Behold the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.Romans 11:22, ESV (modification mine)
Last year, in 2019, my ‘State of Apologetics’ focused on the continuity of our duty as Christians to keep doing what we’ve been doing for 2000 years since King Jesus came into the world. Now that 2020 is nearing the end (of all things?), I cannot tell you (with any confidence) that I foresaw these events that have unfolded since last November. Yes, the world had changed from 2009 to 2019… but the amount of change that has occurred in the world during 2020 is nothing short of spectacular and unprecedented!
Since November of 2019, President Donald Trump was impeached by the Democrat controlled House of Representatives but was not removed from office due to the Senate being controlled by the Republican Party. When 2020 and the State of the Union happened this year, the world was still consumed by the impeachment of Donald Trump and the impending Democratic nominee being declared for the November 3rd Presidential election just around the corner. Then on March 11, 2020, the entire world changed. The World Health Organization declared the most unprecedented pandemic of our lifetimes, even more dramatic than the H1N1 scare a decade earlier. Immediately after declaring the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, the 2020 shutdowns began. China – where the virus originated – had already started their own lockdown, but because of their negligence to share what they knew about this particularly nasty form of Coronavirus, it had already spread far and wide across the globe. The United States had already shut down travel from China in January (hoping to control the spread), but as time progressed infection rates rose in both Europe, North America and abroad… leading to global economic and social lockdowns everywhere the virus went. But this was just the beginning…
May 25th came and the killing of a black man (George Floyd) occurred in Minneapolis, MN, at the hands of law enforcement. Due to the use of counterfeit money, the convenience store Floyd had visited called police to report the use of fake money and police responded while Floyd was still sitting in his vehicle. In standard procedure, Police were able to detain him and began to investigate what had occurred at the store. But instead of remaining a calm interaction, Americans witnessed the video footage of onlookers showing a distraught Floyd crying out that he could not breath while the arresting officer continued to keep Floyd pinned to the ground with a knee to Floyd’s neck. George Floyd eventually died on the scene and the video footage went viral on the Internet. News media outlets decried the abuse of the arresting officers who did nothing to alleviate Floyd’s suffocation while he cried on the ground and this single event lit the fire that has become known as the George Floyd protests of 2020. These protests (and riots) have not yet ceased (as of the writing of this entry) and new deaths refuel the protesting and rioting as black Americans are killed (even in justified police responses) due to violent encounters that result in lethal force. To organize these protests and riots, two primary anarchist groups in America – Antifa (meaning antifascist) and Black Lives Matter (BLM) – have vowed “no justice, no peace” until major structural change occurs in cities and states where policing and the use of force continue to lead to black indivudals being severaly harmed or killed in the process. And if we thought the pandemic was bad in March, none of us had seen anything yet: Cities set on fire, local stores pillaged, and violent fights against police and security forces filled the streets of many major cities. Everything was suddenly up for grabs and government monuments and buildings were decried by protestors as symbols at the heart of ‘systemic’ racism – which they say is the entire American system. America had reached a tipping point with “anti-racist” rhetoric claiming that the American system was inherently and systemically RACIST.
I can testify today that the combination of COVID-19 state and local shutdowns with all the race riots and protests has become more than many people can stand. Groups seeking to protect their community businesses have formed in America. Individuals, who never believed they would have to own a gun, have purchased guns and ammo to the point that even the supplies to reload your own ammo casings are not plentiful enough to buy anymore. As of the end of October 2020, businesses in major cities are boarding up their store fronts to protect from the anticipated rioting and looting to come if the election is undecided or, especially, if President Trump wins again. Even the White House is erecting a ‘non-scalable fence’ around its perimeter and we are about to find out just how serious these anarchist and revolutionary groups are, come the week of November 3rd.
All this leads us to the question… what is the state of Christianity and the discipline of Apologetics in 2020? Given the purpose and meaning of the word, Apologetics deals with a wide variety of areas: philosophy, worldview, world religions, cults, etc… But I must say that this year, 2020, has presented us with new challenges to the Faith that we have never experienced in our lifetime. The following are the primary challenges that I believe Christians face in the West, particularly America, as 2020 nears an end:
- Critical Theory and Intersectionality
- Widespread Cultural Apostasy
- Political and Social Pressure
Critical Theory and Intersectionality
Critical Theory and Intersectionality (CTI) have been described as Cultural Marxism and movements like Black Lives Matter stand as exemplary CTI organizations. They have even given a formal confession of faith that is blatantly atheistic and secular in worldview and communist in political and social ideology. (Note that the link above to the statement of beliefs is an Internet archive because BLM removed it due to public concerns and opposition narratives that were working against their goals – but that is still what they believe.) These various forms of Cultural Marxism are not simply staying “out there” in the culture. Instead, they are entering the church and doing what genuine heresy always does – divide. The divisions have been forming for years now with a slow march of infection, but now that we are in 2020 and have witnessed the new race riots and protests, those heresy preachers of this Neo Marxist doctrine of Critical Theory have come out loudly and boldly to be seen by everyone. After eight years of President Obama laying the groundwork for ‘oppressed’ minorities to become ’empowered’ by his high-handed affirmation of LGBTQ rights and Critical Race Theory (CRT), the mainstream media and mainstream denominations in America have embraced it, without any caution. And as of 2020, faithful denominations (like the one I belong to) are being forced into compromise and fence sitting to try and keep their public face while maintaining the namesakes of the institutions and buildings that have ‘racist’ founders who either owned slaves or formed fellowships due to the American Civil War between the North and the South. The genuine propensity for further divisions to form in already small denominations – that decades ago broke away from the liberal mainstream – stands to weaken the remaining faithful churches and make Christians in America even more irrelevant in the culture wars of the 21st Century. This issue stands to be the most prominent issue in Christian Apologetics for at least a decade to come.
Widespread Cultural Apostasy
The question of whether “Cultural Christianity” is a good thing or a bad thing has been highly debated over the decades, but it was this past decade (the 2010s) that resulted in a watershed moment for Christians in America as census data and polling research found a rapid drop of 12% in the number of total Christians in the United States. As of 2020, the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian stands near 60% of the population. This smaller majority presses faithful Christians further and further towards the proximity of cultural minority status in a society who’s founding documents depend fundamentally on a theistic, Christian worldview and covenantal structure of society. Is it any wonder that the cultural revolutionaries are calling for the end of the Constitution and Bill of Rights as outdated documents for a 21st Century world full of ‘progress’ and technological advances that make them ‘obsolete’? America’s Christian heritage is being lost at light speed and unless the culture remains broadly Christian, the fate of America as a Constitutional Republic will remain in question for years to come due to a society that no longer holds to the worldview that produced it. The loss of this seemingly innocuous thing called ‘Cultural Christianity’ will be revealed as something much more devastating to American than those, who are happy to see it go, will ever admit. As it pertains to Christian Apologetics, this new cultural context presents a much harder path to live faithfully as a Christian in a society that no longer understands or sympathizes with our worldview and lifestyle commitments. Thus, “defending the faith” will be one of the most important disciplines in support of Gospel living and evangelism in a post-2020 American landscape. But even more than a mere discipline, the greatest challenge will be this: Can we successfully use Apologetics to save fellow Christians in our circles from mass cultural apostasy? An apostasy that is growing at a faster rate than any of us alive today have ever witnessed.
Political & Social Pressures
I end with this final challenge to Christian Apologetics in the year 2020. Buffeted by the winds of apostasy and Cultural Marxism, it has never been more apparent to me that the original, New Testament context of doing apologetics will become a reality for Christians in America at some point this next decade. Barring a massive revival here in the States, serious forms of slander and persecution will be seen over the next 10 years if the society continues to reject America as a Constitutional Republic and a majority of the society embraces a dominant, secular religion and culture. Why do I say this? Because Christianity as a religious and cultural minority is the very context in which the Apostles wrote their letters to Christian churches in the Roman Empire nearly 2000 years ago. The Apostle Peter wrote the primary text for doing Apologetics in the following cultural setting (note the underlined):
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil…
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?1 Peter 1:1; 3:13–17; 4:12-17 ESV
I end now with the promise of judgment that I began with. If it is true that we are to “Behold the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22), then it also stands that God’s judgement begins with us. Regardless of what happens in 2020, regardless of who is elected as President of the United States, regardless of how many leave the Faith over the next decade… God calls all his people to a fundamental devotion: Faith in Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. No matter the cost, no matter the danger, no matter the division, no matter the fairness… every one of us will be called to persevere in the Faith until the end. Whether in peace or in persecution, whether in prosperity or famine, whether in Christian or Secular society… all of God’s chosen people will be tested and examined by our great King Jesus to see whether we are loyal to him and to his Kingdom. Therefore:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing… [for] blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.James 1:2-4,12 ESV