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Burn the Boats!

Maybe it's time we, too, burned our boats and settled down for the spiritual battle that manifests itself in the physical world, remembering, that with God on our side, eventual victory is certain.

  • Ian Hodge,
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As I write this article, Australia is mourning the loss of over one hundred victims in a terrorist bombing in Bali, Indonesia. Whether these attacks are linked to 9/11 and the Al Qaeda organization is still to be determined. But Australians now feel vulnerable.

Then, just this morning, the newspaper arrived with the front-page report of a student who started a shooting spree in one of Australia's leading universities. Two dead, five seriously injured, and people are asking, "What's wrong with the world?" Again, Australians not only are feeling vulnerable, but truly are vulnerable, for they do not possess the legal authority to protect themselves with firearms of any kind. It is too early to tell if the Malaysian shooter is linked to terrorist organizations. But another random shooting is not what people needed — unless it was designed to awaken them from their complacency.

For many Australians, the events of 9/11, though dramatic, were not personal. It was not Australia that was attacked. While Australians died in the Twin Towers, the attack was not on Australian soil. Bali, however, brings things closer to home. And with Australians making up the majority of the over 180 deaths in the bombing, the message has come home: it is no longer safe in the world.

Meanwhile, back in America, we find judges in Alabama and Ohio (among others) being prosecuted by the ACLU for having the audacity to hang the Ten Commandments in their courtrooms. Religion, it seems, is to be excised out of the courts of the land.

Yet this pales in comparison to the snipers in the Washington, D.C. area who were responsible for ten deaths in the first three weeks of their rampage. What lunacy possessed the snipers to take such a shallow view of the life of others, demanding that they, god-like, were able to render families fatherless, motherless, or sonless! And the people in the direct line of fire wonder why they have been selected as the target for random death. If some Americans did not feel vulnerable after 9/11, they certainly are vulnerable now with snipers in their midst. If people no longer felt safe in the world, they at least felt safe at home. The D.C. snipers, however, have changed that view rather quickly. People are no longer safe anywhere.

Churches, Churches, Churches
Yet, as an Australian who visits the United States from time to time, the symbols that are available in America tell of a country that is uniquely Christian. Driving around the towns and cities of the U.S.A., the myriad of churches that one sees on corner after corner is a reminder that this is (or was) a Christian culture. If those same buildings had the dome of a mosque on the roof and not a cross, it would indicate that this was a Muslim culture, not a Christian one. To be sure, the message preached in many of these churches may not be orthodox Christianity. But the symbol of the cross on those church buildings is the symbol of which religion is — or at least has been — predominant in the culture.

In Australia, we have no such symbols. It is possible to drive through suburb after suburb in our major cities and see just one or two churches. The symbols of Australian culture are not the myriad of churches. There are few churches, and this symbolizes that our culture is essentially humanistic.

The fact that a nation has so many church buildings while judges are prosecuted for hanging the Ten Commandments in their courtrooms indicates that the buildings are too often a shell. There is no vibrant Christianity inside, for if there were, the judges would not be in trouble. And people would welcome the fact that the Ten Commandments are hung in the courtrooms, not just as a symbol, but as the basis of all good law and justice.

For at least 900 years, humanism has worked against Christian culture. When humanism emerged in the twelfth century, the attack on Christianity should have been a warning to those at the time and subsequently. Today's liberal churches that have departed from historic Christianity are evidence of that fact, and while the external symbol remains on the church buildings, the internal signs are ones of death and decay. The events of 9/11, the bombing in Bali, and the recurrent senseless shootings around the Western nations of the world, are only evidence of the rampant humanism in the churches and their failure to address issues in a Biblical fashion.

At the end of the day, we have to say that the problems of the world today are the outcome of actions by Christians in the past and present. Or, in some cases, it is their failure to act in a Christian manner that has led to the problem.

The Devil's "Fine" Ideas
The devil has been quite successful in getting Christians to accept a few key ideas. First, when there is a problem, pray about it, but don't do anything else. Second, if there is anything to be done apart from prayer, it ought to be done by the government at taxpayers' expense. Third, when all else fails, remind people that this is a non-Christian world and that we cannot expect the world to be made better by preaching the gospel.

A major part of the problem here is not that Christians don't want to act. It's just that they don't know how to act. Our Christian worldview is too often a shell — an empty shell. It is a slogan that, in the words of the late Francis Schaeffer, lacks content. It is this inability to give meaningful and lasting content to our slogans and symbols that is destroying the Christian heritage of the West.

By and large, Christian attempts at evangelism are not overly productive. The commitment to the notion that everyone must define for himself what is right and wrong, a view that is entrenched in Protestantism under the guise of the private interpretation of the Bible, cannot solve our modern day dilemmas. When figures can arise, and on the basis of a self-proclaimed revelation from God, the angel Gabriel, or the Virgin Mary, start a new version of the Faith, we ought to know we are in trouble — deep trouble.

Is It Worth Fighting For?
It seems that in the Providence of God we are going to have to learn a lesson from our forefathers: if we want a Christian culture, we're going to have to fight for it. The shooter in the Australian university was stopped by two lecturers who risked life and limb to halt the carnage. The snipers in Washington were eventually stopped by someone who risked his life to stop the atrocities.

And we, on our part, are going to have to learn the hard way, it seems, that if Christianity is worth believing, it is worth fighting for. The judges being prosecuted in the courts have learned this lesson. What will it take for each of us to be convinced that the drift away from Christian culture has gone too far, and that from this point forward there is no longer any retreat? In the battle for Malta in the sixteenth century, when Islam hurled its mightiest force at a small band of Christian defenders, the leadership in Malta burned the boats. No retreat, they said. It's win or die. And the Turks went home unsuccessful in their attempts to gain a Mediterranean passage to Western Europe.

Maybe it's time we, too, burned our boats and settled down for the spiritual battle that manifests itself in the physical world, remembering, that with God on our side, eventual victory is certain. Even if success is not granted to us in our lifetime, we will have fulfilled our duty and held our post to the end.

  • Ian Hodge

Ian Hodge, Ph.D. (1947–2016) was a long-term supporter of Chalcedon and an occasional contributor to Faith for All of Life. He was also a business consultant in Australia, USA, Canada, and New Zealand, and a prominent piano teacher in Australia.

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