[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
The Fall of the West?
In many ways, Western Civilization seems to be experiencing its death throes!
Its most respected institutions of government are increasingly mocked, its values are now up for grabs, and its citizenry, in some nations, seem absolutely dedicated to taking their country into civil war. And in our intertwined, global society, what happens to the West will inevitably impact the entire world.
How did we find ourselves on the precipice of such chaos and self-destruction?
To answer that question, we first need to understand a key element in the birth of Western Civilization to begin with, because you can’t understand what is happening to the West until you understand its changing relationship to the word of God, the Bible.
Join us right now on Tomorrow’s World as we look at “How the Bible Built Western Civilization.”
Biblical Foundations of a Culture
Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World—where we make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible.
Today, we’re going to examine what’s going on in Western Civilization from a point of view than you will see in most analyses.
Our program is broadcast all over the world, and citizens of many nations, small and great, tune in to Tomorrow’s World to find real answers to the most important questions of life. And these days, many people all over the world are asking themselves, “What is happening to Western Civilization?”
In some of the very democracies and republics that have been considered models of lawful, orderly, peaceful government, scenes of disorder, lawlessness, and conflict have become common sights in our newsfeeds and cable broadcasts.
To be sure, it wasn’t always like this.
While many great civilizations have existed throughout history, in many ways, Western Civilization has created the modern world in which we live.
Now I don’t say this as universal praise. The history of Western Civilization is a spotty record, to be sure. The same nations and cultures that have given the world many gifts that are enjoyed by so many today have also been sources of conflict, subjugation, and warfare. Many nations that were once colonies of Western nations may find that they benefit from their association with Western culture and civilization, but that doesn’t mean they always did so. And many of the West’s accomplishments were financed in part by the wealth and resources it obtained from OTHER nations.
So, please don’t take today’s program as universal praise for Western Civilization.
Only one civilization in all past or future history will be blameless—and we’ll mention THAT civilization at the very end of our program.
However, too many today fall into the trap of criticizing the West as if its culture and civilization has been nothing but a blight on the world since its birth in Europe and its spread across the world.
While virtue signaling to one’s enlightened peers by sneering at the West is extremely fashionable today, it is also ill informed and, frankly, ironic. Because often the very values the critics of the West apply in their critique are values that were disseminated into the world BY Western Civilization!
Rather, the West has, historically, been a wellspring of advances in culture, civil government, science, technology, economic production, and human liberty and freedom that have shaped the modern world in which we live. Think of what music would be today without the gifts of Bach, Mozart, Handel, Chopin, or Beethoven. Or imagine a world that has never experienced the art of Michelangelo, Monet, or Rembrandt.
The Industrial Revolution that brought advancements in production in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States eventually helped to raise the standard of living for millions upon millions of people all across the globe. Scientific discoveries and technological innovations that began in the West have transformed our understanding of the world and virtually every aspect of our day to day lives. And principles of personal liberty, limited government, individual rights, and the rule of law—born in the West and found amongst the words of the Magna Carta, the Articles of the U.S. Constitution, and the enduring legacy of English common law—those have been an inspiration for governments and peoples around the world who long for freedom and rights of their own.
Where did those values truly originate?
Some will point to the spirit of the Enlightenment or the so-called “Age of Reason” in 17th and 18th century Europe. Many today like to point to how the “founding fathers” of many nations of the West studied the cultures of Greece and Rome, and to be sure, those influences are real. But they aren’t sufficient to explain the growth and enormous influence of the West in global history.
What is often ignored concerning the origins of Western Civilization is the influence of THE BIBLE. That time-honored collection of writings of the ancient Hebrews and first-century Christians is the one book without which THERE WOULD BE NO Western Civilization.
Now that may be hard for some to swallow, but it’s true, and understanding that fact provides insight not only into the success of the West, but also into its current decline into madness.
A System of Law and Equity
We said that the central source of Western Civilization—of far more importance than the ancient Greeks or Romans, or the ideas of the so-called Enlightenment, though they had their influence—was the BIBLE.
And in this segment, we’ll illustrate why that claim is true.
Now, before I do, I need to make plain that no part of Western Civilization has truly conformed itself to the WHOLE of the Bible, and those portions of its ancient wisdom the West HAS adopted, it has often grasped half-heartedly.
The major religions of Europe that claimed the name “Christianity” have been, throughout their history, mixtures of biblical and heathen elements, with more connections to the ancient Babylonian mystery religions than many of their priests, pastors, or preachers would care to admit. In fact, many of the powerful of Europe and the West through the centuries have often taken the words of the Bible and twisted them to support their own abominations and abuses.
Yet, Western Civilization as we know it would not exist without the Bible. And however imperfectly its teachings have been used and mishandled, the most significant and beneficial values and principles of Western culture have their origins within its God-breathed pages.
There are too many such values to mention them all, but let’s look at just a small sampling.
Popular historian Paul Johnson once noted in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that the concept of “the rule of law” in Western culture—the idea that no human being, no matter how powerful or wealthy, is above the law—was “the greatest public achievement of the second millennium” (“Laying Down the Law,” Wall Street Journal, March 10, 1999).
And it is the Bible that provided the West with its most significant basis for “the rule of law.”
For instance, Deuteronomy 17, verses 18–20, highlight how kings are not above their people, and how they, too, must obey the law. Passages such as Leviticus 19:15 say that rich and poor must be treated equally under the law, and Leviticus 24:22 says that both foreigners and native-born citizens must BOTH live under the same laws.
And when the law is broken, the West has a deep tradition of ensuring punishment is FAIR and BALANCED. We see that value reflected in Chapter 14 of the Magna Carta or in the U.S. Bill of Rights’ prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Again, we see the genesis of this value in Scripture and its regulation of punishment:
… you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exodus 21:23–25).
Modern commentators try to characterize this statement as cruel, but legal historians have recognized it for what it really is: A condemnation of the idea that kings and authorities can impose whatever punishment they want, no matter how cruel, but, instead, must guarantee that punishment is fair and just, fitting the crime.
Yet, the Bible’s influence on Western culture extends far beyond legal foundations.
In a world where human life was often considered cheap, the Bible taught early philosophers and reformers in Europe that human beings had a special dignity, placed in them by no less an authority than God, their Creator.
We see this in Genesis 1:26–27.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Consider, too, the sciences.
Many point to Western scientific advancements and the scientific method of empirical experimentation as a key to the West’s rise in the world. Yet when you study those who MADE those advancements, even in the beginning of the Enlightenment, it was belief in the law-giving God of the Bible, who designed the world of His own free will, that stirred those scientists to study the Creation and expect to find order in it.
As Isaac Newton, a passionate student of the Bible, once wrote:
This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being…. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all… (“General Scholium,” isaac-newton.org).
Newton was not alone in this, and Western science owes its existence to the belief of early Western scientists in an orderly, lawful Creator of nature, as described by the Bible.
The stability in the West of monogamous marriages—of one man and one woman rearing children together—was influenced by the New Testament commands concerning marriage and family. And it was the teachings of the Bible concerning mercy toward widows, orphans, and those in need that spurred the development of charitable organizations in the West that blossomed into orphanages, hospitals, and institutions designed to care for the elderly, the hungry, and the homeless.
Truly, the Bible makes its presence felt in virtually every area of Western Civilization’s foundations.
The Underpinnings of a Moral Society
But the fashion today is to DENY the Bible’s role in Western culture and understanding.
For example, the late Christopher Hitchens, famous for his militant atheism, boldly declared in the title of one of his most popular books God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Author David Bentley Hart demolishes this pretentious claim in his book Atheist Delusions, where he examines Western Civilization and addresses Hitchens’ claim that somehow religious beliefs, like those of the Bible, have poisoned “everything,” writing,
Does he [that is, Hitchens] really mean precisely everything? Would that apply, then—confining ourselves just to things Christian—to ancient and medieval hospitals, leper asylums, orphanages, almshouses, and hostels? To the golden rule, “Love thine enemies,” “Judge not lest ye be judged,” prophetic admonitions against oppressing the poor, and commands to feed and clothe and comfort those in need? … Surely it cannot be the case that, if only purged of the toxin of faith, these things would be even better than they are; were it not for faith, it seems fairly obvious, most of them would have no existence at all (Hart, David Bentley, Atheist Delusions, Yale University Press, 2009. pp. 219–220).
Yet, the spirit of Hitchens’ conclusion is increasingly common in the West.
And, frankly, there has long been a tension between the recognition that Western values originate in Scripture and the desire to base society on something OTHER than Scripture—on some sort of secular basis that can be open to all beliefs, not valuing any one set of beliefs over another. As a result, some see the best means of EXPANDING freedom is severing the ties between the culture’s values and the Bible, completely.
For example, in debate on the floor of the U.S. Congress in February 2021, Florida Representative Greg Steube read from Deuteronomy 22 as part of his defense that women’s sports should be reserved for biological women and against the idea that individuals can simply choose their own sexual gender identity.
The Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler responded plainly, “Mr. Steube, what any religious tradition ascribes as God’s will is no concern of this Congress” (“Rep. Jerry Nadler: ‘What Any Religious Tradition Ascribes as God’s Will is No Concern of This Congress,’” CNSNews.com, March 1, 2021).
Of course, many were outraged by the statement in the United States, and understandably so.
Yet, do we want our civil governments imposing their own interpretations of the Bible on us? On the other hand, if God’s will no longer plays any part in the values and morals we maintain, then on what basis do those values and morals have any real authority in our culture at all? What will be the results of a society that tries to found its values on something OTHER than God’s authority and sovereignty?
Frankly, we are beginning to experience those results today.
Instead of marriages being understood as God’s binding of one man and one woman, now marriages are treated as mere contractual arrangements between ANY two persons, to be made or broken at will, with families suffering as a result.
In fact, even God’s design of “male” and “female” is being essentially outlawed in many Western jurisdictions, as women are forced to share bathrooms and bathing spaces with biological men who identify as women, and young girls in sports competitions are being crushed by biological males with physical advantages no woman will ever match.
Without the adamant and transcendent standard of the Bible, we are lost in a sea of chaos in which every man’s opinion is as good as any other—and our halls of government and the streets of our cities are increasingly filled with the angry voices of people who are determined that THEIR opinion will rule the day.
What is the result of trying to run Western Civilization according to the vestiges of values from the Bible but WITHOUT the Bible’s divine authority? A world that corresponds very closely to that described by the Apostle Paul to the young evangelist Timothy. We see that description in 2 Timothy 3, beginning in verse 1:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
If you don’t recognize our current world in Pauls’ description, you are blind and need to anoint your eyes.
Will Western Society Repent of Abandoning the Bible?
So, what can Western Civilization do?
In our global society and economy, what impacts the West impacts the entire world.
How can the West reverse course and pull itself back from the brink of self-destruction?
As my good friend and frequent Tomorrow’s World writer, Dexter Wakefield, likes to note: “The causes of society’s problems are spiritual. The results are social and political. The solutions are biblical.”
Building our civilization on ANYTHING LESS than a complete embrace of the Bible as God’s own revelation with divine authority over all aspects of life and society will always have the same eventual results: Moral chaos, social conflict, and civilizational collapse.
One of America’s founding fathers, John Adams, understood. Speaking in 1798 to militia members in Massachusetts, then-President Adams noted that if the United States were to begin to seem virtuous only on the surface while the character of the American people began to degrade, the U.S. would become, in his words, “the most miserable habitation in the world.” Why? He answers:
Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (“From John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798,” Founders Online, Founders.archive.gov).
In fact, Bible prophecy speaks of a profound SPLIT that will come to Western Civilization when it does NOT repent of its half-hearted approach to biblical values—resulting in the fall and divine punishment of many nations of the West, specifically the British-descended nations of the world, and the rise of a dictatorship among the other nations that will eventually grip the entire world in its clutches.
The result of these developments will take the world to the brink of self-annihilation, as Jesus says, Himself, in Matthew 24:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21–22).
Yes, thankfully, those days WILL be shortened. The world will be saved from itself and will begin its journey into the 1,000-year peace of Jesus Christ and the reign of His saints. That peace will not be brought about by a return to “Constitutional norms” of the values of the West, with its hybrid spirit of biblical values, heathen philosophies, and secular sentiments. Instead, Christ will teach the entire world to embrace the Bible as a whole—without reservation. Indeed, His teachings and the law of GOD, not man, will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for Western Civilization to get its act together and begin embracing the book of books on which that future will be built. You can begin building YOUR life on that book TODAY.
Thank you so much for watching! All of us here at Tomorrow’s World work very hard to help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible.
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