Oh God, our help in ages past, our hope in years to come?
by Elias Blum
Imagine being a Roman pagan in the fourth century AD. The tide of time is against you. The old gods you cling to are shorn of credibility and public honour. The rites seem obscure and arcane, and the old priests who can still practice them are corrupt and dithering. Your temples falling into ruins. Your philosophy and culture are neglected.
To me, that’s sometimes what it feels like being a Christian in 21st century Western Europe. I wonder whether some day soon, people will wander around St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey as we might climb over the ruins of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. Perhaps, for most people, that what these building already are: anachronistic monuments, relics of a former age, reminders of a civilisation that has passed away and of a system of belief that just cannot be believed in any more.
How long can we cling on, as a misunderstood minority whose beliefs seem incredible and whose lay of life seems absurd? Is it really true? Is the Holy Spirit going to turn all this around? Or might we just as well pray to Jupiter and Minerva?
Maybe we really are ‘living in the last days’ – not in a crazy dispensationalist ‘rapture-ready’ sense, but simply in the sense that Christianity is fading out into nothingness, drifting away, and leaving behind just amoral rational egoism, consumerism, and soulless techno-capitalism. That is, if we are not all swept under the merciless hooves of radical Islam first.
That would be a terrible loss for humanity. But sometimes I fear it is almost an inevitable one. And at a time when 81% of White evangelicals in the US voted for Trump – a man whose policy involves ripping children out of the arms of their poor frightened mothers and putting them in cages – one wonders whether saving Christianity is worth the effort. Perhaps Christianity has become so morally lost itself that it deserves to die.
I don’t know how to respond to this. It seems to me that the crisis we are facing is not merely a constitutional crisis, an economic crisis, or a political crisis, but a civilisational and moral crisis – a crisis which ultimately stems from the mass abandonment of the theological roots which held Western civilisation together. Perhaps, without the True Vine, everything withers.
Perhaps I should be doing more to tend that vine. I don’t know. It all seems so terribly bleak.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon us