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A Remarkable Century

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 26, 2021 12:01 am

A Remarkable Century

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 26, 2021 12:01 am

The 20th century witnessed many advances, but it was also the bloodiest century in history. Today, W. Robert Godfrey introduces opportunities and problems that the church faced during this period.

Get the 'A Survey of Church History, Part 6 A.D. 1900-2000' DVD with W. Robert Godfrey for Your Gift of Any Amount:

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Wars Holocaust financial ruin of the church survived the 20th century. Next on Renewing Your Mind back in the 1900s we remember technological advancement. Think about it the right brothers first flight was in 1903 to 6 1/2 decades later, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.

There were incredible advancements in healthcare to was a depression.

Two world wars: and breathtaking loss of life.

Indeed, it was a century of dichotomy must discover what affect all of us had on the church teacher is Dr. W. Perhaps you're thinking to yourself, do we really need of church history series on the 20th century are some of us have lived through a good bit of the 20th century and think that we know what went on. Remember some things but I think will find as we go along that there are number of things we didn't experience don't remember, didn't see at the time about the 20th century and that the shape of the century is really quite interesting and very important. Of course, for where we are today. So will plunge into it. I remember the end of the 20th century. They would constantly talk about what was the most important book are the most important event of the 20th century there and I was always struck that almost always the most important thing that happened in the last 20 years. The 20th and shows our tendency to focus so much on the present or the immediate past those of us who are here may remember a good bit of the 20th century, but we don't remember a lot before 1940, 1930.

Even the oldest of us and so it's good to look back because one could argue that the most important single event of the 20th century happened before the 1920s. It was the first world war that really changed the course of Western history and will look just briefly at that as we go along. It was a remarkable century.

I suppose people live through any century say ours was really unremarkable century, but the 20th century was remarkable remarkable in its diversity from some of the very best things in human history to definitely some of the worst things in human history great advances in the natural sciences and in economy. If we had time to go around the room and ask how many of us would be here if it weren't for the advances in medical science that took place in the 20th century life expectancy has dramatically increased, at least for those of us in America in the 20th century. Economic opportunity has grown. For many, many people again, at least in America in the 20th century. A democracy is a form of government has spread much further in the 20th century than took place in the 19th century and that has brought to numbers of people, opportunities and freedoms that they had not enjoyed before. There have been some remarkable migrations in the 20th century.

Some of them were familiar with some of them were not so familiar with the African-American population in America in the 20th century dramatically move from the rural South to the urban North in the 20th century from 90% of the black population being in the South.

At the beginning of the century, now 66% of the black population is in the urban North. That's a huge change of the big population something we may not really thought about art were noticed.

So, particularly clearly Hispanic immigration has taken place in the 20th century Muslim immigration has taken place from the Middle East to Europe in the 20th century. In a way that Tas were beginning to see is dramatically impacting Europe. So immigration has been a significant factor in the 20th century, but in addition to changes and positive developments in the 20th century. There've also been of course the calamities of the 20th century the 20th century was the most violent, the most murderous century in the history of mankind. That's staggering to think about.

And when we think about that, our minds usually go back to the first world war and the second world war and the millions and millions that died there. But there was much violence. Beyond that, before the second world war started. Stalin had killed millions, particularly in the Ukraine with his actions to try to change agriculture in the Soviet Union.

Mollo killed millions in China in the communist revolution there may think of minor names like Pol Pot in Cambodia and Idi Amin in Uganda. Thousands of people.

Millions of people dying violently in war, some of them ideological wars. Some of them simply power grabs, but it's been a violent century and the violence.

Of course, in part, is related to the advances in military technology. It's not probable that human beings are any worse in the 20th century. They just have more efficient ways of killing other people in the 20th century and so as part of the tragedy of the 20th century that there have been these huge shifts in violence and the effects of violence on massive populations. We also see in the 20th century. In addition to the rise of democracies in a variety of places.

The rise of dictatorships in a variety of places where old traditional governments were replaced by new dictatorial powers probably is going to take us more time to know for sure whether replacing Czar Nicholas the second with Joseph Stalin led to an improvement for the Russian people are not whether replacing the Empress of Japan with an outside tongue led to an improvement for the people of China were not when is a long view of those things. Those are difficult questions, improvement how, but clearly dictatorship was at least as much of phenomena in the 20th century, as was democracy and so these huge changes that we don't think of, usually as part of church history indeed had a great impact on the church that almost goes without saying, doesn't of the church has to live in these circumstances, they, the people of God have to react to these both problems and opportunities on the opportunity side we can see dramatic missionary growth in certain parts of the world.

Despite the dictatorship and the repression in China. The church has grown dramatically in China in the 20th century beyond almost anybody's expectation. One might almost think God is at work in this in this process, you know that's always the problem with studying history is in it. We can only study history as it's often put from below. We can't see the mind of God we Perfectly understand the activity of God. We can't perfectly understand the ways of God or the goals of God and what he's doing. We know is at work. We know he is sovereign we know is accomplishing his purpose, but often we can't trace it as historians.

What we can trace his human motivations, human actions, human outcomes, and we can then try to evaluate it from the scriptural point of view, but were always left a little uncertain as to how accurately were tracing the hand of God in human history. And we have to always remember that he is at work.

He is the one who grows the church and trying. Despite all human efforts to stop after a century of intense missionary work in China in the 19th century there was relatively little fruit. I think the foundation was laid but relatively little fruit and then suddenly when it seemed impossible for the church to grow in China when missionaries have been expelled.

The church explodes and it is a reminder when we get discouraged that God is sovereign and God is accomplishing great things we've seen dramatic growth of the church in Nigeria growth of the church in Korea. We've seen the growth of the Protestant churches in South America.

There've been a lot of important things happening in the 20th century in terms of the growth of the church. So much so that many scholars and historians are looking at the church in 20th century and sang one of the most dramatic things that's happened in the 20th century is that the real center of Christianity has moved significantly to the south south of the equator because of growth in Africa and South America and has shifted somewhat to the east because of growth in Asia and that the old centers of Christianity in Europe are declining but new centers are emerging. It's part of the mystery of God's work in history, Abraham Kuyper thought he understood that Mr. we talked a fair bit about Abraham Kuyper in the fifth series, but that fifth series talked about Abraham Kuyper who really believed that part of the mystery of God's work in history is that God is constantly moving the church to the west.

The church starting Middle East that moved to North Africa than a move to Europe then moved to America, and Kuyper said I'm sure it's going to move now to Asia. Kuyper predicted that Japan would be the next great center of Christian growth and explosion.

So he wasn't a perfect profit but it is kind of interesting. I don't think Kuyper's right to say that's the certain and infallible plan of God. But it is interesting to see the way the church has moved through the centuries and I should certainly be a warning to us as American Christians where we tend to think the church is kind of vital today hundred years ago the church looked just as vital in England as the church in America looks today and got a century later, the church in England is in pretty deplorable state and we as Americans mustn't be proud must be self-confident must presume that to whatever strength we see in the church today will continue.

We do want to keep our eye on what God is doing, how things are moving because in addition to the opportunities in the growth of the church will be able to see in the 20th century. There is even new and stronger opposition. The church will face. We talked a little bit in the last series about the growing intellectual challenges to Christianity which did become more and more culturally powerful in the 19th century, but by and large in the 19th century. Those anti-Christian forces did not empty the churches they may have controlled the universities, but they did not empty the churches, but in the 20th century were going to say that secularism really does begin to affect and begin to control not only the liens of the intellectual leaders of the West, but increasingly the populations of the West, in particular the European churches took terrible hit in terms of church attendance during the 20th century, secularism is no longer just an ideology. It's a way of life. It's an experience. It's a way of looking at reality that increasingly will be controlling and powerful in the West in the 20th century secularism. Your members derive from that Latin word meaning age.

This age and secularism means our only concern is the here and now our only concern is this century don't really believe anymore in heaven. We don't really believe in hell. So those are not controlling ideologies. For most people. What really controls us is getting all the gusto. As we go around once that becomes a dominant, maybe not always quite so grossly expressed, but the dominant attitude for many, many people in the West, but secularism of course is waiting to see if we just turn on the news today is not the only threat facing Christianity in the 20th century and on into the 21st century revived Islam is a threat to Christianity. It's interesting when 19th century Christians looked at the issues facing 19th century Christians in the West.

They often saw the struggle between belief and unbelief and I think in the 20th century, we begin to see it is more likely that that should be expressed as the struggle between true belief and false belief are even secular's are really controlled by belief. Secularism isn't just rational is just reasonable isn't just unbelieving secularism is a believing commitment to way of looking at the world, but it's not just secularism. It's Islam, it's communism. Communism seems declining as a attractive ideology but certainly for much of the 20th century.

Communism was a hugely attractive ideology to intellectuals as well as to come and go course in the middle of the 20th century fascism became a very powerful nationalistic ideology for many people, so the church in the 20th century faces great opportunities but also faces great struggles great enemies and as we go along, then we want to look at these situations and remember we began.

I'm sure you all remember we began our study of the 19th century by saying there were kinda five reactions we could see to Christianity in the 19th century, and I think those five reactions can still help us as we look at the 20th century, although those five areas take somewhat different form in the 20th century.

The first reaction to Christianity. Remember I said was Christianity attacked her. Christianity rejected and that were certainly going to see that in the 20th century as well.

As I've already said coming even more intensely more effectively more effectively undermining the life of the church, at least in some parts of the West, and so as we go along we went up looking a little more detail at some of those attacks on Christianity. Secondly, we talked about the effort to defend Christianity by establishing it in law and the many European states had established churches and legal action was taken to try to protect against gross unbelief and against immorality. What we see, I think, in the 20th century is any effort to establish Christianity in law seriously in decline. There still are established churches in many countries in Europe, but the seriousness of that establishment.

The significance of that establishment. The effectiveness of that establishment is really decline, so the Prince Charles in England is already suggesting that when his mother dies, he probably doesn't put it that way but that's what he means. Although you know she's got another good 10 or 15 years and she takes after her mother when his mother dies and he's crowned king. He would like to change the coronation of from being a protector of the faith to being protector of the faiths reflecting the pluralism of England.

The pluralism of his own thought, but also the weakness of the establishment who who really is going to leap to the defense of the established church in the face of such suggestions of change and and so the whole establishment ideal is really collapsing and weakening in the 20th century.

Thirdly, we talked in terms of the 19th century of accommodation that Christians facing a new modern world and new modern thought tried to change Christianity and make it fit in better and that was a great enterprise in the 19th century, and there will continue to be such efforts in the 20th century, but it seems to me and I may well be wrong like I had historian friends who were students of the Middle Ages when I was in graduate school and when they would ask me what I was studying. I would say I'm studying the 16th century they would say all your studying journalism and it was their way of subtly saying the 16th-century was too close to have enough distance to really understand what it happened. While Shirley were doing a fair amount of journalism when looking at the 20th century, we are close and, therefore, in trying to evaluate what's happening. What's important.

We may make judgments that don't really hold up. I say that just sound humble because I don't really believe that. I think I'm right inside the lawn, but there there are these two things, it seems to me, and how it seems you that liberal accommodationist theology is in decline. I think it's in decline. Just because nobody much is listening or caring people who used to really want to be able to say they were Christians really cared to change Christianity. So it seemed respectable. I think in the 20th century. Increasingly, we live in a world where people don't really care what you say you're a Christian or not so doesn't need to be accommodated. It doesn't need to be changed. Certainly, it seems to me what are known as mainline denominations are in decline. They are certainly in decline numerically but there also in decline in influence 1950s 1960s 1970s. It was a lot of caring about what the Methodist Church thought of the Presbyterian Church thought of the Episcopal Church thought to get the impression he big cares what those churches think anymore of the whole phrase mainline. Of course, is sort of the deceit will come back talk about that later but I'm intrigued as a historian, that for the first time in the history of the Republic. There is no Protestant justice on the United States Supreme Court. All the justices are either Roman Catholic or Jewish and I don't notice any rioting in the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan or other staunch Protestant places where is the Protestant seed on the court. We just don't care. The Protestants don't seem to care and the company didn't seem to care. So the accommodationist approach is still present but it seems somewhat less significant than it did in the 19th century, but we'll talk about that a lot more as we go along role also is accommodated will come back to talk about Vatican II and did Rome really change how much is Rome changed what is it about Pope Francis.

He's making all his predecessors St. so maybe he'll soon be a saint himself, but that systems kind of mean-spirited Protestant dig Pope Francis Cleary is an accommodationist now whether it's only an accommodationist style which I kind of suspect or an accommodation of substance will have to see but but Rome is trying to figure out what's going on. Thenceforth I said, we have staunch Protestant defenders of the faith in the 19th century looked at Princeton. We looked at at Kuiper, in particular as examples of that we have those heroes in the 20th century as well. J Grissom matron will talk about is one of the leaders of the intellectual response to liberalism. In the early 20th century, we could think of Cornelius Van Til's great apologist of the faith. We can think of someone today like Don Carson is great biblical scholar answering all sorts of silliness about what's going on in the Bible and we have someone like Warner RC Sproul not only a real scholar in terms of what's going on intellectually but remarkably effective at being able to speak to people who are not necessarily scholars and able.

Therefore, both to defend Christianity at a high intellectual level but also in the popular level, which is a very rare skill in history indeed. So we have good defenders of the faith still in the 20th century that have made a significant difference for fluidity. I said one way of relating to Christianity in the 19th and still I would say in the 20th century is the longing to revive Christian the longing to see it renewed the expectation that God will do surprising powerful unusual thing, and certainly leaders of the Presbyterian Church is in Korea have said they saw a great revival in the 20th century, leaders of the Reformed Church in Nigeria have said they've seen her a great revival in Nigeria. Many people for decades look to Billy Graham is the kind of visible manifestation of the revivalist tradition in America, so revivalism as a goal as an experience remained a strong anticipation in the 20th century. But perhaps the strongest manifestation of the revivalist tradition in the 20th century has been the rise of Pentecostals, whether you like Pentecostalism or don't like Pentecostalism will talk about Pentecostalism a lot more detail, but there can be no doubt that Pentecostalism is one of the most powerful Christian influences and movements of the 20th century and that it is very much a manifestation, although with significant changes of that revivalist tradition, so I hope I wanted your appetite for the 20th century. I hope I talked about a few things that you thought I had thought about that relative to 20th century art I like to know more about that with the 20th century, so I hope you'll stick with and will be looking at a variety of things to 20th century and we look forward to that. We are all products of the church of the 20th century and this Dr. Godfrey mentioned over the next few days here on Renewing Your Mind were going to look at the movements within the church that shape us today, some for the better. Some for the worse. So I hope you'll join us each day this week as we continue Dr. Robert Godfrey series, a survey of church history in the sweeping overview. He covers the major events controversies and personalities of the church Constantine to the Crusades to the Reformation to the present. He helps us understand the growth of the church when you contact us today with a donation of any amount will be glad to send you the 12 messages of the series covering the 20th century. You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343 or Although we don't know what the history books will say about the church today what we can. Since the changes happening all around us here at later ministries we want to be an anchor that holds against the changing tides a source of biblically sound teaching to equip the church to stand for truth in our day. One source of great content all day every day is ref net that's her 24 hour Internet radio station, you can tune in to hear Dr. Godfrey along with our founder Dr. RC's role in the leader ministry teaching fellows and other trusted pastors and teachers listen for free at any time when you go to ref net.FM or when you download the free riff net app tomorrow. Dr. Godfrey will show us how the modern missionary movement shape the 20th century church. The wealth of the West enable the churches to have money to send missionaries that they pay them very well but they had money to send them. But the complicating factor was that many local people saw the missionaries as simply Imperial agents saw the missionaries is coming to advance the cause of the West, not because of Christ's.

So how fruitful were their efforts. We will find out tomorrow and we hope you'll join us for the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind

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