In 2009 Michael Spencer foretold the major collapse of evangelical Christianity: "We are on the verge---within ten years---of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. The breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentaly alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of its occupants---This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West." (The Coming Evangelical Collapse, Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 2009)
It is no wonder that orthodox Christian theism is collapsing over and across the entire denominational spectrum, said the Pew Forum, for
"most Christians no longer believe their own faith is essential for salvation. Seven in ten...believe other religions can lead to eternal life and that there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their faith." (Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Patrick Buchanan, p. 53)
A spirit of restlessness, of change and innovation moves virtually unopposed throughout post-Christian America. Offended by the "faith of the fathers" post-modern Christians prefer the fun, loud rock music, freebies, vast array of pleasing programs, and the wishy-washy feel-good messages dished up by pastor-preneurs in consumer-driven megachurches. Rick Warren, pastor-preneur of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of Americaâ€™s most influential Emergent Church leaders is partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God despite the fact that Islam reduces Jesus Christ to mortal prophet. (Rick Warren Builds Bridge to Muslims: Allah and Triune God the Same? http://patriotsandliberty.com/?p=16281 )
Post-moderns are offended by transcendent Truth and moral authority, except their own. They see themselves as morally autonomous, meaning that they invent their own truths, doctrines, creation accounts, and principles. The crisis of Protestant and evangelical Christianity then is one of authority, and the situation is so dire that in a desperate attempt at restoring order and authority some cutting-edge Protestant theologians are turning back to the first Protestant Reformers and the early Church Fathers to provide support for their doctrinal teachings for they have come to see that the separation of the early Church Fathers from Sola Scriptura that occured during the sixteenth century is the underlying cause of today's crisis of authority.
It is not the case that the first Protestant Reformers rejected the early Church Fathers but the reverse. Like the Catholic and Orthodox churches, the first Reformers relied on the doctrinal authority and historic witness of the early Fathers as they are the organic connection between the Apostles and our own times. Thus when the early Fathers speak of doctrines they speak of them as universally held, as doctrines received and believed by Christians without interruption ever since the Apostles.
In "Supporting Protestant Doctrines Using the Church Fathers," author Nicholas Chancy, observes:
"The original Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1531, for example, and the later Formula of Concord of 1576-1584, each begin with the mention of the doctrine professed by the Fathers of the First Council of Nicea. John Calvin's French Confession of Faith of 1559 states,
"And we confess that which has been established by the ancient councils, and we detest all sects and heresies which were rejected by the holy doctors, such as St. Hilary, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose and St. Cyril."
The Scots Confession of 1560 deals with general councils in its 20th chapter. The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, both the original of 1562-1571 and the American version of 1801, explicitly accept the Nicene Creed in article 7. Even when a particular Protestant confessional formula does not mention the Nicene Council or its creed, its doctrine is nonetheless always asserted, as, for example, in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of 1647." (Supporting Protestant Doctrines Using the Church Fathers, Nicholas Chancy, OrthodoxBiz, May 2010)
An old moral story teaches that for lack of a nail the shoe was lost and for lack of a shoe the race was lost. In our own time Protestant theologians have come to realize that for lack of organic continuity authority was lost and for lack of authority doctrine was lost. Thus it is that post-modern pastor-preneur Rick Warren invents his own theology and teaches his lost sheep that Allah and the Triune God are the same. And on the basis of Warren's false-teaching some of his spiritually-blind sheep are now accusing the faithful of being intolerant bigots.
Given the lostness of Warren's flock, it stands to reason that they will accept as gospel truth the Gospel of Barnabas contained within a 1500 year old secret Bible recently discovered by Turkish police. The Gospel of Barnabas has Jesus the mortal prophet predicting the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.
( http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=86221 )
John tells us that "every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is that spirit of Antichrist, which even now already is in the world."
It is the characteristic of the Antichrist that he should reject the authority of transcendent Truth and openly deny that Jesus is the Christ:
"Who is the Liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? (and makes of Him a mortal prophet?) He is the Antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son, (by teaching that Allah is the same as the Father) Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father." 1 John 2: 22, 23
The great Augustinian Oratorian John Henry Newman foresaw with unique clarity how in our own time the dire prophecies of Scripture would come to pass. Newman consults Scripture and the early Fathers of the Church to describe events which would usher in the times of the Antichrist. Newman argues that the Antichrist will be an individual person whose types and forerunners are famous historical persons. Newman sees four major forerunners:
1. King Antiochus whom we read about in the book of Maccabees 2. Emperor Julian the Apostate (331-363 A.D.) 3. the false prophet Muhammad:
"Muhammad is the 3rd historical shadow of the Antichrist," said Newman. "This shadow began his imposture about 600 years after Christ and his armies tore at the soul and body of Christ in the fierce religious wars they waged against the Church." (A Confederacy of Evil, pp. xxi-xxii )
4. the godless leaders of the French Revolution. These prophets of godless 'isms' (i.e., communism, socialism, secularism, liberalism, evolutionism, progressive atheism) held that man is god. They attacked the Church, secularized France, and spread rebellion against God and His Church throughout Europe, the world and now here in America.
Newman describes the conditions that pave the way for the Antichrist. The first is apostasy. Everywhere in the world we are witnessing a "supreme effort to govern men and dominate the world without religion," particularly Christian theism. It's a widely accepted and spreading dogma that men should have nothing to do with religion, that religion and morality are private matters best kept to oneself.
Next is the widely accepted idea that transcendent Truth and authority are divisive, intolerant, bigotted and hateful. Each man it is said, is the supreme inventer of his own truth.
Third, the feverish endeavor to remove every vestige of orthodox Christianity from schools, mass media, political affairs, entertainment, and social affairs. Emergent Christianity, Liberal Christianity, Eastern mysticism, neo-paganism, Wicca and even Satanism are socially acceptable but orthodox faith is not.
Fourth, the nonstop redefining of the Bible. Today the Bible has so many meanings over and against its' obvious meaning that it "has been reduced to having no meaning at all, to being at best a pleasant myth, at worst, a dead letter." (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
The true faith said Newman, has been "cast into the dark world of variable, evanescent, volatile feelings...(it) is discredited in the minds of many when, it is not already destroyed." (pp. xxiii-xxiv )
"Surely," concludes Newman, "there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, and preparing the way for general apostasy from it...This Apostasy and all its tokens and instruments are of the evil one and savior of death." (p. xxiv)
The day of Antichrist will not come until there is a great falling away from Jesus Christ, authority, the fundamental doctrines, truths, and traditions of the Church, which we see happening all around us today. With the loss of the doctrinal authority and historic witness of the early Fathers has come the moral relativism, confusion, and loss of faith that eventually implodes into the nihilism that is at this very moment killing W. Europe, the subject of yesterday's commentary, Nihilism is Killing the West, says Atheist Philosopher http://patriotsandliberty.com/?p=16272
Only metanoia, the spiritual transformation brought about by confession and repentence may yet prevent America from imploding into nihilism.