innovations / Christian moment

The Christian Moment

2 May 2024


God is still at work in the West.

My title might be misleading. There is a sense in which all moments are Christian moments. That is, the power of the Gospel to transform lives, and even entire cultures, is ever with us. But in so much of the post-Christian and post-truth West, it looks like this surely is NOT a Christian moment.

But things can change, and one never knows what surprises God might have up His sleeve for us. Just when things might seem the darkest, the light of Christ might erupt with brilliance and power. We have seen it before, and we may well see it again.

In this regard, simply reflect on all the abrupt changes that have happened to people and to nations. Consider, for example, one murderous religious thug who most certainly did see the light. As we read in Acts 9:1-5:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

And think of how entire nations were significantly transformed because of things like the Great Awakening and Second Great Awakening. “Do it again, Lord,” is what we cry when we study such great moves of God. And there may well be a shift taking place right now in the secular, ungodly West.

As I am typing this, the onetime wild child actor and comedian, Russell Brand is getting baptised! Talk about a turnaround. Of course, we must pray for him and his newfound interest in the faith. And I have written often lately about so many public intellectuals and public figures who all seem to be on a similar road: people like Jordan Peterson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and James Delingpole and Douglas Murray and Naomi Wolf and Tom Holland and Joe Rogan and so many others.

Even perhaps Richard Dawkins! As Delingpole tweeted a few years ago: “Almost everyone who gets it is either a Christian or heading that way. What does that tell you?” Indeed! See more on this here.


With all this in mind, let me mention a very important new book which does indeed offer us some hope here. In his quite significant volume, Remaking the World (Crossway, 2023), Andrew Wilson looks at some major changes that occurred 250 years ago (in 1776 to be precise) and how they have impacted both the world and the church.

All up, he highlights seven major developments that took place during this time: “Globalization, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Enrichment, the American Revolution, the rise of post-Christianity, and the dawn of Romanticism”. He says this year “made us what we are.”

To highlight the great contrast between then and now, he offers us the acronym “WEIRDER”:Remaking the World book

The most helpful way of identifying what is distinctive about our society, relative to others past and present, is that it is WEIRDER: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic, Ex-Christian, and Romantic.

Those seven features make us outliers. The vast majority of people in human history have not shared our views of work, family, government, religion, sex, identity, or morality, no matter how universal or self-evident we may think they are. We are the WEIRDER ones.

Simply looking at his chapter on love and sexuality makes it perfectly clear just how radically things have changed in a relatively short period of time. But I here just want to look at his concluding thoughts.


After looking in great detail at each one of these massive changes, he concludes his book with a chapter that looks at “Opportunities: Possibilities for a Postsecular World.”

He opens the chapter by saying that the West might not be quite as post-Christian as it seems. Even the paganised WEIRDER culture is still resting on an earlier Christian foundation in many respects. He quotes from the noted philosopher Jurgen Habermas that while secular reason seems to reign supreme in the West, it has no proper grounding for itself. Says Williams:

It can proclaim the goodness of science and choice and liberal democracy until it is blue in the face — but it cannot explain why we should develop particular technologies, choose particular goods, conceive of morality in a particular way, or be motivated to act in solidarity with others. It cannot even ask these questions, let alone answer them. To offer whys as well as hows, ends as well as means, you need faith: a worldview, a set of moral commitments, a religion, grounded in something beyond secular reason.

But still, it IS an uphill battle to contend for Christian truth in our culture today:

People are still skeptical toward Christianity, and in some cases downright hostile. The old gods are still here, in varying levels of disguise, most notably Mammon, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Gaia and Dionysus. Renouncing them all to follow Christ is still costly. Many people are still more committed to money, sex, and power than Father, Son, and Spirit. …

It is still harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The church still has many flaws, and the cultural influence of Christianity has made those flaws even more unattractive to everybody else.

Moreover, many Christians feel like they are losing, he says. Even in terms of sheer numbers, we see a decline in those attending church or declaring themselves to be Christian. And yet… He says trying to regain a past Christianised world is rather unlikely and unhelpful. Instead, we need to meet the current challenge head-on. And only the Christian Gospel gives us the wherewithal to do this.

Pure Grace

He says the WEIRDER world “amplifies our cries for grace”. He writes:

Those cries for grace are a marvelous opportunity for the contemporary church, because they are answered, uniquely, and fulsomely, in the Christian gospel. Grace has always been one of Christianity’s most striking features. The claim that God in Christ takes the sin and death of the world upon himself, in order that he might really and incongruously give his righteousness and life to those who do not deserve it, is without parallel in any other system of belief, religious or otherwise. In a world powered by works and measured by achievement, there’s something deeply refreshing about the unmerited, transforming favor of God, given without regard to the worth of the recipient.

He closes his book with these words:

WEIRDER people, even those in the church, are natural Pelagians. We think success comes through trying, not trusting; we want things to work, and if they do not, we experiment with something else; we are more likely than our ancestors were to venerate strategies, steps, and solutions, and less likely than they were to honour mysteries, mystics, and martyrs.

And we hate the idea of “losing,” whatever that is. So if the church is declining in numbers or moving to the margins of society, our instinct is to assume that we’re missing something, and so we seek to rectify it by a change of tactics. That generates plenty of innovation, no doubt, but it also causes striving and a good deal of anxiety. Pelagianism always does.

By contrast, when you read people who have thought seriously about the deeper historical and cultural forces that have shaped the modern West, you find a rather different picture emerging. Fidelity scores higher than novelty. Loss of influence is not a cause for panic. The doctrines, experiences, and practices that the church needs today are much the same as the one she needed in eighteenth century, and the tenth, and the second.

We are responsible for obedience not outcomes, faithfulness not fruit; if we do not see the results we used to by praying, worshipping, reading Scripture, serving the poor, preaching the gospel, sharing the sacraments, and loving one another, we carry on with those things regardless and walk by faith not by sight.

Genuine revival, when it comes, is at God’s initiative rather than ours. In the meantime, we wait, rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, and resolving not to be anxious about tomorrow, for we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

In the end, for all the ways in which 1776 remade the world, there is nothing new under the sun. That is not to say that we have no need of breakthrough, transformation, or revival. It is simply to say that when those things happen, as they surely will, they will not come from under the sun but from the One enthroned above it, who is committed to making all things new. The words of Augustus Toplady, written at the start of 1776, still hold true: “Providence, unerring Providence, governs all events. And grace, unchanging grace, is faithful to its purpose. May we live by faith on both.”

Amen to all that. This may yet be the Christian moment. Let us all pray and work toward that end.


Republished with thanks to CultureWatch. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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  1. Pauline Tondl 2 May 2024 at 9:47 am - Reply

    What a delightful article, thank you Bill for inspiring heavenward-joy in the face of much adversity, and earthward testimony ! The book tastes tantalising already :))

  2. Bill Muehlenberg 2 May 2024 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Many thanks Pauline.

  3. Rod McLean 2 May 2024 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Thanks Bill a great article. To quote from that great movie ,Chariots Of Fire, the time is right for the rise of the muscular Christian.

  4. Gail Petherick 2 May 2024 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for the encouraging article Bill reminding us that God’s light shines through the darkness even in times of violence, evil or lawlessness and deceit. He remains steadfast and faithful. We worship a God who longs many to come to know Him and calls us to shine brightly too, and to help turn many faces towards Him 1 John 1.5 ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
    As you say we are to wait, pray, serve the poor, love one another, read scripture, worship act in faith, and reach out and trust God and not look at the results or how much fruit has been harvested. There are so many promises to hold onto. God told Daniel ‘And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’ (Daniel 12:3). Amen

  5. Meryl Lee 2 May 2024 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Thank you, Bill. An inspiring article. I intend to buy the book. The quotes you chose are so uplifting and encouraging——.

    “In a world powered by works and measured by achievement, there’s something deeply refreshing about the unmerited, transforming favor of God, given without regard to the worth of the recipient.“

    So aware lately of how the light shines brightest in the deepest darkness— as in the article last week about the Polish midwife in Auschwitz.

  6. Bill Muehlenberg 3 May 2024 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Thanks Rod, Gail and Meryl.

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