Trends within American Christianity

There has been an ongoing trend within American Christianity to be either (1) overly triumphant—that is to say, that God’s kingdom has fully come and has manifested itself more completely upon our shores than it has in any other place or in any other time—or to be (2) overly pessimistic—that is to say, that we lament over losing ground and influence, crying out and pining for restoration to ‘glory days’ long past.

In our day and age, option 1 (overt triumphalism) has become less a reality.  There was a time in early colonialism where the freedoms of faith found in the New World and the religious side of American ‘Manifest Destiny’ (belief that the expansion of the U.S. throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable; religiously justifiable because the gospel could spread to the heathen) fueled such optimism that America had been set apart as especially favored by God.  But human sin and religious nominalism within our history has tainted such optimism.  What was once a privilege (freedom of religion) has now become a right that has been taken for granted, under appreciated, and hardly taken advantage of.

Option 2 (overt pessimism) has become the reality for some.  Many Christians lament the ground that has been lost in ‘Christendom’ as restrictive laws and slumping church attendance press in upon us.  Statistics now show that more than 10% of those who used to claim themselves as ‘Christian’ now claim no religion at all.  Have we lost ground, or are people being more honest about their faith or lack thereof?

There is a prevailing danger in both of these extremes, as it places too much emphasis upon man, rather than upon God.  Ephesians 1:11 tells us, “In Him we gave obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”  May I suggest a middle ground of ‘heavenly optimism’ focused on a kingdom that is not of this world?  Whether things appear to be sunny or bleak, God is still at work in this world.  Stay the course, be faithfully obedient, and trust where He’s going.

Charts for Daniel 7

The Vision of Daniel 7

Vision Kingdom Date Given (by God)
1 Lion w/eagle’s
wings
Babylon 625-539 BC Mind like a man
2 Bear w/1 side higher than other Medo-Persia 539-331 BC Instructions to conquer
3 Leopard w/4 wings,
4 heads
Greece 331-63 BC Dominion
4 Dreadful beast Rome 63 BC-? Judgment against this beast
10 horns 10 kings/
kingdoms
Little horn Antichrist
  Son of Man Christ’s 30/33 AD-Eternity Dominion, glory, and a kingdom; all types of people serve him

The Vision of Daniel 2 & 7 compared

 

Babylon

Medo-Persia

Greece

Rome

Christ

2

Head of Gold

Chest/Arms of Silver

Middle/Thighs of Bronze

Legs of Iron & Feet of Iron/Clay

Stone

7

Lion w/eagle’s
wings

Bear w/1 side higher than other

Leopard w/4 wings, 4 heads

Dreadful beast

Son of Man

The kingdoms of this world leading up to Christ

Image

If you’ll notice in the graphic above, I put a question mark for the fall of Rome.  Should we consider its fall in 476 A.D. when the Western empire fell to the barbarians from the north; do we consider its fall in 1435 A.D. when the Eastern Empire fell to the Turks; or does it still exist in the hierarchy/papacy of the Roman Catholic Church?  Regardless of how you answer that question, the fourth kingdom—as all previous kingdoms—has or will be broken to pieces by the stone—by Christ (Luke 20:18) if they refuse to submit to His rule.  God’s kingdom breaks all other kingdoms, and then grows until it fills the earth.  That growth is still happening: over two millennia it has practically filled the earth, until it will one day be complete.  What are you doing to bring that kingdom: praying, growing, witnessing, or idly waiting?  Go, send, or be disobedient; there’s no other choice.