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Alistair Begg on How to Interpret the Changing Culture


In Revelation, we are given a vision of a vast crowd too great to count which is made up of people from all nations, provinces, and languages, and together they are crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” This is a picture to keep in mind always, and especially when in our Gospel endeavors it is a “day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). I remind myself as I encourage our congregation to read and watch the news through the lens of Scripture. Graeme Goldsworthy puts it well: “Scripture as God’s word must interpret history and culture, not the other way round.” 

There are times when this perspective seems particularly needful. I suggest that we are living at such a time. The press on both sides of the Atlantic has reported widely on the census data about religious affiliation in the UK. The figures are of the diminishing impact of Christianity, with some predicting its terminal decline. Less than half of British people now identify as Christian. Understandably, much is being made of the fact that those claiming no religion have risen exponentially.

What happened? The baby boomers (my group) gave up on God and raised their millennial children in a moral and religious vacuum. Christian parents failed to do the hard work necessary to see their children established in the faith. Consider the great concern of grandparents as they see their offspring showing little or no interest in the things of God. (We mail a large volume of books requested by grandparents who order multiple copies to distribute to their grandchildren.) The Church (big C) has drifted into irrelevancy in a quest for relevance. Denominations that have sought to accommodate themselves to unbiblical, godless ideologies have inevitably declined. One British researcher, John Hayward, finds that “to date, no growing church has adopted same-sex marriage.” The growing ones stand on historic Christianity and against progressive ideology.

Here is where an understanding of church history helps. In the first centuries after Christ’s ascension, the Word of God was proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, men and women were converted, and, though facing opposition and persecution, the church still continued to thrive. Only with the conversion of Constantine did Christianity became “mainstream.” Eventually, in the darkness of a well-established religious system, God lit a flame in the heart of a monk by the name of Martin Luther, and once again the Gospel penetrated the darkness.

The Word of God is light in the darkness, hope for the hopeless—and this we proclaim! As in Corinth, not many of us are mighty or noble, and the message we proclaim is regarded as foolishness by unbelievers. But to those who are being saved it is the power of God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

When I read in my newspaper of the declining impact of Christianity in the West, I say out loud, “BUT JESUS SAID ‘I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT.’” Countless millions throughout the world, in ages past and yet to come, who have taken their stand on the Gospel will be found in the great gathering that God planned from all eternity.

So let the pessimist look down and the fearful look around, but the let the Christian lift his eyes and look up.

Keep on!

With my love in the Lord Jesus,


PS: The book selections this month fit with this theme. I encourage you to add them to your library. One is perfect for teaching children about the grace of God, and the other is for all of us to better know God as He is.

Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.