Can authentic Christian faith survive in the West?

Nov 9, 2017 by

by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

A new book from an experienced cultural commentator and campaigner for the persecuted church paints a bleak picture of how the Church in Europe and North America has been influenced by the “poisoned wells” of contemporary culture. ‘The Death of Western Christianity’ (Isaac Publishing), summarises some of the main challenges in the ideological landscape, and gives some pointers as to what faithful Christians must do to maintain a witness to Christ and biblical truth in an increasingly dark context.

Author Patrick Sookhdeo argues that “Western society has undergone a massive cultural transformation, disastrously affecting the…church”. As anti-Christian worldviews have taken hold in society, large numbers of Christians have accommodated and compromised their faith to fit in with the new ideas, while others have abandoned the faith altogether. Sookhdeo concludes that a genuine revival and spiritual transformation in society is needed, and if this does not happen, faithful Christians should prepare for persecution, and operating in exile as an underground church.

In the first chapter, statistics, and snapshots from popular culture illustrate how mainline church attendance is rapidly declining despite attempts to be ‘relevant’. Chapter two outlines some of the ‘isms’ of Western culture, for example individualism, existentialism and consumerism. The next two chapters explore how these ideologies have affected the church, for example in attitudes to sexual morality and marriage, worship, prayer and discipleship.

Postmodern concepts of ‘truth’ have led to a loss of confidence in Scripture. As Sookhdeo points out, churches with a more biblically orthodox theology are more likely to grow. But he issues a challenging critique of this form of Christianity in the West: gospel-oriented evangelicals often have a blind spot about materialism, and are unwilling to pay a price in terms of suffering for their faith and sacrificially giving to help their needy neighbours.

In a major cultural shift, indifference to the things of God, and perhaps gentle mocking of committed Christians has given way to active hostility and intolerance. In many circles today, biblical Christian faith is not just seen as weird, but ‘extremist’ and even dangerous. A number of examples are given of marginalization of and legal sanctions against Christians from around the world. Sookhdeo does not believe, as some do today, that these cases derive from a failure of winsome communication; rather the type of Christianity which is not targeted by society’s new rulers has “capitulated to the new Babylonian captivity of Western society” (p129).

Much of the church in the West is weak, even apostate, according to Sookhdeo. But it can be strengthened, by re-establishing its core identity, built on creeds (certainty about what it believes), community (God-connected fellowship which is pastoral and missional), and commandments (repentance from sin, commitment to holiness). Separation from ‘pseudo-Christians’, and financial sacrifice will be required.

‘The Death of Western Christianity’ is written in an easy to read, brisk style. It provides a wealth of well-organised information without getting bogged down in detail. Those who prefer their prophets to say “everything’s fine” will ignore this book, but those wanting analysis of the real situation, and a call to urgent prayer and action, will find it very helpful.

See also: Christianity’s death-bad lesson from Islam, by Jules Gomes, TCW

Channel 4 News Presenter tells Hungarian Minister: ‘Christianity is not really a fundamental of Europe’, by Jack Montgomerie, Breitbart

 

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