Post-Christian?

Do we live in a “post-Christian” world, society, and culture? What does that even mean? And is that question itself even a relevant or important one for the Church to consider?

In the Old Testament, during the captivity of God’s people in Babylon, Daniel continued to go about his personal business as a devout believer in, and follower of, Jehovah, regardless of, and undaunted by, the sometimes almost comically arbitrary and seemingly perverse machinations and vicissitudes of the culture all around him — e.g., royal edicts to abstain from the worship of anyone or anything except the Babylonian ruler who made the edicts, etc.

At times, it seems that Daniel was shaping the surrounding culture as much or more as it was trying futilely to change him, simply by doing what he had already been doing all of his life up to that point — worshipping, praying to, and obeying the One True God. These cultural shifts and absurd extremes were often concocted in response to, and as a “pushing back against,” his lifestyle. (It seems that Daniel “bugged” or “annoyed” the culture, just by innocently living for God. In other words, he wasn’t living for God because he wanted to “bug” or “annoy” them; it happened as a natural (and/or maybe supernatural?) side-effect.) Would Daniel have lived his life any differently if the culture had simply left him alone in peace? It seems from everything we read in the Book of Daniel that he would not have.

So, in a way, culture was irrelevant to Daniel. And yet, he was chosen by the ruling authority in Babylon to be a leader within the culture and nation, so he had to be aware of it, understand it, and respond to it interactively and appropriately, in order to make a meaningful impact upon it, and upon the lives of individual people within it, including the top leaders of the nation. But he never changed his personal behavior with respect to his relationship with and obedience to the Lord because of it.

We are called to be “in the world, but not of it” (John 17:15-16; 1 John 2:15-17). This has been the charge to the followers of Christ since it was given to Jesus’ original 12 disciples (Apostles) nearly 2,000 years ago.

Every generation of believers, and every individual believer, in every locale and culture, has had to personally struggle “with fear and trembling” to work out for themselves exactly what that means and how it translates into, and expresses itself in, their day-to-day life and behavior.

Just as there is the question of “post-Christian” culture, there is the phenomenon of the “post-Christian” individual. Some of the most frustrating conversations that I’ve ever had in my life have been not with non-Christians, but with “post-Christian” individuals, i.e., those who once were faithful, even excited and enthusiastic, Christians, but who, for one reason or another, have decided and convinced themselves that Christianity, and/or the Christian life, didn’t work for them.

They’ve “been there, done that,” and some of them seemingly “know it all,” or at least enough to say that they’ve put that “Christian phase” of their lives behind them and have moved on to “greater enlightenment”, “thank you very much”. But the Holy Spirit is full of surprises! And we need to pray for them, because He knows how to reach them, reclaim them, revive them, and restore them.

This brings me to my next point: Whether or not we live in a “post-Christian” culture, most of our lasting impact on it for the sake and purposes of God’s Kingdom will be accomplished at the level of the individual (so, to that extent, “the culture,” writ large, at least in the case of that individual, may be more or less relevant, depending upon its personal impact upon him or her up to that point).

We must convincingly and persuasively represent Jesus to each person we hope to reach for Christ, meeting them where they are “at,” regardless of whether that be “pre-Christian,” “pro-Christian,” “anti-Christian,” “post-Christian,” etc. We must live consistent Christian lives “before” (in front of and alongside) them, as well as “for” them (for the sake of the salvation and well-being of their souls), “that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NKJV). (We have to leave the question of who “some” are up to God.)

Our consistency of faith and life will mirror and reflect to those around us who are yet without Christ the unchangeableness and trustworthiness of the God Who said, “I am the Lord, and I do not change” (Malachi 3:6 NLT), and of Whom it is said that He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NLT).

Unlike the culture around us, that whether it’s detectable or not, is actually in a constant state of flux, our consistency and faithfulness, enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit’s grace and truth, stands as a living witness to something lasting, substantive, meaningful, trustworthy, and eternal; in short, the very nature of God.
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