Are people giving up on Christianity?
An open and professed disregard for religion has become the distinguishing character of the present age. Christianity is ridiculed and railed at with little reserve, and the teachers of it without any at all. There is no such thing as religion in England. If anyone speaks about religion, everybody begins to laugh. It has come to be taken for granted that Christianity is no longer a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. Accordingly, it is treated as if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among all persons of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject for mirth and ridicule.
Many might assume that the above comments were recently written in a left-leaning newspaper. Wrong. They were made in 1730’s England. Various Christian heresies were fashionable among the upper classes at the time. Anything to do with Christ was rejected, many clergy knew little of the Bible and ordinary people gave themselves up to vices of every kind, generally unaware that what they were doing was sinful in the eyes of God. Some Christian leaders saw what was happening and cried out in anguish, yet the Church remained teetering on the edge of a precipice until John Wesley and his associates began their ministry, urging people up and down the country to read the Bible (or have it read to them) and gather together to pray.
What followed has become known as the Evangelical Revival, often dated (in England) from John Wesley's own conversion in 1738 and reckoned to have continued until about 1815. In the USA it began a little earlier and is usually called the Great Awakening. Personal faith thrived. Gospel truth was taught in churches and became both widely known and believed. Although many sinful practices continued there was a gradual move towards valuing virtue again and a God-fearing attitude became more generally acceptable.
However, a 2022 survey by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research found that many American evangelical Christians now hold a concerning set of beliefs. For example, 38% considered that religious belief was a matter of personal opinion and not about objective truth. A separate survey – also conducted in the USA in 2022 but by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University – looked at the beliefs of pastors. Among the evangelical pastors surveyed 39% considered that there is no absolute moral truth and that each individual must determine his/her own truth; 37% said that having faith in general is more important than the question of in what or in whom that faith is placed and 30% did not agree that their salvation was based only on having accepted, by faith, Jesus Christ as their Saviour!
From these surveys it is clear that the Church in the West stands once again on the brink of destruction – not from without, but from within. We have now reached the stage where Christianity in the UK and much of the West is once again a laughing stock, as it was in 1730s England. We are caught in a vortex that is pulling us downward to destruction. If God were to abandon the West how could we complain, given that we have contemptuously pushed Him away so often, so publicly and so shamelessly? George Barna – Director of Research at the Cultural Research Center mentioned above – noted that their survey data showed that the beliefs of pastors were correlated with their spiritual routines. Pastors who held the most Biblical beliefs tended to be those who followed a consistent daily routine of Bible reading, prayer, worship and confession. If pulpits are to turn things around, it is vital that pastors once again prioritise those actions.
The cause is not hopelessly lost, but we must repent and pray for His mercy again, remembering that there is now no such thing as a Christian nation and that we cannot presume on His grace. We cannot look at the greatness, glories and triumphs of our past and assume it is our right to be blessed in this way again. We must read the Bible and pray humbly to Jesus even if we are the only one in our family or church consistently doing so. He will take note and listen. But, if we can, let us gather with like-minded believers to speak together, pray together and study the Scriptures together, thus helping one another to remain true to the Lord.