Christianity as a whole is coming under heavy criticism in media and academia and I’d have to say that as a group we’ve earned it in many ways. Many Christians ignore the criticism or seek to minimize it because much of it comes from post-moderns, atheists and non-Christians. While the best way to clean a house is from inside not the outside, our comfortable familiarity with the inside of the house may blind us to things that are obvious to those who visit us from the outside. People with indoor pets or hygiene issues may be used to certain unpleasant odors that hit strangers the moment they enter. When outsiders think of Christians as arrogant, self-important and over-confident, we are unwise to simply ignore the charges or respond in defensive ways. We have many things to learn and many, many to unlearn.
In light of this I am intrigued by the approach to Revelation 13 by the Voice of Prophecy evangelist, Shawn Boonstra. He shared his approach in an recent article: “Ten Years After the Sky Fell,” Adventist Review, September 8, 2011, 16-21. I hope I do justice to his position in what follows.
Of all Christians, Seventh-day Adventists are the one significant group that is willing to admit publicly that something is wrong with modern Christianity. God couldn’t have prepared our outreach to the final generation better. We live in a world that distrusts organized religion, that continually seeks to dismantle Christianity and the culture it has created. We have a message that answers the general sense that it is a mistake to lay all of the blame for the world’s current woes at the feet of Islam, for example. The world’s biggest problems arise from within Christianity itself. Instinctively, many of the secular people around us know it. Such people are desperate for Christians who will honestly admit that Christianity as it has been practiced is rife with problems. We should be like Daniel and accept corporate responsibility for the sins of Christianity (Dan 9:5).
When we describe the sins of the Middle Ages, we can say, “Do you know who this is? This is us. This is how the church behaved in the Dark Ages. These are the crimes of the Christian church and it is about time that we admit it.” This approach does not ignore the truth, but it wipes away the sins of Christianity as an excuse for people to avoid the Bible. It also takes the blame off God for our horrific behavior and puts the blame where it belongs, on us. It takes away the “we/they” mentality and opens the door to honest examination.
One thing we’ve learned from the war on terror is how ready people are to trade liberty for a little security. The whole conspiracy mentality feeds on the sense that there is something clearly wrong with government. The public is increasingly slow to trust in any form of government at all. Our world seems to be spiraling out of control. We can’t control the economy, we can’t control the terrorists, we can’t control the climate, we don’t trust in religion and we don’t trust government. Sounds like the table is being set for the biggest religio-political tyranny of all time. The world will cry for solutions and Satan has waited for thousands of years to provide them.
We have the ability to show them why they have been soured on both Christian faith and worldly government and show them that the character of God is not at all like they have been told. At the right time, in the right place and in the right way, the message of Revelation 13 is exactly what this world needs right now. September 11, 2001 seems to have set the table for something. Human beings, particularly in the Christian west, have broken the planet and denied the way of Christ by our words and actions. We have broken our own hearts. We have spawned the evil that besets us. But there is good news. Jesus is still the answer.