I belong to a little book study with some of the members of my church. Right now we are moving (slowly) through Dallas Willard’s “Renovation of the Heart”. A very good book, but unlike most of the folks in my group, I don’t agree with everything Willard says. For example;
While talking about spiritual formation and how the correct conceptualization of God is important to this, Willard quotes A.W.Tozer:
It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most Hight God ad actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.”
Tozer himself was commenting on Revelations 5:12-13 (and I am not clear on how he does so here) but other than that I don’t know what other things may have influenced his thoughts. I suggested that, although Tozer (and by association, Willard) may be correct, I didn’t see how the mid-twentieth century was really any worse than any other time (other than the fact that technology made evil that much more efficient).
To say that I was in the minority is an understatement as they collectively gave me the dickens. The fervent consensus was that not only was Tozer on the money but things have gotten much worse today. There was mention of the political and cultural writings of the past, in which a knowledge of and indebtedness to God was commonly expressed, compared to today’s writings, which are almost obligatorily secular. The end result has been the moral depravity of today’s culture.
I don’t agree. I think their are immense aspects of our culture which are terribly immoral. There are also tremendous examples of virtue, love and peace. Although the British Empire (as well as our Founding Fathers, who not all were Christian) tended to write and speak volumes about God it seems quite obvious that they did not put their money where there mouths were. Care for a slave, anyone?
How often have we heard our parents (or perhaps we are saying it ourselves these days?) “In my time things were different. People went to church, they had respect, they worked hard, they weren’t afraid to say that they loved God.” And for many of us the ‘good old days’ sure do look attractive. Unless you happen to be a black man, or woman of any color, or a Jew, or Japanese, or Indian, or Italian, or Irish. Or mentally or emotionally disabled. Or homosexual.
So, I don’t buy it. Maybe things aren’t great but they never really have been. Things could even be much worse. There’s no reason to suppose that the world is spiraling down to some sort of inevitable cultural implosion. Things could even get better. We just need to keep working at it.