The Church and the Rise or Fall of a Civilization (Lovelace)

The following observations by Richard Lovelace were made in the late 1970s in his book, The Dynamics of Spiritual Life. Although these words were written over 40 years ago they could have been written very recently! Here’s Lovelace:

…America and the rest of Western culture now seem to be more on the edge of dissolution than on the point of renewal. A cloud of irony hangs over our festivities. The situation in this country seems to call for a jeremiad, not a celebration. The worst scandal in our government’s history still lingers in our memories. Race prejudice, latent under the surface of political campaigns, seems intensified by our very efforts to correct it. The crime rate is outstripping police restraint and turning private surveillance into a growth sector. Pornography and violence filled the media, and a host of other social problems run in counterpoint with an uncertain economy.

In the rest of Western culture the situation is no less grave. Economic problems which are only painful in America are critical elsewhere. The open market of ideas which has sometimes accompanied free enterprise is yielding to closed totalitarian systems of the right and left in country after country. The Western civilization rooted in Christianity is increasingly faced with Arnold Toynbee’s rephrasing of Nicodemus’s is question, “Can a man be born again when he is old?”

Of course, as Augustine pointed out, a civilization can decline and fall without implicating or affecting the Christian church. The City of Man cannot blame the City of God for its own decay, and the church may well prosper at the same time that other powers fail. But Toynbee and other historians have argued that the fate of civilizations reflects the strength of the religious ethos around which they are built, and observers during this century both within and outside the church have expressed doubts about the savor of its salt.

Richard Lovelace, Dymanics of Spiritual Life, p. 25-26.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015