Many are familiar with the tremendous impact of professing Christian evangelism in spreading the Bible and Judeo-Christian values around the globe. Such efforts have influenced developing cultures for over four centuries. Many missionaries and other religious workers even died bringing their message to non-Western societies. However, today’s evangelists and missionaries from developing countries now rebuke and express disappointment in the Western “mother countries” that are drifting ever further from the Bible. What has produced this dramatic turning point in history, and how does it fit with Bible prophecies?
In The New Faces of Christianity, scholar Philip Jenkins wrote of a growing sense of confrontation that should concern professing Christians everywhere:
In recent years [Anglican Communions] have been contentious events. On one occasion, two bishops were participating in a Bible study, one an African Anglican, the other a U.S. Episcopalian. As the hours went by, tempers frayed as the African expressed his confidence in the clear words of scripture, while the American stressed the need to interpret the Bible in light of modern scholarship and contemporary mores. Eventually, the African bishop asked in exasperation, “If you don’t believe the scripture, why did you bring it to us in the first place?” (p. 1, emphasis added).
This rift is unsurprising.
According to a May 15, 2017 Gallup report, only 24 percent of Americans believe the Bible is the literal word of God, though 47 percent believe it was inspired but “should not be taken literally” (Lydia Saad, “Record Few Americans Believe Bible Is Literal Word of God”). This reflects a declining belief that the Bible is “sacred literature, is sufficient as a guide for meaningful living and is reliably accurate”—especially among younger generations (Barna Group, “The Bible in America: 6-Year Trends,” Barna.com, June 15, 2016). Statistics from other Western nations show similar views, even among the clergy:
Only 29% of religiously committed people in Canada view evangelism positively.… Among clergy in churches that are shrinking in Southern Ontario, all (100%) disagreed with this statement: “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally.” Of the same group of clergy, more than 50% agreed that “The Bible is the product of human thinking about God, so some of its teachings are wrong or misguided” (Wyatt Graham, “Ten Things You Should Know about Religion in Canada,” TheGospelCoalition.org, June 6, 2018).
Elsewhere, Jenkins has described the level of religious belief in European countries as remarkably low.
The West produced a culture that once boldly stated, “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is the religion of Protestants.” Are four centuries of evangelism coming back to indict the West’s increasingly liberal theology?
For decades, a divide has also grown between the liberal Western moral teachings and the convictions of those from “the global South”—professing Christians in Africa, South America, and Asia—and its effects are visible today.
The United Methodist Church recently felt the influence of proselyte countries when the controversial “One Church Plan” was rejected earlier this year. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, a prominent Liberian minister, rebuked the radical changes at the United Methodist Church General Conference:
[And] please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up”… We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S. (Jonathon Van Maren, “How faith-filled Africans saved the United Methodist Church from accepting gay ‘marriage,’” LifeSiteNews.com, March 1, 2019, emphasis added).
Kulah’s fiery—though compassionate—speech against recent trends within the Methodist church echoes the feelings of many in the “global South.” When one prominent Anglican bishop stated, “Just simply to say that it goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong,” the response was telling:
Such a liberal interpretation appalled many church leaders in the global South, who reasserted a strict obedience to scriptural authority. According to Nigerian primate Peter Akinola, the most visible critic of Northern liberals, “I didn’t write the Bible. It’s part of our Christian heritage. It tells us what to do. If the word of God says homosexuality is an abomination, then so be it” (Jenkins p. 3).
These are not the voices of a small number. The overwhelmingly fundamentalist “global South” is vast, yet Western cultural bias often overlooks it. In 2015, Latin America and Africa accounted for over one billion professing Christians, with an additional 350 million living in Asia—and those numbers are rising (Wes Granberg-Michaelson, “Think Christianity is dying? No, Christianity is shifting dramatically,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2015).
If Westerners believe that their nations still represent the majority of professing Christianity—or set the standard for it—they are greatly mistaken.
This should remind us of Jesus’ rebuke of the faithless people of His day (Matthew 11:20–24). When religious leaders were skeptical of His message, He said, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it.… The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it” (Matthew 12:41–42). Christ spoke of Gentiles one day judging the unbelief of Israelites who had rejected the truth!
What we are witnessing today is the global South’s cultural reaction against the West’s unbiblical morals and theology.
However, ancient prophecies foretold such events. Moses warned the Israelites, “For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 31:29). The prophet Jeremiah warned the Israelite religious leaders, “those who handle the law did not know Me” and “the children of Israel…have perverted their way; they have forgotten the Lord their God” (Jeremiah 2:8; 3:21). God warned through the prophet Hosea, “I have written for him [Israel] the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing” and as a result, “I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds… because they have ceased obeying the Lord” (Hosea 8:12; 4:9–10).
Much of humankind has benefited from Judeo-Christian values spread through Western evangelism. Now, however, the very nations that God used to spread such knowledge worldwide are going to face serious consequences for despising God’s word, themselves. The rejection of Western liberal theology by a “global South” determined to follow fundamental truths of Scripture marks a significant turning point in history.
Yet, the positive news is that Jesus Christ will soon return to restore true godly worship—for the West, the “global South,” and the rest of mankind. Pray for His Kingdom to come!