In a recent sermon here in Montserrat, I had occasion to address a telling contrast between the men of Issachar of David's day, and the pharisees of Jesus' day:
. . . always, the challenge is to be like the men of Issachar in 1 Chron 12:32 . . .
. . . men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do . . .
NOT that of the leaders of Israel in Jesus' day, who he had to rebuke:
“ . . . You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." [Mt 16:3 – 4]
That is an ever more pressing concern, as we see an emerging tripolar global age: the West caught between dechristianisation, moral disintegration and and demographic decline, the rising Islamist challenge from the Middle East, and the impact of the now century-old Southern Christian Reformation.
For instance, there is the issue that the West is in an internal cultural clash between the remaining legacy from the last reformation [and let us note that the Catholic church was renewed itself in reaction to that, so the reformation also impacted that church] with the secularising and apostate and even pagan forces. The balance in Europe is much farther along in dechristinisation than in the US, which seems to be roughly 50-50 now so that relatively small shifts in public sentiment driven by the rhetoric of rage and fear dramatically tip elections. [NB: Notice how the US Mainstream Media did not say much about "negative campaigning" now that it was Democrats who were mostly doing it! No prizes for guessing why.]
Through the West's domination of the mass media and the academy, surges from this struggle have surged forth all over the world. Here in the Caribbean, this has added force to the currents of moral disintegration from within that have long characterised our culture, as a legacy of slavery. So we desperately need to very carefully reflect on what would otherwise be dry academic matters, issues such as evolutionary materialism, the engine of the secularisation of the West:
[which] argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.
But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as "thoughts" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)
Therefore, if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have and the "conclusions" we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity . . . . In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic, and only survives because people often fail (or, sometimes, refuse) to think through just what their beliefs really mean.
As a further consequence, materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead. . . . In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that "Right" and "Wrong" are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.
"Truth is dead," so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.
Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are "simply accidents of history," one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one's preferences.
Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.
Over the past generation, too, there has been a second tidal wave, of islamism, which -- as our headlines often reveal -- has become a major force in the course of world events. Indeed, ever since 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood has put forth a plan and programme for subjugation of the world in the next 100 years. As an example, let us briefly look at what Mark Steyn notes on the impacts of this wave in Europe:
Sept. 11, 2001, was not "the day everything changed," but the day that revealed how much had already changed . . . on that Tuesday morning the top of the iceberg bobbed up and toppled the Twin Towers . . . .
Likewise, the salient feature of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia is that they're running out of babies . . . Greece has a fertility rate hovering just below 1.3 births per couple, which is what demographers call the point of "lowest-low" fertility from which no human society has ever recovered . . . Italy has a fertility rate of 1.2, Spain 1.1 . . . . this isn't a projection: it's happening now. There's no need to extrapolate, and if you do it gets a little freaky, but, just for fun, here goes: by 2050, 60 per cent of Italians will have no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles . . . .
You might formulate it like this:
Age + Welfare = Disaster for you;
Youth + Will = Disaster for whoever gets in your way.
By "will," I mean the metaphorical spine of a culture . . . . Islam has youth and will, Europe has age and welfare . . . .
There were two forces at play in the late 20th century: in the Eastern bloc, the collapse of Communism; in the West, the collapse of confidence. One of the most obvious refutations of Francis Fukuyama's famous thesis The End Of History -- written at the victory of liberal pluralist democracy over Soviet Communism -- is that the victors didn't see it as such. Americans -- or at least non-Democrat-voting Americans -- may talk about "winning" the Cold War but the French and the Belgians and Germans and Canadians don't. Very few British do . . . And, with the end of the Soviet existential threat, the enervation of the West only accelerated.
But -- though Steyn does not see it -- the truly decisive demographic and spiritual geo-strategic issue is the ongoing Southern Christian Reformation, which as we saw the other day, has led the Chinese church to reinvigorate a decades-old vision, Back to Jerusalem. And, more than just the Chinese church:
Although Christianity as a whole has barely kept pace with world population growth over the last century, evangelicalism is far and away the fastest growing major religious movement in the world today, says Jason Mandryk, co-author of the mission prayer guide Operation World. At the Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering, held last month in Malaysia, he presented his 'State of the Gospel'.
Evangelicalism is growing at twice the pace of Islam, and three times as fast as the overall world population. Most significant growth is happening in the global South. Countries such as Brazil, China, Bangladesh, and Nigeria have exploding Christian populations . . . . many of the burgeoning churches in the global South are now eagerly sending out their own missionaries, often as tentmakers. Christians from China to Nigeria increasingly have their sights on spreading the gospel all the way "back to Jerusalem," effectively closing the gaps of the 10/40 Window. [Joel News International. Issue 569. October 17th 2006. HT: LC]
In short, the dynamism of the church of the south is the critical dynamic that will through God's grace, decisively shape the next generation.
So, let us now reflect on the challenge Mordecai made to Esther in Esther 4:14: have we come to the kingdom for such a time as this? What, then should we do, how, and:
If not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when? END