“Just in terms of allocation of time, religion is not very efficient. There is a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” Bill Gates’ recent statement summarizes the current mindset of our secular society better than long descriptions and definitions. It reminds us that, as we approach the year 2000, the paradigm has shifted.
A Shift in Focus as to God
No longer is the debate over whether there is a God or not. Secular man has decided that God is really irrelevant. Even if God exists, men do not need him in their world and in their lives. Life is quite comfortable without God. If others who are weak need Him as a crutch, that is their business. We have traveled through the various phases of man’s rejection of God: God does not exist, God is dead, and now God is irrelevant.
A Shift in Focus as to Destiny
But the shift has occurred at another level as well, which has profound consequences on our gospel preaching. If pressed to decide between heaven and hell, everyone would choose heaven. But if given the choice between heaven and earth, modern man really prefers earth. He is becoming more an “earth-dweller” than ever before. Heaven has been relegated for those who have no earthly hope. It is the “pie-in-the-sky” dream for those who need something to which to look forward. Secular man, however, really prefers earth and all it has to offer him to any future prospects. Innately, he knows that he will not be here forever, but he still seeks to enjoy as much of this world as he can.
A Shift in Focus as to Truth
One of the most disturbing elements of contemporary thinking is relativism. Truth is no longer absolute. “If you believe something, that is fine for you. Just don’t expect me to believe it.” Truth has been reduced to a personal opinion, like so many flavors of ice cream and you can choose your favorite with no concern about what some one else likes. Truth has become the personal opinion of the individual. In effect, every man has become the determiner of the “truth” of his own personal world. Every man has become his own little “god.” No longer can we present truth to men and expect an honest appraisal. It is simply dismissed as “your belief system.” The only “absolute” which a secular society esteems is tolerance. Strangely, that tolerance vanishes when confronted with the claims of Christianity which are labeled as “exclusiveness.”
The result of such thinking is, inevitably, a world of no rules, restraint, or responsibility. It creates a life without morals, meaning, or motivation. It is creating a world ready for the appearance of the Man of Sin and ripe for its own judgment. Welcome to the new century!
What is the believer to do? We cannot match the intellectual giants of the world nor can we counter their craftily devised philosophies and arguments. Men who deny the absoluteness of truth will nevertheless claim that their view of relativism is “truth.” Will seminars and crash courses in philosophy help us? Will the devouring of books on the heresies of modern thinking be our strength?
In every generation and amidst every challenge, our resources are the same: “I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace which is able…” Minds that have been established by the truth of God, hearts which are enraptured with the person of Christ, and eyes which are lifted on the fields will preserve us and make us effective. We need to be aware of the strategy of the enemy. But we need to be “wise unto that which is good.” And also let us never forget that amidst the many strident voices around us, God is still working and there are souls seeking.