Christian Courage and the Struggle for Civilization - page 6

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Christian Courage and
the Struggle for Civilization

by Os Guinness,
Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre
for Christian Apologetics in Oxford

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Needed Tools

We need to make sure that we and all our fellow members have the needed tools to grapple with this incredible modern world. I’ll mention two, quickly. First, supernatural warfare. Supernatural warfare. If you read Immanuel Kant, the great philosopher of the Enlightenment, his last essay is called “Perpetual Peace.” He proposed that reason would rise, we’d negotiate all the world conflicts, and we’d achieve a world of perpetual peace. It gave rise to the League of Nations, to the modern Peace Study movement. A hundred years after Kant, you had Friedrich Nietzsche. In his last book, not an essay, a little book called Ecce Homo – I haven’t got it in front of me, but – he says, “We’re about to see a war of spirits, the likes of which the world has never seen.” If you look around our twenty-first-century world, who’s closer? Kant, perpetual peace, or Nietzsche, a war of spirits?

Looking at some of the things – the Middle East and other areas – you can understand them, and how to approach them, only by having a biblical understanding of what Daniel calls the angel princes of the empires, like Persia and so on. Once again, we need to be a church that is powerful in the area of spiritual warfare.

The second tool is the need for the capacity to persuade, which is another word for apologetics, advocacy, and so on. If ever we needed that capacity, it’s today.

I’ll draw this to a conclusion. Two stories as I finish.

The challenge is – do we in the Western world have a faith that has faithfulness, integrity, and effectiveness true to our Lord’s calling that can overcome the challenges of the advanced modern world?

Not long before he died, I had the privilege of visiting Jenny’s and my wonderful, old friend John Stott. We knew him well and we loved him. He was in his nineties. He was horizontal and in his bed. We had an hour and a half together. I prayed for him, and I said, “How would you like Jenny and me to pray for you?” (It turned out this was just three weeks before he died.) And John, who could speak only with a very hoarse whisper … I’ll never forget what he said. “Pray that I will be faithful to Jesus to my last breath.” That is the issue of the day. Faithfulness.

The other story: There was an incredible debate after World War II by many of European’s greatest Christian intellectuals. T.S. Eliot, Jacques Maritain, Christopher Dawson, John Baillie, Emil Brunner, many, many others, and in the course of that debate, looking at the challenge of the church in the modern world, Christopher Dawson raised the question to the others – this is 1947 or so: can the church be warmed again a third time? Conversion of Rome, collapse. Winning back the world through the conversion of barbarian kingdoms, and now, really bad shape. Can the church be warmed again a third time? Emil Brunner, an eminent theologian, had the guts to say, “I’m not sure.” He was so aware of the challenges of modernity and how bad we were doing that he said, “I’m frankly not sure.” Eventually Christopher Dawson answered his own question. Can the church be warmed again? He said, “Of course every Christian should say yes. But we must not answer too quickly or too lightly because on the outcome of that question depends the future of humanity.”

 

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