“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of Incredulity,
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Thus the great Charles Dickens described another revolutionary time when all presuppositions and values were severely challenged. As 21st-century men and women, we are in the midst of a similar epoch. 21st-century Christians have been called upon to follow the Lord and to be His disciples in a supremely strategic moment in history.
In the epoch that Dickens so eloquently describes, the American and French Revolutions took place within the 25 years that encompassed the last quarter of the eighteenth century (1775-1800). The struggle for hearts and minds between the essential elements of these two Revolutions and their contrasting world views continues virtually unabated today, both internationally and intranationally.
Multitudes of observers have commented at length on the increasingly dominant influence of what Carl F. H. Henry as early as 1946 called "the secular philosophy of humanism or naturalism.”1
One of the most incisive analyses of this evolving cultural crisis was provided by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet exile Nobel laureate many, including myself, consider to be one of the 20th and 21st centuries’ greatest men. In Solzhenitsyn’s commencement address at Harvard University in June 1978, he sounded the alarm, warning of the grievous consequences of this fallacious worldview:
“The humanistic way of thinking, which has proclaimed itself our guide, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it see any task higher than the attainment of happiness on earth. It started modern western civilization on the dangerous trend of worshipping man and his material needs…as if human life did not have any higher meaning.”2
As Christians, we have been called upon by the providence of God to know and follow the Lord and to be His disciples in a supremely strategic moment in history. It is a moment replete with devastating problems and ripe with promising opportunities.
Christian theologian Carl F. H. Henry warned Christians 40 years ago of the drastic extent to which philosophies and educational theories have succumbed to this man-centered, rather than God-centered, focus, and orientation. Henry observed that man rather than God “now define ‘truth’ and ‘goodness’ in most modern universities and that this is the culmination” of “the greatest overturn of ideas and ideals in the history of human thought.” Such anthropocentric, man-centered thinking “assumes the comprehensive contingency of everything, including God; the total temporality of all things; the radical relativity of all human thought and life; and the absolute autonomy of man.”3
This humanistic philosophy has now thoroughly saturated all aspects of our American culture, including our nation’s public schools. As a result of the COVID lockdowns, millions of parents across America have been shocked as they have discovered what their children were being taught in their public schools.
Morally relative, humanistically-influenced education has pushed de-bunking American history and utterly rejecting traditional sexual mores. As former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has explained:
“If our kids don’t grow up understanding America is an exceptional nation, we’re done. If they think it’s an oppressor class and an oppressed class, if they think the 1619 Project, and we were founded on a racist idea—if those are the things people entered the seventh grade deeply embedded in their understanding of America, it’s not difficult to understand how Xi Jinping’s claim that America is in decline won’t prove true.”4
In fact, having surveyed the impact of these philosophies' major implementation in the public schools, Pompeo called the teachers’ union head, Randi Weingarten, “the most dangerous person in the world.” (ibid.).
This humanistic, morally relative society has been metastasizing within American society for several generations, and its destructive chickens have come home to roost.
Popular culture has long reflected this trajectory. The song "Imagine" by John Lennon has been voted the most popular “rock” song of all time:
“Imagine there’s no heaven.
It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us
Above us, only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.
Imagine there’s no countries.
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.”
Such naïve, incorrect thinking about fallen human nature cannot be sustained, even by Lennon. The very next song on the album is also written by John Lennon, and it’s entitled
“You can shine your shoes and wear a suit,
You can comb your hair and look quite cute.
You can hide your face behind a smile.
One thing you can’t hide
Is when you’re crippled inside.
You can wear a mask and paint your face,
You can call yourself the human race.
You can wear a collar and a tie,
But one thing you can’t hide
Is when you’re cripped inside.”
This false optimism about the reality of human nature should not be a surprise to anyone who has read the first chapter of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. As 21st-century American Christians, we are now confronted not by a secular society, but by a neopagan society with its own new idols and its own new gods.
As C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) observed many years ago,
“When men cease to believe in God, it is not that they believe in nothing. They believe in anything. Now we have supposedly intelligent twentieth-century people who wear pyramids around their necks and believe in crystal power.”
Now, with the transgender phenomenon being just the latest example of a triumph of a relativist mindset in the U.S., we seem to be closing in on G.K. Chesterton’s (1874-1936) dismal prophecy in 1900 (Heretics) that the West would reach a point in the future when “Fires will be kindled,” he said, “to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in the summer.”
Chesterton prophesied in 1900, “The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed.”
So, how should Christians respond to this existential crisis concerning the objective understanding of truth and the belief that life has meaning and purpose?
Today’s Christians should draw inspiration and encouragement from the fact that we face a situation remarkably analogous to the one which confronted our first-century spiritual ancestors.
Like our first-century Christian brothers and sisters, we must be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:1-2). To be truly effective in changing lives and changing culture, we must first experience that spiritual change ourselves.
If we are going to be the salt and light Jesus commanded us to be (Matt. 5:13-16), we must be in the world (salt must make contact with that with which it wishes to preserve and light which is to “shine before men” must be seen by men). We are to be in the world, but not of the world (Jas. 1:27).
As we face our neopagan cultural milieu under the command to be salt and to be light, we must realize that our ability to do so successfully will first be governed not only by His presence in our lives, but also by the extent we surrender on a daily basis to His Lordship. As W. Graham Scroggie so beautifully put it:
“Christ’s presence in us has its degrees and advances, its less and more, its outer and inner. A life may be truly Christian and yet far from fully Christian. It is this which distinguishes one Christian from another. Some have made little room for Christ, some give Him more, and in some He has the whole house. Or, viewed from another standpoint, in some, Christ is just present, in others He is prominent, and in others again, He is preeminent.”
Let us renew our faith in our Savior and Lord this Christmas season. May God use our faithfulness as His instrument to bring about revival, renewal, and spiritual reformation in America and the world.
May God bless America and may He make us worthy of blessing.
 Henry, Carl F.H. Remaking the Modern Mind, Wm. B. Eerdman, 1948.
 Berman, Ronald (ed.) Solzhenitsyn at Harvard, Ethics and Public Policy Center,1980.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.