Below are my notes from an address to the God and Government conference for ARPA, held in Ottawa.
We live in a time when we are constantly reminded of the sins of the West. I do not wish to deny the reality of such sins, and still less the gravity of them. But I do want to place them in a different light than they usually get, under a different glass. I want to do this because a commitment to truth demands it, and on top of everything else, it is a matter of great strategic import.
A particular play is being run on us, and almost no one seems to be aware of the nature of that play. And so, with that concern in mind, there are three things I would like to ask you to consider. If you walk away from this talk with these three points in mind, I will be content.
The first is that the West must not be defined by her secularism. Secularism is not the genius of the West, but is rather the disease of the West. I have been urging Christians of all stripes to return to an older method of cultural organization, one that is hardier than what we are currently attempting. Every culture is an instantiation of a particular set of faith commitments, and those faith commitments must either be (what people of previous generations would have called) true or false. Not to put too fine a point on it, the reason our culture is demented is that our gods are demented. The reason we have lost our minds is the direct result of losing our faith in God, and we have sought after gods that stand for no objective truth whatever. “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Our self-made cisterns hold no water, and this is why our worldview holds no water. Our secularist overlords might act a little indignant at such a saying, muttering that we Christians are the ones who are anti-science. Yeah, right. You think little boys can become little girls, and you think we’re anti-science?
Keep in mind there are only three basic options on the table. The first is an etiolated and diseased secularism, one that we have been repeatedly told is “progressive.” But it is not progressing anywhere unless, to use Van Til’s apt phrase, we decide to count its “integration downward into the Void.” Their basic strategy will be to continue to gaslight those Christians who are warning about the future, saying that they are paranoid, and then, when all the prophecies start coming true, they will move seamlessly into saying that it is not realistic to try to do anything about it now.
The second option is that of Islam, filling up the vacuum created by retreating and outbred secularists (and the Christians who continue for some reason to believe the reassurances of those retreating and outbred secularists). Whatever else it is, the ideology of having 1.2 children per household is not a vision for a workable future.
The third option is what I have been calling mere Christendom. There will be no salvation for us without a Savior, and one of the things our Savior wants us to do is name Him, to call upon Him. He is not deaf. Call on Him.
And so my first point is that Christian civilization—really Christian civilization—is a good thing. A genuinely good thing. Not only is it a good thing, it is also a possible thing. Think for a moment. Something that existed for a thousand years ought not to be called an impossible thing, right? And that leads to the second point.
The second issue is that there is a vast difference between being attacked for your sins and being attacked with your sins. There is no denying that we believers have failed in many considerable ways, and so it is easy for Christians with a tender conscience to believe that our critics are being sincere when they chide us for our sins. But they are not at all sincere. They hate us for our virtues, and they attack us with our sins, not for our sins.
David the king provides us with a good example of this. He was hated by the enemies of God because he was a man after God’s own heart—and yet that tragic business with Bathsheba did give the drunkards in taverns something to sing about. And sing about it they did.
Lot in Sodom is another example. Peter in the New Testament calls him a righteous man, and yet in the Genesis account we see exactly how his various compromises had rendered him vulnerable to grievous temptations.
This is no reason to go on sinning—of course not. Sin does a lot of damage. Christians, by means of their sins, manage to blow up families, friendships, businesses, churches, denominations, and so forth, and then they want to run Canada? Try running a successful Popsicle stand first. There’s that principle. You are going to be attacked for your virtues, and not for your sins. But when you sin, you supply the enemy with free ammo. Why are you giving the enemy free ammo?
But back to the point. When we consider the various dirty deeds that tarnish our past—broken treaties, needless wars, you know the drill—always remember that these are all sins that were long ago weaponized. They are not what they are being currently represented as being.
The third thing is that we ought not to give up hope—but I want to suggest a counterintuitive reason for this. Do not give up hope because things are far worse than we think. We ought not to give up hope because—and yes you heard me rightly—things really are hopeless.
Chesterton once said this:
“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave” (The Everlasting Man, p. 250).
Things are dire, but that is all right. We can do dire. Things are hopeless, but in the history of the West, they have been hopeless many times before. This is like old home week. As the apostle Paul once put it, God does this so that we would not trust in ourselves. “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). The pattern of death and resurrection is His m.o. Death followed by resurrection is His signature move. Allow me to say that again. This pattern of cultural decline and great reformation is His signature move.
Far too many of us have lamented with the Psalmist, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree” (Ps. 37:35). And when the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do (Ps. 11:3)? Their eyes are fat like grease, and their press secretaries lie like dead flies on a window sill. And they all seem to get away with it!
But remember. Our God knows the way out of the grave. And not only does He know the way out of the grave, it has been His plan and intention to govern all of human history by this means. He leads us, always, out of the grave. But first it is His glorious intention to bring us to that grave, and we must always trust Him as we approach it. He has done this countless times for us. He has done this great thing over and over. This is His move.
I have said this before, and trust that I will have occasion to say it many times again. The king is dead. Long live the king. And while there are qualifications I could make here—for western civilization is not the same thing as the kingdom of Heaven—I will pass by all such qualifications in serenity and peace. I do this because all the animus that western civilization draws from the ignorati is because it reminds them of the kingdom of Heaven. It does not remind them of the policies of Hell. If it reminded them of Hell, they would think much more highly of it.
And so my three exhortations to you have been these. Secularism is the name of our malaise, the name of our backsliding. We must have a cure for our disease, but our civilization is not our disease. Our civilization has a disease, and the name of it is secularism. So secularism is not the name of our guiding principle. It is not our cornerstone, but rather the corrosion of our capstone. I am not calling for us to throw neutrality away, for you cannot dispense with something you never had. Neutrality is impossible. Not one person ever had neutrality. Our society could jettison neutrality if we had it, but we don’t. We can, however, throw away our pretense of neutrality. Secularism is something that must be repented of. And as I say this, do not confuse it with religious liberty. Religious liberty was a Christian invention. Secularism was a Christian apostasy.
Our fundamental confession as Christians is that Jesus is Lord. Our confession is not that He is Lord someplace else. We are not proclaiming His authority over Heaven. Neither are we limiting His realm to our hearts.
Second, we must confess our sins, and we can tell we have done so if we receive forgiveness for them. You know that you are dealing with the Holy Spirit when you confess sin because His whole point in convicting you is to bring you into peace. You know that you are dealing with devils, with accusers, when you “confess sin” because their whole point in bringing it up is to bury you in condemnation. What was actually an oceanic enormity centuries ago has dribbled down to a small puddle made up of micro-aggressions. Micro-aggressions are to real sin what LaCroix is to fruit juice. And that is what we are told we must feel bad about, right alongside our current oceanic enormities—things like same sex mirage, abortion-on-demand, and the redefinition of “theft as generosity” that socialism attempts.
And last, God saves the helpless. God can always save the helpless. The West is helpless. The West is dead. Long live the West.