Previous: Revelation 3:15-17- Continued 2

15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'-and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked- Revelation 3:15-16

The Slippery Slope

During the first half of the 20th Century a number of developments affected the growth of Christianity. Theological debates left Christians divided and confused. Public education was infiltrated by agnostic and evolutionary influences. History-making inventions from the Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived. The population shifted to cities where they could find jobs and enjoy a materialistic lifestyle. New economic and governmental concepts began changing the structure of nations, including the United States. Two World Wars and the invention of nuclear weapons produced a sense of despair. And new philosophies of life lured people away from their moral foundations. The net result of all of this was a gradual descent into a more worldly type of Christianity.

Here is a brief discussion of some of the major events from 1900 to about 1950, and the effect it had on Christianity. Please notice that, throughout the two millennia of the Church's existence, there were both losses and gains as the spiritual battle raged over Christianity. But, just as Jesus promised, it has never been possible for our spiritual enemy to conquer the Church that Jesus built. There are overcomers in every one of the six Churches we have already studied (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12) and there is a similar encouragement to true believers of the Laodicean Church. /p

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. - Revelation 3:21

Theological Upheaval

The unfortunate, even if sometimes unspoken, conclusion by those who accepted the theories of liberal theologians was that the Bible was not really the Word of God. Two strong Christian movements began near the beginning of the twentieth century: The Pentecostal Movement and Christian Fundamentalism. Both of these had a strong influence in bringing their followers back to a belief that the Bible is indeed God's inerrant Word.

Pentecostalism had roots in the founding of the National Holiness Association in 1867, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1887, but it became a major force during the Azusa Street Revival that began in1906 and continued for several years under the leadership of William J. Seymour, an African American preacher. The emphasis was on the experience caused by the filling of the Holy Spirit, including healing and speaking in tongues. Two major denominations that eventually emerged from this revival were the Assemblies of God (1914) and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (1927).

Christian Fundamentalism began during the years of 1910 to 1915 with the publication of The Fundamentals, a set of 90 essays written by 64 different authors, chosen from various Christian denominations. Fundamentalism also had roots in the previous century. One major influence was belief in Premillennialism, a literal thousand-year reign of Christ following the Rapture of the Church (see the notes on chapter 3, verse 10). The Early Church held this belief, but it was not emphasized during the Middle Ages. The Catholic Church taught that the millennial kingdom was symbolic of the eventual result of church growth. In other words, they thought that they were already establishing the Kingdom Age. And, of course, the new liberal theologians did not expect a literal future kingdom either.

After the Reformation, Bible scholars from the Plymouth Brethren Church, which was founded in 1832, began to revive interest in eschatology. John Nelson Darby, one of the founders of the group, became a popular teacher. He taught "Dispensationalism," the view that there were various phases of God's dealing with mankind, and that there is a clear distinction between Israel and the Church.

C. I. Scofield was a popular teacher and preacher toward the end of the Nineteenth Century. He developed a study Bible with his notes on prophecy and Dispensationalism. The Scofield Bible was first published in 1909, and revised in 1917. It had a great influence on the growth of Fundamentalism.

One of the editors of The Fundamentals was R. A. Torrey, who had been a disciple of D. L. Moody. He became an evangelist, and was then persuaded to move to Los Angeles to establish the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University and Talbot School of Theology) and to become the first pastor of the Church of the Open Door.

Fundamentalism defended orthodox Protestant beliefs, and stood against Modernism's liberal theology, Catholicism, evolution, cults and other teachings that did not accept the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

During the course of the Twentieth Century most main-line denominations like the Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Lutherans, gravitated toward Modernism. They generally practiced a "social gospel," and supported the concept of an ecumenical movement that led to the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and the National Council of Churches in 1950. Most Pentecostals, Baptists, smaller groups and many new denominations that broke ties with their liberal mother-churches carried the more "orthodox" banners of Christianity. They emphasized evangelism, and joined the National Association of Evangelicals when it began in 1943.

Evangelicals grew rapidly for several decades while liberal churches suffered a serious loss of members.

Progressive Education

While Evangelicals successfully held back the Church's drift toward worldliness, another spiritual battle was being fought in the realm of public education.

As far back as 1787, the Founding Fathers of the United States prescribed public education based on Christian principles. The Northwest Ordinance, which provided for the government of new territories, included this statement:

"Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

Standard textbooks like The New England Primer and McGuffey Readers were used in schools. They combined the mastery of essential skills with moral - even biblical - standards. The New England Primer included rhyme like these:

In Adam's fall
We sinned all.

Thy life to mend,
This Book attend. [Picture of the Holy Bible]

Peter denies
His Lord, and cries.

From the third McGuffey Reader, the most popular and widely used textbooks for schools in America from 1836 to 1960, here is an excerpt from a section called "Things to Remember."

12. Trust in the Lord, and He will guide you in the way of good men. The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
13. We must do all the good we can to all men, for this is well pleasing in the sight of God. He delights to see his children walk in love, and do good one to another.

In 1919 John Dewey, an American pragmatist, psychologist, and educational reformer, together with a group of fellow socialists, founded the New School for Social Research in New York City. He had been influenced by a view of utopian socialism even before the Russian Revolution. Because of his "progressive" philosophy, he taught that rigorous reading and writing should not be required of young students because it would inhibit their social development. He felt that the "center of gravity" was not in the teacher or the textbooks, but in "the immediate instincts and activities of the child himself." His experimental methods started to be used in private schools, but by 1940 they became the norm in public schools.
(10/30/98, Hoover Digest, ,"How Progressive Education Gets It Wrong", Williamson M. Evers,, accessed 1/28/14)

Little by little, public education became less academic and more social. There was a gradual shift from concepts of morality to a new definition of tolerance: acceptance of each person's beliefs as equally valid. This would become an even greater problem in the '50's and 60's when prayer and Bible reading were banned in schools.

Except for private Christian colleges and universities, higher education drifted far to the left in politics. Secular universities became mass-producers of liberal-minded, evolutionary, agnostic or even anti-Christian leaders and teachers of the next generations.

Urbanization and Materialism

Another threat to Christian devotion was posed by the life of luxury many people began to enjoy thanks to the Age of Invention which followed the Industrial Revolution. By the early Twentieth Century electrical power was available, enabling telephones, electric lights, and motor-driven conveniences.

The automobile was changing the way people lived. Jobs were available in the fast-growing cities where all these new products were being produced. Newspaper ads and the new medium of radio trumpeted the advantages of all the new products one should try. This drew myriads of people into urban centers. They began to experience "the good life" of materialism. They also came in contact with new temptations: bars, dance halls, theaters, and worse. As mentioned before, the Bible usually casts cities in an evil light (see chapter 1, verse 5 and chapter 2, verse 13). Satan has control of the kingdoms of this world until it will be renovated by The Lord Jesus Christ when He returns as King of Kings (Revelation 19:11-15).

By the end of the two World Wars many families enjoyed a two-income life-style. For many, this brought disruption to their family life.

Corruption of Government

Early in the new century the Supreme Court began to make decisions that weakened the interpretation of the Constitution, and the Judaeo-Christian basis of law. Oliver Wendell Holms was appointed to the high court by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. Holms had written a book called The Common Law some two decades earlier that proposed that law should evolve in keeping with Darwin's doctrine of evolution.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was formed in 1916 and became champions of the modern concept of "separation of church and state." By this expression they did not mean what the Anabaptist had believed: that the Church leaders should not run the government nor the government leaders control the Church (see "Church /State Alliance" in chapter 3, verse 1).

The First Amendment to the Constitution had stated, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But the ACLU ignored the fact that the Founders were nearly all devout Christians who quoted Scripture, took their oaths on the Bible, allowed national monuments to be embellished with Bible passages, and opened their sessions with prayer. After Presidential inaugurations they attended worship together. None of these things were considered by those who wrote the Constitution and the By-Laws as a violation of the First Amendment.

Over time the Supreme Court became less loyal to the original purposes of the Constitution. Lower court judges and legislators began to agree with the ACLU, and public schools often went out of their way to expunge Christian teaching and symbolism from their institutions.

World Wars

Two global wars in the span of just 31 years had a negative effect on the faith of many. World War I (1914-1918) was called "The war to end all war." It drew all the major economic powers into the conflict, and resulted in the death of more than nine million people.

World War II (1939-1945) erupted just two decades later. The intense fighting, using improved equipment and weapons, and followed by disease and famine, killed between 60 and 85 million people. It was ended by the use of two Atomic Bombs.

The overall effect on survivors of these wars was a sense of insecurity and despair. For many it was a challenge to Christianity's (and all religion's) hardest question, "Why would a good God allow such suffering?"

The two world wars, and the Great Depression between them, had a negative impact on missionary activity because missionaries were forced to leave troubled areas and gifts to support missions declined considerably.

New Philosophies

Humanism, later called Secular Humanism, began as an organized movement in 1933 with the publication of A Humanist Manifesto. This document was the first of three attempts to define a human-centered belief system that did not encourage belief in a god or existing supernatural views of reality. Education pioneer John Dewey was one of the original signers of the document. The International Humanist and Ethical Union was founded in 1952, when a gathering of world Humanists met under the leadership of famous evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley.

After World War II the philosophy of Existentialism became popular. It grew out of the teaching of Soren Kierkegaard, who proposed that individuals validate their own existence through free and conscious acts of their will. It discounted the importance of scientific knowledge and denied the existence of objective values. Even those who did not know about the teaching of this philosophy began to place greater value on their own unique personal experience.

Another philosophical development of this changing world is known as Relativism. This is the attitude that there is no such thing as absolute truth or moral values. Instead, things may be true only in relation to the culture, people, or historical context of those who hold them. Therefore "my truth" is not necessarily the same as "your truth," but one is not necessarily better than the other.

This led to a new definition of "tolerance," which used to mean the willingness to treat another person well in spite of that person's beliefs or conditions. Because of relativism, tolerance now means the willingness to accept other people's ideas and beliefs as equal to our own ideas and beliefs. This is a logical absurdity, and would not work in the real world for any business person, doctor, scientist or engineer. But many people like the concept because it allows them to do what they want without guilt. They often quote what has become the best-known verse in the Bible:

Judge not, that you be not judged. - Matthew 7:1

When people quote this verse flippantly, they might not realize that God Himself will judge them (Psalm 1:1-6; John 3:18; Romans 2:1-5; Romans 14:12; 2 Peter 2:9; Revelation 20:11-15), and He even expects godly Christians to judge, in the sense of discerning what is right and wrong.

But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 2:15-16

Next: Revelation 3:15-17 - Continued 4


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