Have Times Changed?

by Austin Hausner

"For the Son of man came to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

When we talk with people about Christianity or anything Bible-related we find there are many objections to Christianity. Some of these objections are fairly common. We want to be able to provide a counter-argument to one of the more common ones. This common objection goes something like this:

 “Times have changed, therefore Christianity is no longer necessary, relevant, or compatible with today's America.”

The assertion is that because of the numerous and drastic changes our society has experienced in a relatively short time there no longer remains a place left for Christianity. This is the common objection that we want to be able to provide an answer to.

We find that people tend to be quick to justify themselves but are not nearly as eager to explain themselves when put on the spot. Most people can give you a pretty confident one-line answer about why they believe something.  They are usually not as skilled at being able to explain the logic behind their conclusion. When we engage people in conversation we are trying to discover the logical fallacies which will help us dismantle their faulty arguments.

Let's consider an analogy.  A young patient is admitted to the hospital. This patient is in their thirties and up until being moved to the hospital, they were strong and healthy. But now their health is declining rapidly. The medical professionals understand that this person will not heal on their own. Although the exact illness is uncertain, based on the symptoms they decide to try a particular medication. Based on when the medication was administered they could come to the conclusion that the medicine actually made the patient worse. So they try another medication. Again, the patient's health decreases even further. They try yet one more. Although the body reacts in different ways to each medication the overall result is a continuing decline in the patient's health. At this point giving the right medicine is more critical than it has been previously. If this patient were our family-member we would probably become more open-minded as to what types of treatments or medications we would be willing to experiment with to save our family-member. We won't simply give up. After all, this is a member of our family so we’ll try whatever we can to make them better.

Luke 5:30-32 says “And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ "

It's interesting that Jesus uses an analogy involving a doctor to describe spiritual health and illness.  Of course, we know that the Pharisees were sinners, just like the people they were grumbling about -- and the apostles, and all of us, and everyone in the world for that matter. But there's more to it than this. There's a certain degree of awareness of one's own condition to perceive the need for the physician in the first place. When we know we are sick we know we must go to Jesus. If we don't realize we are sick, we don't know that we have a problem in the first place.  We would not be ready for the physician because we are unwilling to admit our own errors and faults.

In our analogy, the United States is the sick patient in the hospital. This patient is young because we are a young country compared to many. We were previously healthy and strong but now we have a serious spiritual illness in our country. It will not heal itself on its own. We need the right medicine. We need a physician. We need it more than ever because of how things have become in this land.

I don't believe we will be very effective when talking with people about the changes that have taken place in our country if we flat out deny the changes have happened. Sometimes when we hear people talk about change we might think of a passage in Ecclesiastes which states that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). However, we need to understand the context of this verse. Just because the situation in our country is new for us does not mean that it's new for other societies and nations.

Nations go through cycles. All great empires of the past have gone through a similar cycle. The Chinese have been through this cycle several times. The Japanese have been through it, the Romans went through it, and the Babylonians, Persians, and Assyrians.  It's interesting that these great empires went through the same cycle at different times and in different places on the Earth. One of the hallmarks of a declining nation is a rapid moral decline. If we think about what happened in Rome, we can understand that their situation is in many ways similar to our own today. One of the defining characteristics of a nation in its twilight years is a generally agreed upon decline in morality. It's interesting that even those who deny God's existence can still perceive the changes in morality that have taken place in our nation.

I think we will be more effective when talking with people about these changes if we fully acknowledge that they exist. If we don't properly understand the passage in Ecclesiastes and deny the changes that have taken place, we might lose any chance we have with someone we're talking to.

This leads us to our counter-argument. When we are told that times have changed we must acknowledge these changes. The counter-argument could go something like this: “You are correct that many changes have happened and it's because of these that Christianity is needed more than it ever was.” This is not good enough unless we explain ourselves.

Think about some of the basic tenets of Christianity. In Christianity, we learn what love is, how to love others, the kind of action and heart that is necessary to love as God defines it. We also learn not to think too highly of ourselves and to put others' needs ahead of our own. We learn to watch the way we conduct ourselves so as to not make anyone stumble. We learn that we need to be lights in the world. We learn about kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

If the person you are talking with has children you can always appeal on their behalf as well. A question we could pose could be “Wouldn't you want your children learning about these characteristics in school? Wouldn't that make the world a better place?” I know what our kids are learning in school and it's not these things. Not very long ago a question was asked by one of our preachers giving a sermon. He asked, “If everyone would love one another and look out for one another, wouldn't that eliminate many of the problems we have today?” Of course, it would! The problems that it wouldn't eliminate immediately would be eliminated eventually if this was how we thought and if this was how we acted.

The previously mentioned virtues which are only a few that we learn about in Christianity are completely opposite of what we see going on in our nation today. These things are all part of the medicine that we desperately need. We are more divided than we have ever been. We have reached a point of abundance in this nation that other nations are still trying to achieve. Most of these nations are older than us and yet are still striving to achieve what we now have. What have we done with this great abundance? We have squandered our resources. We take everything we have for granted. We have much and we constantly demand more. When we get it, it doesn't make us happy and we want even more. We always want more and it's never enough. Every new thing we try and every new lust we pursue does not give us the happiness that we thought it might. But nonetheless we continue to pursue our own way which is apart from God.

All the things that we do on our own do not make us truly happy and they also drive us further away from God. We don't need any more of man's designs to try to lead us to happiness or the good life. The medicine we have been giving ourselves is making us sicker. The previously mentioned virtues from Christianity could truly solve so many of the problems that we now have. Problems that many people are not even aware of because they are spiritual in nature.

It’s because the times have changed that we so greatly need the Lord in our lives and in everyone else's. It's ridiculous to say that there is no place for Christianity when its chief tenants would provide the antidote to our increasing spiritual sickness. I'm afraid that we will suffer the same fate as the Romans unless we act like the example of the people of Nineveh in Jonah's day. The people of Nineveh realized they needed to repent, and they did. They immediately turned away from what they were doing and turned to God.  I believe this is the only way that God will have mercy on our nation and will not allow us to suffer the same fate as the previously mentioned empires. The changing times prove that people truly need God. The only medicine that will work for us are the words of life from the great physician, Jesus.

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