Carl F.H. Henry’s ‘Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Drift Toward Neo-Paganism’ (1988) is chillingly accurate.
He admonishes complacency, retreat and inaction without slipping into an apocalyptic moralistic rant about a wayward world. The value here, at least for me anyway, is found in its prescience, and Henry’s focus on truth vs. falsehood, as opposed to Right vs. Left; sinner vs. sinless.
Henry pivots his entire discourse on a Socratic question, asking readers to note, reflect, and deflect neo-paganism’s self-evident cultural contamination of the West through Secular Humanism. Centre-stage is the salvific importance of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
This is because as long as God’s freely spoken Word remains free to be spoken; it will always restrain the ‘isms, and false gods we create in our own image. This restraint comes in the form of confrontation and correction. It isn’t for the betterment or advance of an ideology. Nor is it to candy coat a totalitarian overreach of religion. It’s for our betterment and advance, because of God’s love for us.
When the Word of God no longer is free, the boxing in of the Creator reaps the inevitable backwards movement of the creature. Man and woman position themselves as lord over the Word. They operate as lawless, under the false idea that they are lordless. This happens when the free Word of God is distorted, made abstract and alien; re-imagined through the lens of human ideas, imagination, superstition, and false myth.
For Henry, the subjugation of the free, objectively spoken Word of God is an abandonment of reason, faith and ultimately true humanity.
‘History loosed from God can be a pattern of meaningless cycles, each turning inward, or an arena in which the superman imagines himself to be its divine Lord’ (1988, p.35).
He correctly warns,
‘when contemporary theologians call for works, and not words – beware!’ Adding, ‘we must not be timid and isolate ourselves…we must not be held at bay by the powers of this world or defanged by the spirit of the age.’ (Henry, 1988. pp.54-55)
Melanie Phillips provides an apt example of this in her discussion on the downgrading of the Anglican Church. Its accommodation of moral and cultural relativism, surrender to victim culture (Cultural Marxism), and inclusivity can be linked to abusive New Age cults rising within the church.
The Anglican Church in Britain let the ‘welfare state displace Christianity.’ The church surrendered its convictions, and ‘retreated from the public square’, knocking the everyday relevance of Christianity from its rightful place in British society.
Hence Melanie’s conclusion,
‘While ‘the decline of the church has contributed in great measure to the decline of Britain, it is also arguable that the decline of Britain has contributed in large measure to the decline of the church.’ (‘World Turned Upside Down’, 2010)
The primary theme addressed by Henry is that institutional Christianity ‘dropped the barricade against paganism, has been too busy powdering it’s nose to preserve an attractive image; and too busy pandering to revolutionaries and reactionaries who need to be remade in Christ’s image’ instead the Church allowing them to remake Christ in theirs. (p.17)
This protest is about getting our own house in order before looking to bring order to an ever increasingly disordered world.
‘It makes a critical difference whether or not one thinks and acts christianly.
• If one believes that God is the supreme Sovereign, one will not be deluded by myths about Hitler or Stalin or Mao or by emperors like the Roman Caesars or the German Kaiser Wilhelm, who proclaimed “Deutschland uber Alles!” (Germany above all)
• If one believes that God is creator of the planets and stars, one will pity sun-worshippers and horoscope addicts and all who think that human life is merely a cosmic accident.
• If one believes that God created humanity in the divine image, one will not consider women inferior to men, or give credence to apartheid and myths about racial superiority.
• If one believes that God instituted monogamous marriage – so that father, mother, and offspring conceived in wedlock form the ideal home – one will think differently about the single woman who wants a child outside of marriage, and about artificial insemination of a woman with the sperm of an unknown father.
• If one believes that God fixes the boundaries of the nations, one will know that it is not military might alone that ultimately will decide the fortunes of the United States or Soviet Russia or Mainland China and Hong Kong.
• If one believes that God is omniscient, one will not think one can hide the way one does one’s business, or that what one does in the privacy of one’s home can be hidden [forever].
• If one believes that God made human beings to think His thoughts after Him, one will not stock one’s soul with salacious literature or steep his spirit in pornographic publications.
• If one believes that God intends the human body to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, one will not debilitate it with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
• If one believes that God works out for good whatever touches the life of His children, one will not respond as pagans do to the loss of a job, to terminal illness, or to the unexpected death of a loved one.
• If one believes that God commands us to love our neighbours as ourselves, one will not leave a neighbour in need or trouble to fend for himself or herself, but will treat the neighbour as extended family.’ (pp.119-120)
This marks the prescience of Henry’s work (that of Melanie Phillips, and even Jordan Peterson, who has talked about the consequences of removing the Logos from Western Civilization).
All three point to the dehumanizing consequences of removing the free, objectively spoken Word of God (the Logos) from the centre of society, politics and religion.
The right response to compromise is acknowledging where, why and how it exists. This includes the uncritical Christian accommodation for neo-paganism under the banner of tolerance and inclusion, and often conveniently forgotten red flags by which historical precedence blasts warnings into the present.
Henry’s work here isn’t a procedural self-help, 12 step cure-all treatise. Neither is it a diatribe about Right vs. Left, black vs. white, Evangelical vs. liberal, and so on.
Henry’s sole concern is about truth vs. falsehood, replacing lies with the truth; the role of Christ, and therefore the role of the true Christian Church as it looks to lead, by being led by the Holy Spirit, without falling into step with the spirit of the age.