Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” was dubbed the “Cultural Revolution,” but it was neither. Instead of a leap forward, it was a leap back. Instead of a cultural revolution, it was a cultural devolution. People’s freedom and liberty were stolen. People’s wealth and property were stolen. People’s lives through forced labor camps, mass hunger and mass murder were stolen. Corruption and covetousness, greed and distrust all exploded. In fact, every case where Communism and Fascism existed these things happened. This shouldn’t be overly surprising since Communism and Fascism were built off of socialism, totalitarianism, Darwinism and secularism. Such a foundation will always lead to such evil outcomes.
Once in history, however, a real “Cultural Revolution” happened that really did cause a “Great Leap Forward.” Let’s call it the True Cultural Revolution. It happened during the rule of the ancient pagan Greco-Roman cultural system.
Roman Progress, or Roman Regress?
People often think of the Roman world as great advancement. It may have been better than some governments, but it was not really that great, in the sense of good. The Roman world swam in sexual immorality of every type. Aborting of babies, baby abandonment, child slavery and child brothels were cultural norms. Suicide was socially accepted. Political power fights often broke out into murder and war for empire control. Humans were expendable; murder, killing and Christian persecution were common. Idolatry was expected and applauded. Entertainment was vulgar, explicit and cruel. Rivers of corruption flowed through the Greco-Roman world. I can’t help but see the growing similarities with this in our post-Christian world. We live in the days of social upheaval and when people’s lust for power causes mass corruption. We live in the days when paganism is on the rise. We live in the days when evil is called good and good is called evil. We live in the days when truth is called untruth and untruth is called truth. We are surrounded by lies, half-truths and cover-ups.
Eventually, the Roman system imploded and, on its rubble, Christianity exploded. Pagan religion gave way to Jesus of Nazareth. Idolatry gave way to God worship. Fear gave way to faith. Debauchery gave way to piety. It was more than just a metaphysical revolution, however. War gave way to peace. Division gave way to unity. Slavery gave way to liberty. Monarchy gave way to personal liberty. Force gave way to freedom. Superstition gave way to rationality. Selfishness gave way to charity. Sickness gave way to health. Poverty gave way to progress. Let me be clear, this didn’t happen in a moment, nor did it happen perfectly. Humans are still humans. Our broken world gives no utopia, no matter the reformation. Regardless, never before has progress excelled to the extent as has since post-Roman dominion.
The question that comes to mind is how did the early Christians revolutionize their world, and what can we learn from them? Six ideas come to mind that may help us at least start looking in the right direction. The ideas that I’m about to give may sound over the top and radically revolutionary, and some may call it crazy. They may be controversial, offensive, subversive, and may tick some people off. But as we now sit in the world, we need something, a new awakening, a reformation and rejuvenation of applying the biblical worldview.
When his father was martyred, Origin supposedly wanted to publicly stand for Christ too, which would have led to his death. His mother, supposedly, hid his clothes so he couldn’t leave the house, saving his life that he was so willing to give. The ante-Nicene Church had such great confidence that they often willingly went to their deaths for their faith, beliefs and biblical truth. This, along with other reasons, actually changed the Roman empire.
Are we that confident in our faith as Jesus followers? Do we stand up for his teachings and biblical truth, even if they’re controversial? Here are some controversial examples. Scripture is clear that God is the Creator. Scripture is clear that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Scripture is clear that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. Scripture is clear that Christ followers are called to holiness and rightness. Are we confident and unembarrassed of these?
Confidence often comes with knowledge. Do we take time to educate ourselves on what we believe, why we believe it and the common objections to those beliefs? Knowledge comes through study. As you reallocate your time away from sports, social media and movies, you will gain time to read, listen and watch resources that increase your knowledge.
While the believers in the distant past and the present went to their death for their beliefs, today we may face jeering, scorn, ridicule and social pressure to conform. That’s the worst. Most likely we will just have to put up with silence and rejection. If we are confident in Christ and his teachings, shouldn’t we be boldly living it out and speaking the Christian worldview?
2. The King Is Here
Early second-century Hegesippus told an interesting story that would be lost except Eusebius’ reproduction. During Emperor Domitian’s reign (81—96), two of Jude’s grandsons, or Jesus’ grand nephews, were ratted out as King David’s descendants and relatives of Jesus, King of the Jews. Eusebius shares the record:
“For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it.…And when they (Jude’s grandsons) were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works. Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them but despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the Church.” Eusebius Church History 3.19,20 (see https://earlychurchhistory.org/politics/judes-grandsons-grand-nephews-of-jesus/ and https://www1.cbn.com/700club/family-jesus)
What if you could time-machine yourself back to ancient Rome and tell Emperor Domitian about history in advance? Your message would be strange indeed. Within a few hundred years, mighty Rome would crumble to barbarians. The Kingdom he persecuted (because he feared competition) would, however, live on and would change the world. At the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, in the backwaters of his empire, a person from the past would dominate world history. Domitian would appear, however, as a negative blip on the screen of history. Even though Jesus followers were attacked, persecuted and martyred, they continued to grow, even after the fall of Rome.
I think we can learn from this. Regardless of government election outcomes, our Kingdom is eternal, ruled by a heavenly King with real world impact. Not all solutions are solved with certain outcomes of elections, Jesus, however, continues reigning after earthly states come and go.
The cult of the state is one of society’s various religions. As Christians, however, we know the state is inferior to Jesus’ Rule and it shouldn’t be worshiped. The US founding fathers were wise to originally design a small government that was to be impacted by the Church, but not control the Church. It was designed to protect our God-given right to religious freedom, which is why we need to continue to vehemently advocate for religious freedom. Strangely, it seems that governments without a State Church do better for Christianity. Recently, in an interview, cultural commentator Douglas Murray said this about Christianity’s rise in France:
“France…didn’t leave space for faith [in the past] that we now, I think, can see that it has. …[T]he Church in France, you could say,…benefits precisely from not having that established position …that the Church of England does. In other words, we see…that in the history of Christianity, that the more that it can be slightly on the outside, the more it is capable of prospering, [which is] one of the great paradoxes of Christian history.” (Watch the interview of Douglas Murray here)
In other words, when the Church is not an arm of the state, Christianity is in a better position to prosper. Rodney Stark seems to agree that state churches do more harm than good to Christianity by saying this in one of his books:
“Surprisingly, from the start local observers recognized that religion was stronger in colonies without a subsidized church.” (Victory of Reason, Rodney Starkpage 207)
Now, this doesn’t mean Christianity shouldn’t have a cultural impact on the government. Anyone who says “you shouldn’t legislate morality” knows nothing about legislation nor morality. All laws assume morality. Don’t murder, don’t steal, and don’t hurt others all assume morality. Anyone who says “separation of Church and state means Christians can’t influence the public square and government” are ignorant of the founding fathers’ intents, words and actions. Christian virtues and values were not only incorporated at all levels of government, but they were encouraged. They just protected us from state sanctioned and forced denomination.
Our calling is to promote righteousness and justice in society and the government. Advocating and advancing good state leaders is thus obviously part of our duty. Nancy Pearcy says it this way:
“At his ascension, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). With those words, he authorized his followers to establish his kingdom on earth by opposing evil and establishing justice. That’s what it means to live as a citizen of heaven. When Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that we are citizens of heaven, most Christians interpret that to mean we should look forward to leaving earth and going to heaven, which is our true home. But that is not what the passage meant to first-century readers. The city of Philippi in Greece was a Roman colony, where many had the privilege of Roman citizenship. The citizens of a colony were not supposed to aspire to go back to Rome. Their job was to secure a conquered country by permeating the local culture with Roman culture. By telling Christians they are citizens of heaven, then, Paul was telling them to permeate the world with a heavenly culture.” (“Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality,” Nancy Pearcey, Chapter 1)
Permeating the culture means that we can’t just fight corruption, it also means we can’t be doing corruption. We have to permeate culture by fighting not the pagan way, rather the Christian way. While the conclusions of the Council of Nicaea were good, they started fighting like the pagans. They gave up their heavenly power to an earthly king. Their Jesus focus became Emperor focus. Internal debates bled into the state for judgement. Then they viewed each other as pagans do. Debates, division and dissensions weren’t fought with arguments, church discipline, and excommunication, but rather they started physically attacking heretics, driving them to the outskirts of the state. The focus went from following Jesus, discipling the Church and evangelizing the world to physically fighting over beliefs! They went from being persecuted and martyred to persecuting and martyring! This should never be the mind and actions of authentic believers.
3. Christian Dominion
The Ante-Nicene Church growth outpaced the pagan religions, for many reasons. They brought the good news of salvation from sin. They brought a message of love, hope and forgiveness. They passionately evangelized their friends and neighbors. The lust for state power didn’t interest them, they eschewed murder, they were honest, they abstained from sexual immorality and they opposed theft. They were also known for caring for the widow, the poor and the prisoner. They were disciplined, discipled and dedicated. Jesus was King, and they were servants and citizens in his domain. This was a stark contrast with the Roman world. They really did try to follow Christ and his commands.
We now live in a post-Christian, Roman-like world. Even “Christians” are becoming more pagan. Dr. Michael J. Svigel once said “A post-Christian world is taking shape around us: graceless, merciless, unjust, unforgiving, superstitious, self-indulgent, carnal, idolatrous. And that’s just among self-proclaimed Christians.” Sadly, I think he is correct. It seems that many in the West see God as a personal happiness butler, quietly in the background ready for our beckoning so he can do our bidding. He is seen as a granddaddy ready to fulfill our earthly purpose which we feel is personal happiness. Our personal subjective values have become God’s objective virtues. Man on the street interviews often show people who claim they are good people and God would be quite pleased with them, until a few well-placed questions are asked.
This shouldn’t really be a surprise, many were inoculated by a weak, flabby, cartoon, dead Christianity. They grew up in quasi-Christian homes, quasi–Christian Sunday schools and quasi-Christian churches, parented by nominal Christians. Now they go around calling themselves “Christian” when they are actually more pagan.
But aren’t we called to die to ourselves and our sin? (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:5) Aren’t we called to live radical lives, being holy as God is holy? (1 Peter 1:16) Why do we emphasize the sinner’s prayer, but not a sinner’s life transformed (Romans 12: 1-2)? Why focus on “accepting Jesus” but not focus on accepting Jesus’ teachings? Shouldn’t we cease this flabby, pansy Christianity?
Christianity is more than just “belief” and a philosophy; it’s our behavior and life. Christianity is a commitment. Your focus is not that fancy job, fancy car, fancy house, fancy vacations or fleeting sports.
Scriptures talk about worshiping God in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 96:9). Are justice and goodness beautiful? Yes. So is one who is passionate for goodness, obedience, dedication and commitment. How do we live out our life with God’s beauty of holiness at the forefront? By our thoughts, worldview and assumptions? Shouldn’t we assume divorce is not part of our lives, ever? Shouldn’t we assume that our children will turn to Christ? Sure, it’s possible that we fail, that our marriages will break and our kids become prodigals, but we should never live with that assumption. I don’t drive down the road with the assumption that I will get in an accident. I drive with the assumption that I will safely arrive at my destination.
4. Living In A Parallel Culture
About every 20 years, the Amish population doubles. That means they grow about 16 times their size over a hundred years! What if US Christianity grew that fast? Well, how do the Amish do it? Community, networking, care for each other and dedication help glue them together. Early Christians had similar tendencies, while the Roman world at large was in constant flux. Tertullian writes this, talking about the pagan perspective of Christians:
“‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they [Christians] love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).” (Reference here)
The Church voluntarily cared for each other’s physical needs. When disaster hit, they all pitched in to help. They were at the forefront to nurse each other to health when epidemics hit. Because of just basic care and nutrition, more survived. In addition to caring for each other, they cared for non-Christian neighbors too. These actions attracted people, which unintentionally helped them grow. In fact, in the years around 361 or 362 AD, emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus wanted the goddess Cybele to retake her previous position over the ever-growing and dominating Christians. After sacrificing in her temple, he later exhorted her high priest in writing to be more charitable in giving like Christians to attract more people back. (“Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World” by Tom Holland, Chapter 5)
There is another reason for growth. The Amish are living in a parallel culture to the standard American Culture. Living in a parallel culture takes dedication and commitment. Obviously, being born in the group gives you a great advantage, while growth from the outside is almost impossible because of their near impenetrable cultural differences and their luddism.
Early Christians were similar, but also different. They didn’t seem to have the massive extra-biblical cultural “stumbling blocks,” except for Christ and him crucified. New technology wasn’t an aversion to them either. They were some of the earliest adopters of the codex book form.
The parallel culture has to be done with extreme care, and Scriptures help with this. While freedom for personal views and conscience are given for many topics (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10), signing up for Christianity was no cakewalk either. Christianity requires high moral standards, strong discipline and the expectation to face persecution and martyrdom if needed (as many Christians still face today). This requirement for dedication, commitment and discipline is at extreme odds with many contemporary nominal Christian groups. Often beliefs, words, appearance and actions are no different from secular society. So, why would one come and stay? Sure, it may be easy come, but it is also easy go.
Simply put, however, we don’t have to try to be different. Authentic believers living Scripture out in their lives will automatically be living in a parallel culture. If you stand up for biblical virtues, you will have to deny unbiblical values. If you stand up for biblical justice, you will be denying Social Justice. If you stand up for biblical morality, you will be denying subjective morality. If you stand up for biblical sexuality, you will be denying sexual immorality. If you stand up for biblical person-hood, you will be denying abortion, euthanasia and transgenderism. If you stand up for marriage, you will be denying divorce and remarriage. If you stand for authentic Christian love, you will be denying hate. If you stand up for gentleness, goodness, long-suffering, mercy and forgiveness, you will be denying rioting. If you stand up for contentment, thankfulness and gratitude, you will be denying lust, jealousy and coveting. If you stand up for Christian unity, you will deny division and factions.
5. Live Not By Lies
In addition to Jewish and Roman persecution, the ancient Gnostics were a constant pain to ancient orthodox Christianity. The problem with Gnosticism was that it was fake news, it told a false story, it was a lie. Christians had to continually fight against the heresies.
We face “fake” today too; fake, fiction and false seem to be the story of our age. Really, every time I read a mainstream media news story, I’m always asking, is this true, twisted or are facts left out? A prime example would be the Nicholas Sandmann debacle and the recent CNN tapes. Powerful government bureaucrats have little credibility perpetrating fiction like the Trump-Russia hoax while the media lapped it up. Government health bureaucrats have lied in the past and misrepresent the truth concerning the novel coronavirus. It has become clear that pre-election polling is either corrupt or totally unreliable. Big tech is constantly manipulating searches, posts and people. Google twists search results so you get what they want you to get (see chapter 2 of “The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray and Google actively ignores the meaning of Christmas, see their Google Doodles for different holidays and compare them with Christmas here, here, here, here and here). Social media posts fake “fact check” articles over “misinformation” when the “fact checked” articles are false. We have social media blocking links to stories that opposed corrupt dealings of their chosen political candidate. We have fake science that says that Darwinism and abiogenesis is true. We have fake science saying that unborn babies are not human beings and claiming that men can be women and women can be men.
We, however, have been called to not live by lies, but by truth. We know that we have the solid and sure source of truth. We are called to speak the truth. Gullibility and naivety shouldn’t mark us, rather we should be marked by truth and the ability to critically evaluate information. We should be analyzers, not just consumers of media. We should be entertainment analyzers, not just consumers of entertainment.
We need to continue to affirm that men are men and women are women. We need to continue to affirm the dangers of the religions of socialism, scientism, environmentalism, radical feminism, sexualism, materialism, “antiracism” and wokeism. We need to continue to affirm the importance of unity and non-partiality. We need to continue to affirm the person-hood of the unborn. We need to continue to affirm the importance of heterosexual marriage for life, not shacking up. We need to continue to affirm sanctification in Christ, not continuous sinning. We need to continue to affirm human brokenness and the healing Christ brings to a shatter humanity.
In his book Live Not By Lies, Rod Dreher titled chapter eight “Religion, the Bedrock of Resistance” where he says this:
“The important lesson to draw is that a creed one holds as statement not of one’s subjective feelings, but as a description of objective reality, is a priceless possession. It tells you how to discern truth from lies. And for those whose creed is Christianity, then in the face of ubiquitous hatred and cruelty, faith is evidence that the true Truth, the real Reality, is the eternal love of God.”
As Christians, we have the truth of the Scripture and the truth of the Christian worldview. We need to return to the old foundations of God’s eternal truths. Truth, true Truth, with a capital “T” is grounded in Jesus, his Word and the worldview he grounds.
6. Growing From The Inside
One way the ancient Church outpaced pagan growth was their radical view of family. Children, specifically girls, were valued higher than in surrounding society. Women also had more status, worth, respect and equality than in surrounding society. Because they valued children and opposed murder, babies weren’t aborted, nor were they exposed; rather, exposed babies were rescued. Exposure was the hideous practice of leaving unwanted newborn babies on the side of the road to die or to be rescued by strangers. Deformed babies, babies born from mistresses and girls were the most undesirable. When I say some were rescued by strangers, I’m saying they were “rescued” to be enslaved, often enslaved into brothels as sex slaves (yes, even as children)! Christians, on the other hand, were disgusted by the practice. They too would rescue these babies, but instead of enslaving them, they raised them in their homes, unintentionally helping grow the Church from the inside.
In addition, women from society were attracted to the Church because they were more respected and valued then in society. Since Christians didn’t murder or expose their babies, they had more girls, and children in general, than surrounding society. Also, since girls were disproportionately exposed, they disproportionately rescued girls. In other words, the Church had lots of women and girls. In a parallel fashion, surrounding society had an excess of boys and men. When these boys came to age, who were they supposed to marry? The neighboring Christians had an excess of girls available, so where do you think the young men looked?
While early Christians grew from the inside (and from the outside), the American Church is losing its progeny. The defection rate among Churches’ youth is in the 70% to 90% range! Contrariwise, secular leftists don’t reproduce well. They have fewer children and abort their babies. They grow, however, by converting Christian and conservative offspring.
The Amish, unlike the rest of Christianity, double about every 20 years from the inside! Why is that? First, they have larger families, easily ranging from 4, 5, 6 and maybe even 9 children or more. While some defect, most stay with the community. Let me put it this way, you can have a Dugger sized family but if they all defect, what good is that? Like the Amish and the Early Christians, it’s an imperative to train them and disciple them like crazy. Kevin DeYoung concurs:
“Here’s a culture war strategy conservative Christians should get behind: have more children and disciple them like crazy…in the not-too-distant future, the only couples replacing themselves in America will be religious couples.”
Now, some say there are too many people in the world. Don’t buy that; we are not overpopulated (Check out the pro-human views of energy and environment commentators like Alex Epstein and Patrick Moore). Others say to have fewer children because the world is getting worse. The problem with this is that the world has always been bad. It will not get better if Christians don’t have children and if they don’t train and disciple them like crazy to passionately live their faith. Sure, everyone has free will to choose or not choose Christ, but I think it’s the parent’s job to make it hard for them to have excuses to walk away from the spiritual, emotional and intellectual perspectives. I don’t have the answers to how this should be done, but a few things come to mind that seem like obvious helps to this goal.
First, if you are a poor and hypocritical role model, why would your children follow you? If you are not actually following Christ’s teachings, why would your children want to follow Christ? If you are not an authentic Christian, why would your children be? If you are not passionate for Christ, why would your children be?
Second, if your children think you don’t value them and the family, why will they follow you? Why will they follow you if you tell others how burdensome your children are to you? If they don’t think you view them as being made in God’s image with dignity, value and worth, why would they follow your footsteps?
Third, if your home is not a shelter and safe haven from the secular and godless world, how will you impact them? Sure, they will eventually be exposed to secular ideas, but shouldn’t that be done in an appropriate time? Wouldn’t you want that to happen when you or another mature Christian adult is near to help them through the confusion?
Fourth, are you their main teacher or do you push that off to a stranger? The youth are also impressionable, easily impacted and can be easily indoctrinated by bad ideas. Is your home a place where discussion happens, questions can be asked and answers are given? Or would you rather send your child off to a secular, godless and increasingly woke place of education? Some say “he or she can be a missionary.” Really, you think a seven-year-old is ready to evangelize when you don’t do it? Why not step up and be the missionary to those around you in your life with your actions and what you say. Do you intentionally place yourself in situations, when your children present, that allow you to make an impact?
Fifth, do you focus on big things that you probably can’t impact while ignoring the little things that you can impact? Sure, the world is full of lies, mistruths and deception. We can rightfully be distressed over the corruption in the movie industry, social media platforms, mainstream media, the university and government. Few of us, however, will ever be some great leader or cultural shaper to impact this. Why not focus your concern on people you can impact, like your family? Why not help expose these lies with your family with games like “spot the lie?” Why not turn mindless entertainment into an analysis of entertainment?
Sixth, while good friends are good, why not emphasize nurturing the relationship with the family and older individuals? The real world is made up of individuals of all ages, not just people of my age. If the aim is to not just raise good children, but good adults, shouldn’t that be their role models? Would an immature child or a mature adult be a better teacher of maturity, respect and good decision making? Looking back on my life, I see those that I learned the most from and respected the most were people at least the age of my parents.
Seventh, is your focus as a parent on the absolutely best education and occupation for your child, or is it on Christ, the Christian worldview and virtues? Yes, a solid and well-balanced education is good, but shouldn’t that play second fiddle to solid training in the Bible, biblical values, and the Christian life?
Eighth, what would the Christian world look like if Christians would channel their time and energy from sports into nurturing their children’s passion for Christ? Will the angels be cheering that homerun or will they be cheering for the person headed for the eternal home? Will your children value church if they are sent to Sunday morning ball practice instead of church? Will they grow a passion for winning the game or winning people to Christ?
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