Last week I wrote on a “Spiritual Epidemic” that Ken Ham and Britt Beemer had noted in their book Already Gone. It dealt with our vital role as parents (and grandparents) in demonstrating our love and commitment to the local church. The Christian community is losing this battle, as families struggle to establish biblical priorities with their schedules.
The previous post dealt with a problem from inside the church, while this one identifies one that is outside of it. Another cultural shift has taken place.1 Our society’s foundation has changed. No longer is there a common understanding of the truth found in God’s Word. The skeptic has no prior knowledge of the Bible.
There was a time when a basic knowledge and understanding of biblical concepts were easily found in conversations with unbelievers. A time when it was even recognized that these principles—dare I say—were the foundational basis of our nation. Today, this is outright rejected. Truth is now determined by selective relativism; someone’s “truth” can be someone else’s falsehood.
The Apostle Paul understood this as he took the gospel message beyond Jerusalem and the Jews into the Greek world. He had seen firsthand that this glorious message was a stumbling block for the Jews, in that they could not get over the idea that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
Moreover, he learned that it was a foolish message to the Greeks, because they could not get over the idea of God humbling Himself “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
If Paul was to help some of his hearers understand the gospel message, he would first have to lay the right foundation (cf. Acts 17). The authors explain:
In Jerusalem, the Jews had a firm foundational belief built on the Old Testament. They knew about the one true God and about sin; they knew about the Law and about blood sacrifices for sin… and they already knew about the coming Messiah.
To the Greek, however, all this talk about Jesus and the Resurrection was considered utter foolishness. They had no previous knowledge about the one true God, about sin, or about the Law. Paul had to go back and start at the very beginning.
We once lived in a similar time where the culture understood much of our Christian jargon—like the Jews; but a pagan culture doesn’t understand what these terms mean—like the Greeks.
It’s time to wake up and realize that a signification portion of the Western culture must be considered “post-Christian.” The godly foundation that once existed in England is now almost totally gone. That same foundation is faltering in America. Basic Christian concepts can no longer be taken for granted. Our culture used to be like Jerusalem. People used to have a basic understanding of biblical concepts and terminology.
This reminded me of one of our own missionaries at GraceLife Church, who has not only been translating portions of Scripture (including the foundational book of Genesis) for a people-group with no Bible, but they also have no written language. By living and working with this tribe in Indonesia, he learned that the best way to write the word “God” in order that they would be able to comprehend the one true God was to use the words “The One who formed our fingers.” (I love hearing of this man’s work—as I view him as a modern-day Paul!)
Ham advises us, when sharing the gospel today, we must be ready to start at the beginning, and even perhaps tell the story of redemption in chronological order. He calls this “creation evangelism,” and compares it to reading a murder mystery. “You wouldn’t jump into the middle of the story to understand, let alone solve it!” A CSI-fan would have to agree, you must start at the very beginning.
Not so long ago, people used to say, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” That’s not the case anymore. Today, the average guy on the street is more apt to say, “Who cares what the Bible says! I doubt it. That settles it!” Many Christians want to get the Ten Commandments back in school. But why should we expect the educators to post the Ten Commandments when they don’t believe the book that it came from!
When you consider all of the cultural influences that affect our thinking… it becomes pretty obvious that we are living in Athens and not Jerusalem.
Today, we need to see our culture as if they are the Greeks of Acts 17, not the Jews of Acts 2. There is no quick-fix solution; and many believers simply don’t understand the fundamental problem: the Word of God has been undermined and compromised.
If we look at the landscape today, the “plowed ground” has all but disappeared. Churches must once again clear and plow this culture’s ground. To rid it of the rocks and debris that the enemy has placed in our way; and to pull up the weeds and trees that the enemy has sown.
You see, the culture has changed from the foundation up, as reflected in the predominant secular worldview and relative morality. The culture went from being built on the foundation of God’s Word to being built on the foundation of man’s word.
I would recommend this book to any parent, grandparent, or ministry leader seeking greater insight on why our youth are leaving the church—based upon data gleaned from over 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of a thousand 20–29 year olds (otherwise known as the “Beemer Report”). It’s the third book I’ve read from Mr. Ham. In each body of material, he stands firm on the authority of Scripture.