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The Beginning of a Bad Joke, or What the West Needs to Remember?

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

A rabbi, a Chinese communist and a pastor walked into a bar…

This is what first comes to mind when reading this article by a British rabbi. In “China is reversing the decline and fall of Christianity,” Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks shares research by Chinese social scientists that what made the West rise to such astonishing heights was not our guns, our politics, or our economics, but something that led to all of these—our Christianity. In fact, two western authors have reported that as of two years ago there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members and the numbers are growing.

I’m not going to summarize the whole article, and I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself—it is amazing the assertions made by the author and those he quotes about the impact of Christianity on the world, from a non-Christian perspective.

Everything in this article challenges the assumptions made by most of our colleagues in the academy about the critically positive role and necessity of our faith in growing and maintaining our society at all levels.

Yesterday I wrote about evangelism for faculty and its challenges. Understanding the lessons of history is critical to developing a solid apologetic for the faith in academic circles. There is so much evidence of the fact that our faith has been the linchpin of the success of most of our fields of study in the academy. Talk about an inconvenient truth!

Don’t expect the overwhelming strength of the evidence to be a magic bullet to cause those in the academy to fall on their knees in submission to the Lord. They have a vested interest in not accepting it, because the narrative the academy has created about history and culture is sacred to them. Admitting they are wrong would be surrendering most of their authority and prestige in the culture because they have staked their individual and collective reputations on convincing the world that Christianity is the true evil and secular humanism, diversity and relativity are paths to salvation for the human race.

For a case in point, see my post, Discussions of Tenure.

Sacks quotes the Roman historian Livy, “`with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first subsided, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to our present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure.’”

To me, this quote eerily echoes loudly in the current raging debate over raising the debt ceiling. In fact, much of the article quotes historians of other epochs describing the fall of many former civilizations and empires, and it sounds like the headlines of our newspapers today.

However, Lord Sacks does not end on a note of despair, but instead offers “Judaism and Christianity share an astonishing capacity for self renewal. That is what happened in Judaism after every tragedy from the Babylonian exile to the Holocaust. That is what is happening now to Christianity in many parts of the world, and it can happen here too.

Will our colleagues (and us as a society as a whole) take heart from this and humble ourselves to do things God’s way, or will Scripture’s condemnation come true in our generation, that we “loved darkness rather than light, because [our] deeds were evil?”

John 3:19, cf. Job 24:12-17, Psalm 74:19-20, Proverbs 7:4-21, Isaiah 29:15-16, Ezekiel 8:7-12, John 3:17-21, Romans 13:12-13, Ephesians 5:11-12, and I Thessalonians 5:1-7)


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