illiam Butler Yeats wrote a poem shortly after World War I called The Second Coming. Despite the title, it was a very pessimistic poem. Yeats was observing the rapid dissolution of society, and he foresaw nothing but certain doom. An unbeliever, he dreaded the idea of Christ's Second Coming because he saw in it nothing but the end of the world.
As he looked at the dissolution of the social order, Yeats wrote,
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
And at the end of the poem, he pictured the coming day of doom as a
". . . rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouch[ing] towards Bethlehem to be born."
In 1996, Judge Robert Bork borrowed and adapted that closing line from Yeats's poem and made it the title of his best-selling bookSlouching Towards Gomorrah.
Bork, like Yeats, could see that society is in rapid decline. Both men understood that society has no hope when good men "lack all conviction" and evil men "are full of passionate intensity." But Bork said the real problem in our society is not merely that some external doom is descending on us. The greater problem is that society itself is marching steadfastly into its own doom. Our problem is not some end-times beast that is slouching toward Bethlehem; the real problem is that society itself is slouching toward Gomorrah.
As we look at the state of Christ's church worldwide today, we see an even more frightening prospect. By and large, the church has fallen in love with Gomorrah, and has veered off that direction in a dead sprint. Christians seem as if they are on a collective quest to see how much of the world they can absorb and imitate. Instead of trying to win the world the way Christ commanded, the church seems determined to see how much like the world she can become.
It is a safe bet that whatever is popular in the world at the moment will soon be embraced by the church. Virtually all of today's secular fads will have Christian counterparts tomorrow. Seriously: there are even several "Christian" nudist colonies. Evidently there is no worldly novelty that someone, somewhere won't try to drag into the church.
For more than four years here at PyroManiacs we have been pointing out laughable examples of how the contemporary church has played the harlot with the world. When you listen to the rationale of people who advocate worldly innovations in the church, they invariably insist this is the only way to reach unbelievers.
Under pretexts such as "contextualization," "missional living," and "relevance" an unbridled willingness to accommodate Divine truth to human preferences is now going on virtually unchecked in the modern and postmodern evangelical movement. Multitudes of Christians today think it is their prerogative to mold and shape everythingworship, music, and even the Word of God itselfto the tastes and fashions of the world.
In 2002 I clipped an article from the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The article, titled "Hold the Fire and Brimstone" observed that the doctrine of hell has all but disappeared from the pulpits of evangelical churches. Here's what the article said:
In churches across America, hell is being frozen out as clergy find themselves increasingly hesitant to sermonize on [the subject] . . .. Hell's fall from fashion indicates how key portions of Christian theology have been influenced by a secular society that stresses individualism over authority and the human psyche over moral absolutes. The rise of psychology, the philosophy of existentialism and the consumer culture have all dumped buckets of water on hell.
The Times asked some pastors why the doctrine of eternal damnation has fallen from the radar in evangelical churches. One pastor said churches nowadays don't mention hell because "it isn't sexy enough anymore." The article also quotes Bruce Shelley, senior professor of church history at the Denver Theological Seminary. In his view, evangelicals' silence about hell is because "it's just too negative. . . . Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding."*
That kind of thinking is all too typical. Until Christians recover their convictions and their passion; until we realize that the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation; until we quit tinkering with the message to try to accommodate it to the tastes and preferences of every subculture; and until we give up these foolish efforts to make the gospel "appealing" and concern ourselves with proclaiming it accurately and making it clear, the church's impact on the world will continue to diminish and the world's influence will continue to define what the church looks like.
My assessment of what the church looks like at the moment: "As Isaiah predicted, 'If the Lord of hosts had not left us [a remnant], we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah'" (Romans 9:29).