Do we believe that Christ is praying for His Church and that His prayers are effective? (Heb. 7:25)
Do we believe that through the Church, Christ will reveal His manifold wisdom to the demonic powers? (Ephes. 3:10)
Do we believe that Christ will remain seated at the right hand of the Father until all of His enemies are made a “footstool for His feet”? (Ps.110: 1-2)
In closing allow me to quote once again Charles Spurgeon, that great Baptist preacher: “It would be easy to show that at our present rate of progress the kingdoms of this world never could become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Indeed many in the Church are giving up the idea of it except on the occasion of the advent of Christ, which, as it chimes in with our own idleness, is likely to be a popular doctrine. I myself believe that King Jesus will reign, and the idols be utterly abolished; but I expect the same power which turned the world upside down once will still continue to do it. The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that He was not able to convert the world.”