Over twenty-five years ago, Carl Henry gave a lecture, first to the Baptist Union of Romania (September, 1990), and later to the Tyndale Seminary faculty (the Netherlands) and at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, entitled "Christianity and Resurgent Paganism". As with all of his writings I am continually amazed at Henry's prescient insight into Western culture and its trajectory. In this post and the next I will highlight some quotes from this talk.
"The unraveling strands of Western civilization are everywhere. Not simply at the future end of history, nor even only at the looming end of this second Christian millennium, but already in the immediate present, modernity is being weighed in the balances. Dismay and distress follow in the wake of the rebellious despiritualization of our once vibrant civilization. Secular hedonism has nurtured the disintegration of the family and the desanctification of human existence.
"One clear sign of the times is the retreat of intelligence, the disinclination for disciplined thought, as seen especially in the clouding of the religious mentality. No objectively ordered structures are acknowledged, universal meaning is shunned, and a significant common vocabulary decreases with it. The portrayal of the inherent nature of things is more and more suspended on human emotions. Man's own will becomes the only law he tolerates: virtue is whatever makes one feel 'good'. As epistemological ambiguity plunges the religious realm into a subjectivist dilemma, many moderns reduce religious doctrines to mere
verbalizations of inner experience...
"Western society manifests a quantum leap of immorality and indecency unprecedented since the fall of the Roman Empire. We live amid
contemporary caesars who assert brute power...
"Happiness is defined as the gratification of sensual desires: adults and teenagers become sexually obsessed apes. Society accommodates carnal
appetites that undermine life-giving realities. Malcolm Muggerridge has
observed that as the phallic cult spreads, more people become impotent.
"There is no reason, however, for evangelical Christians presently to withdraw from the world. The secular city may brand this generation 'post-Christian', and we may, all too uncritically, borrow this characterization. No generation since the resurrection of the crucified Jesus is post-Christian, however, for He who has conquered death and is the Church's risen Head has, as the writer of Hebrews notes (1:2), turned forward the prophetic time clock to the 'last days.' ... We are thrust into this strategic turning time by God's decree and mandate."
~ Carl F. H. Henry, "Christianity and Resurgent Paganism" (1990), found in gods of this age or...God of The Ages? (Broadman & Holman, 1994).