20th Century America

The 20th was America's century. The United States in particular was able to play the role of industrial leader, international hero, aloof arbiter, Good Samaritan, and cultural giant. Of course, there were plenty of detractors, and snobs who didn't like the thought of an upstart nation of plebs gaining so much influence and power so quickly, but for the most part America and Americans were heralded as everyone's friend.

It was also the century of postmodernism, Darwinian indoctrination, modern "art", legalized abortion, rampant sexual license, etc., most of these finding their origin or substantial support in the U.S.A. American troops may have stopped the spread of Communism in South Korea and taken out the Third Reich, but they weren't able to stop the spread of anti-Christian sentiment or the deaths of more Christian martyrs than in all the previous centuries combined.

The British historian Paul Johnson says the Modern Era was born on March 29, 1919, when photographs of a solar eclipse proved Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. It's always a dangerous business inaugurating or ending historical periods with specific dates, but this much is clear—with the universal acceptance of Einstein's theory which followed, the moral and philosophical relativism with which the West had been experimenting for 300 years or so was finally codified as the standard approach to life, the universe and everything.

Einstein first published his theory in 1905. Shortly thereafter, the world began to fall apart. World War I was more than just a war—it was the conflict of outmoded nationalistic ideals with the new super-efficient war machines produced by the Industrial Revolution and technological progress. The Great Depression affected nations all over the world, the Lost Generation abandoned morality and surrendered to existential angst, and World War II stripped away the last illusions of innocence.

After that, there was no going back. Everything was questioned, everything was assumed to be in flux, there were no absolutes, no stationary standards, just the present and confusion and ambiguity. Existentialism told people to create their own meaning through self-actualization; postmodernism said there was no meaning, or that all meaning was relative and ultimately meaningless, merely a social construct designed to control people.

This is where human-centered thinking will ultimately get you, of course.When God is dismissed, hope is impossible, and the only response is either complete despair (existentialism) or complete nonsense (postmodernism). Add in the godless sexual preoccupations of Freudian theory, the culmination of Darwinian evolutionary naturalism, and the Enlightenment-inspired trust in human goodness and progress, and you've got a chaotic world.

Which is what we have now. After the Sexual Revolution, the secularization of public dialogue, and the watering-down of the Christian Gospel in so many churches, we're left with moral, religious and philosophical wreckage of the worst kind. Fortunately, we also have the true Gospel, which tells us that Christ has always and will always be the answer to evil and the only path to Truth and Salvation.

Despite the high death toll among Christians in the 20th century, the last 100 years also saw the most concerted missionary efforts yet undertaken, spanning every continent and nearly every people group. The Bible was translated into hundreds of languages (there are still thousands to go), the poor were cared for, and the Good News of the resurrected Lord was taken everywhere men and women could go.

Even the darkest centuries (and the 20th was certainly among them) aren't sufficient to overcome the work of Yahweh Almighty among His people and in the created world. Man has always rebelled; he will continue to do so. But God's faithful children will continue to spread His message and love and witness through the power of the Holy Spirit until Christ comes again and history is fulfilled in all the glory and majesty of the triumphant Godhead.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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