The View From 1776
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Europe: The Dark Continent
The light of God’s truth has been snuffed out in Europe, now the least Christian and the most secularized and socialized part of the western world.
This week, Black Rock Congregational Church is focusing on worldwide missionary programs and the 20-plus missionaries that the church supports. In that connection, rather than a traditional sermon, we at Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) heard a report by Dr. Ted Noble, one of those missionaries. His subject was the appalling decline of Christianity throughout Europe.
Fewer than one percent of Europeans are Christian believers. Elsewhere, especially in Africa and Asia, the percentage is much higher and growing. Europe has become a spiritual wasteland in which people look to the political state for their salvation.
In the 19th century, Africa, the Dark Continent, was looked upon as the great field of activity for Christian missionaries. Conditions are the reverse today. American Episcopalians, for example, who seek a return to the Bible and a turning away from the secularized social gospel that has overtaken their church, now look to African bishoprics for support.
Dr. Nobel talked mostly about the opportunities and the needs for missionary work in Europe. But it’s important also to ask why Europe is in spiritual decline.
This is an impelling question, since Christianity’s greatest, lasting impact was in western Europe. After the final fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Christianity was left as the only civilizing force in western Europe. Without the Catholic Church in Rome, libraries and education itself would not have survived. Concepts of civilized law and order, based upon the Roman Empire’s codex, were preserved in Christian canonical law.
The Eastern Roman Empire, based in Constantinople (later Byzantium, today Istanbul), survived the onslaught of Islam for another thousand years until 1453. But Constantinople was not able to exercise much direct influence upon western Europe after the fall of Rome. Christian city states all around the eastern Mediterranean and into Russia, parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church, were continually subjected to Islamic jihad after the 7th century.
Europeans, before the evolution of strong nation states in the 16th century, thought of themselves as inhabitants of Christendom. It is thus accurate to assert that everything that we know as western civilization is an exclusive product of Christianity emanating from the church at Rome.
What went wrong?
The short answer is the French Revolution of 1789.
That cataclysmic event destroyed Christian civilization and instituted the religion of socialism, first in France, then throughout Europe.
In the simplest terms, French philosophers of the ill-named Continental European Enlightenment (the 18th century) decapitated Western civilization. The human soul and conscience, moral codes, and the relationship of each individual human to the universe and his fellow humans were tossed into the trash heap. The Western world was figuratively reduced to a headless body that reacted blindly to external, physical stimulae.
The secular, atheistic religion of socialism (in the United States, liberal-progressivism) ignores peoples’ spiritual needs. It asserts, instead, that only material needs for water, food, clothing shelter, and sex count in political society. In socialist religious theory, all of these things can be administered by the secular political state in ways that permit state planners to manipulate and control every aspect of human social behavior.
No one can logically accept that liberal-socialist doctrine and simultaneously support the metaphysical, natural-law principles that were the basis of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, Jefferson’s inalienable human rights flowing from our Creator God.
Philosophical materialism implies that the human soul is a myth; there is only the physical tangle of nerves, muscle, and bones constituting the physical human body. Non-material qualities like personal responsibility, piety, patriotism, and morality are dismissed as value judgments, lost in the morass of moral relativism. Karl Marx, for example, sneered at religion as the opium of the masses, calling it a fiction created by the ruling class to stupefy and subjugate the workers.
Dismissing the Mind of God and the natural law that flowed from it, intellectuals of the French Revolution believed themselves capable of manipulating humans, in the mass, as if they were puppets. They expected their secular religion of socialism to bring harmony and perfection to human life.
Instead, they took the Western world back to the lawless days of the hordes of Genghis Khan, when the sword was the only source of order and right. The millions of dead and maimed in two World Wars and the murders of tens of millions by the French Revolutionary councils, Napoleon, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, and Castro are the legacy of French socialistic materialism and secularity.
Europe, once the driving force in world culture, has become a hollow shell that the inflow of Muslim immigrants will crack and overwhelm in coming decades, unless Christian missionaries succeed in bringing Europeans back to Jesus Christ.