“There is no new thing under the sun.”
“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works that he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim.”
In his book Christianity and Modern Crisis, Harry Rimmer said that religion had declined drastically since he was a child:
“The last twenty-five years have seen the decay of the power and influence of the Protestant Churches to such an extent that they are no longer the chief factors in our national life, as they were in the days of our parents! The reasons for this are many, chief of which are apostasy and prosperity. The great denominations have been infiltrated with agnosticism and doubt…The leaders of strong organizations have repudiated the Gospel which was the sole source of the power of the Church. Having millions at their disposal, these same leaders found themselves ‘rich and in need of nothing,’ so they became arrogant and callous to the cry of orthodoxy…In so doing, the Church lost touch with the common people, and empty pews resulted…We have apparently forgotten the manner and nature of our origin. The first ‘church members’ were slaves, laborers, fishermen…”
These words were written in 1944 in the midst of a war that gripped the hearts of people throughout the world. In almost any age we find writers saying that things were worse compared to the previous generation. I am not denying this decline. The world has changed and in many ways it has not been for the better. But these comments do make us wonder what Mr. Rimmer and others would say if they were alive today! His words also give us a sense of appreciation and amazement. Given how far we have drifted since his time, it is incredible that our nation is still standing!
But we must look back farther than the past two or three generations to have the perspective God wants us to have. Which of the problems that this writer mentioned were not issues in the New Testament? He cited apostasy as a culprit. Yet we see great apostasy occurring and more departures from the faith on the horizon when we read the epistles. Paul said, “Some shall depart from the faith” and Peter warned, “There shall be false teachers among you” (I Tim. 4:1-3; II Pet. 2:1). Many people fell away from the faith in the first century (Gal.1:6; II Pet. 2:2; I John 2:18-19). The author also mentioned the lure of prosperity. How many times do Bible writers warn about this danger? Jesus said that with some Christians “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word” (Matt. 13:22). The Laodicean attitude was, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17). If we look at the Old Testament we will see even more cases of God’s people giving in to the ways of the world. Times change but the same things keep happening again because the nature of man never changes.
In spite of these problems the church lives on and will survive. Our job is to fight the good fight of faith and focus on heaven. The battle is not long. It will not be more than we can bear. Let us hold the banner high!