April/May 2019 - Vol. 103
spiritual attack and man reading the Word of God,
                  by Kevin Carden
Born into a Battle 

Living a Christian way of life in a secular society

by Jerry Munk

A person who joined the church in the early days of its development knew that he or she was making a radical decision. In the first place, society was hostile to Christians. One who believed in Christ faced loss of status, of livelihood, of property, and, perhaps, the loss of life itself. 

Beyond this, the Christian was also embracing a new way of life, a way of life very different from their neighbors. How they looked at science, history, marriage, politics, family relationships, morality, even their concept of human existence was different from, and often opposed to, the thinking of the majority. Indeed, intrinsic to following the “way of Christ” was the idea that one would be consciously different: that they would be in the world but not of it. 

Western society remains basically secular. It is not following God, and it is opposed to those who do. Most Christians today have also become secularized.

Let's look at the evidence: 

Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z

"It may come as no surprise that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Americans’ beliefs are becoming more post-Christian and, concurrently, religious identity is changing. Enter Generation Z: Born between 1999 and 2015, they are the first truly “post-Christian” generation.

"More than any other generation before them, Gen Z does not assert a religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations, many of whom received a basic education on the Bible and Christianity. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.

Atheism on the rise
For Gen Z, “atheist” is no longer a dirty word: The percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population (13% vs. 6% of all adults). The proportion that identifies as Christian likewise drops from generation to generation. Three out of four Boomers are Protestant or Catholic Christians (75%), while just three in five 13- to 18-year-olds say they are some kind of Christian (59%)."

An Increasingly Elusive Truth
More than one-third of Gen Z (37%) believes it is not possible to know for sure if God is real, compared to 32 percent of all adults. On the other side of the coin, teens who do believe one can know God exists are less likely than adults to say they are very convinced that is true (54% vs. 64% all adults who believe in God). For many teens, truth seems relative at best and, at worst, altogether unknowable.

religious identity survey in

[See full Barna report at https://www.barna.com/research/atheism-doubles-among-generation-z/]

A Biblical world-view survey
An earlier nationwide survey in the US conducted by The Barna Group among a representative sample of adults explored how many have what might be considered a “biblical worldview.” The report from Barna compared current results to the outcomes from a similar survey the company conducted in 1995, 2000 and 2005.

For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

Overall, the current research revealed that only 9% of all American adults have a biblical worldview. The research data showed that one pattern emerged loud and clear: young adults rarely possess a biblical worldview. The current study found that less than one-half of one percent of adults aged 18 to 23 have a biblical worldview, compared to about one out of every nine older adults.

Now, let's look at compliance.

God’s Commands 
(Note: The numbering of the commandments in this article follows the pattern of the Orthodox Church, as this article was written originally for an Orthodox audience.) The first two of God's commands teach us to worship and value God before all else, and that we shall not worship the works of our hands. Rather than valuing worship of God, our society concentrates on material accumulation and personal fulfillment. We are next commanded to revere the names of God and not abuse them, but His names have become standard swear words. The Sabbath, the Lord's Day, is now a time for pleasure and yard work, but God intended it for worship and rest, He commands us to honor father and mother, but society has devalued traditional family structure in favor of career advancement while the government is systematically stripping parents of their authority and responsibility, The Sixth Commandment says “Thou shall not kill,” but millions of lives have been lost to abortion, “Right to die” legislation now threatens the elderly and infirm as well. 

Sexual Morality 
The Bible clearly teaches that sex has a very special and protected place – inside the covenant of marriage, Today, however, half of all marriages end in divorce while adultery touches over half of those which don't. A 2007 study in the US found that the average age at which teenagers have their first sexual experience steadily decreased during the 1990s, and now almost half of American adolescents report that they have had sex by the time they graduate from high school.

God says, “Do not steal,” but cheating on our income tax has become an American art form (economists estimate that 10 to 30% of transactions are unreported). We are also commanded not to bear false witness, but slander and innuendo are standard "reporting techniques" in the media, while gossip fills work place and neighborhood. Finally, we are told not to covet what God has given another, yet popular TV shows that promote the lifestyles of the rich and famous  have no problem finding viewers. 

What’s the Standard 
What this evidence shows is that our culture has moved away from the Judeo-Christian morality and has embraced some other ethic against which it measures right and wrong. 

It is interesting that many people describe their moral ethic as the Ten Commandments, but upon close examination it is obvious that the Ten Commandments are, in fact, not guiding the conduct of society. Secular society, it would seem, is involved in some kind of mass rationalization and self deception where moral values no longer line up with specific scriptural standards, but people, through ignorance and personal justification, fail to see or admit that fact. 

A Radical Decision 
My reason for developing this argument is quite simple – to alert us to the fact that our society is indeed not “Christian.” We need to realize that if we truly follow the way of Christ, our lives will look considerably different from those of our neighbors. We live in a situation that is quite similar to that of the early believers. While most of us will not face physical persecution because of our beliefs (although some will), choosing to faithfully follow Christ means that how we look at science, history, marriage, politics, family relationships, morality, and even human existence will be different from, and often opposed to, the thinking of the majority. Indeed, following the way of Christ still means being consciously different being in the world but not of it. We need to know that the decision to follow Christ is still a radical one. 

Taking a Stand 
What concerns me is how very few Christians seem to be aware of how bad the situation is.

We have lost the notion that giving our lives to God through Christ is supposed to make a difference. We accept the world's values and the world's ethics as our own with seeming little understanding that in doing so we are rejecting the Lord we claim to serve. Statisticians cannot find a discernable difference between Christian and secular behavior. Just as many Christians engage in premarital sex; just as many Christian marriages are broken by divorce; just as many Christians end up in jail. Rather than standing against the tide of secularization, firmly anchored to the revealed word of God, many, many Christians are choosing to go with the flow.

Born Into a Battle
Whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, each one of us is born into a battle. On one side stands Jesus Christ and his followers. On the other side is Satan and those who follow him. There is no middle ground. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). Subscribing to a comfortable, but meaningless, “social Christianity” is not standing with Jesus. Casual Christians become Christian casualties. He calls for a total giving over of our lives to him: “Whoever comes to me cannot be my disciple unless he hates his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, and himself as well.” Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stand between us and our Lord. 

An Army At War 
The body of Christ has been likened to an army. Indeed, we are an army at war. There is a spiritual battle going on right now: a battle for the souls of men and women, for the spiritual destinies of our children, and for the control of society. The general disobedience to God's laws mentioned earlier is not simply an interesting social phenomenon. There are spiritual forces at work here. In the book of Ephesians (6: 12) we read: “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.” 

Church Militant 
In the midst of this battle, the people who constitute the church militant are strangely complacent. The average Christian seems not to know that he or she is a member of an army, let alone that there is a war going on, The quest for worldly peace and prosperity have lulled us to sleep, and while we slumber, the evil one has been at work. Territory once won for Christ has been lost. Satan is making advances. Entire nations that were once considered Christian have been snatched away by the enemy. 

As Christian men and women, as members of God's army, we need to be clear about where we stand. We are in the midst of a battle. God has assured us that he and his church shall be, indeed, already are, victorious. But it is equally clear that in the course of the battle there will be casualties. I believe that in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23), the seeds that fell among the thorns especially apply to our day and time. We have received the Word of God and have begun to grow, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke us, and many have become unfruitful. 

Let each one of us examine our live. Have we made a radical commitment for Jesus? Are we willing to be different, to stand against the tide for the sake of Christ? Will we embrace God's standards as our own, and when we fall short, will we respond with repentance, not rationalization? Are we willing to invest the time and effort necessary to lead our children to Christ and train them to serve as his soldiers also? 

The Apostle Paul challenges us, “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. Do not conform to the standards of this world, but let God transform you by a complete renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:1,2).

[This article first appeared in Theosis: Newsletter for Orthodox Spiritual Renewal, May/June 1987. This version has been updated by the author.]
Jerry Munk is a member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and recently elected senior coordinator in the Work of Christ Community, Lansing, Michigan, USA. He and his wife Jan have three grown children, all actively participating in the community. 
> See other articles by Jerry Munk in previous issues of Living Bulwark

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