Modern Gospel Progress

At that time [in the 300s when Constantine converted] Christianity was the one religion that had no nationalism at its root, partly because it was rejected by the Jews! It was not the folk religion of any one tribe. – Ralph D. Winter, The Kingdom Strikes Back: Ten Epochs of Redemptive History

For if their [the Jews] rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? – Romans 11:15

It is fascinating to see how God orchastrated things so the gospel could go forth in the first few centuries. Roman roads, wide-spread trade routes, a common spoken and written language, general safety in travel from criminals, laws protecting Roman citizens. God used all of these things to help move the gospel out of Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Today even the most agnostic historian stands amazed that what began in a humble stable in Bethlehem of Palestine, a backwater of the Roman empire, in less than 300 years was give control of the emperors’ palace in Rome. How did this happen? It is a truly incredible story. – Winter

Had the Jews accepted Jesus, then Christianity would be viewed as no more than reformed Judaism, a Hebrew religion. But God, in His wisdom, hardened the hearts of the Jews towards Jesus and pushed Christianity out of Palestine and away from a single ethnic group. Christians were Jews and Gentiles, men and women, barbarians, Scythians, slaves and free. It was a religion of the people, not a nation. This too allowed it to spread, unhindered by nationalistic ideals it could cross cultural barriers.

What is sad is that today, Islam sees Christianity as the religion of the decadent West. To be a Saudi or Iranian or Iraqi or Indonesian or whatever is to be Muslim. Today religion has become once again intertwined with nationalist identity. If you live in the West you are a Christian. What spews forth from Hollywood and MTV is Christian culture. That is how Islam sees it. No wonder Bin Laden hates us! If that is what he thinks Christianity is all about I can see why he hates it. (I’m not condoning his barbaric reaction to it, only recognizing his revulsion at it.)

So how will Western culture be severed from Christianity in the eyes of the rest of the world? Winter’s take on history seems to be that we will be overrun by those we failed to reach and then they will be converted. He sites a historical track record of that happening (though there have been groups in history who were quite good at evangelizing and America has been particularly noteworthy in the past centuries). I suppose it could happen again but what I think I see happening is that Christianity is continuing to move west. It started in Israel then moved west to Rome then wast to Europe then west to America and now it appears to be moving west to China and Korea where there are numerically more evangelicals than in the US. As America and the West abandon Christianity the East seems to be taking it up. Perhaps once Christianity has moved soundly into the Eastern nations then Islam will have to reconsider exactly who they were fighting against. Maybe our brothers and sisters to the west will have more success in reaching the Middle East than we have. Maybe they will not have the disadvantage of having a decadent cultural image tied to the name of Christ as they go forth.

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