Statue of Liberty scene from Planet of the Apes.
Civilizational collapse. The very words make the reader sit up and take notice. When I hear them, I tend to think of the barbarian hordes – some of whom, for all I know, may have been my ancestors – sacking Rome. But civilizational collapse is not just about ancient history. For it has been the contention of this blog that we in the West in the early 21st century are living through a civilizational collapse in real time. The West, the civilization born out of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, is in real danger of disappearing altogether. Given birth by the widespread preaching of, and belief in, the Gospel of justification by belief alone in the 16th century, the West has undergone steep decline over the past one hundred plus years.
In our own time, there are very few individuals left who hold fast to the two principle doctrines of the Reformation, sola scriptura (the Bible alone is the sole authority for Christian doctrine and practice), and sola fide (salvation is by belief alone). Since Western Civilization was the by-product of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it would stand to reason that when the people of the West reject that Gospel, that the civilization built upon it would fall. And this is exactly what we see happening all around us. Public morals, respect for individual liberty and private property, not to mention the finances of entire nations all are in steep decline.
How does the Christian face an environment such as this? In the US, at any rate, there are many active preppers, individuals who believe in taking steps to protect themselves in the event the current economic and political order should suffer a significant breakdown. I happen to be one of those people.
As a rule, preppers are considered to be a bit of a fringe group and are often dismissed as paranoid wearers of tin-foil hats . But that in itself does not prove them wrong. Just looking at the finances of the Western nations should be enough to put anyone in prepper mode. As I detailed in last week’s post, the financial system and economy of the US are in a very precarious position and may well be poised for an imminent collapse. Take the recent comments of noted investor Jim Rogers, who said that in 2016, “everything is going to get smashed,” as a result of the relentless counterproductive policies pursued by the governments and central banks of the world. “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished,” says Proverbs. And what are preppers but those who foresee trouble coming and seek to take measures to protect themselves? Given the current state of affairs, far from being paranoid, it seems as though the preppers on the ones showing good sense, while those who deny the gathering storm facing the West and pretend everything is awesome are simpletons whistling past the graveyard.
Prepping started to get big in the US in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Over the ensuring years, many helpful books have been written on the subject of prepping, and many excellent resources available on the internet that address this issue. It is not the aim of this post to repeat what others already have said, and said better than this author could. No, the aim of this post is to look at what the Bible has to say about prepping. Not so much from the standpoint of “buy this” or “make sure you have enough of that,” but rather from the standpoint of how God works in history, the grace he shows to his people even in the worst of times, and reflect on general principles that we can take from individual cases in Scripture where people were faced with the destruction of their civilization. In particular, I would like to focus on the example of Noah, a man who can fairly be described as history’s preeminent prepper.
God is Not Mocked
Back in the late 90s, the minister of my church said to me in private conversation that if the then new, state-level laws legalizing homosexual marriage were allowed to stand, then God would owe an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah. Strong words, those. Little did we know at the time that, not only would the existing laws in support of gay marriage be allowed to stand, but that gay marriage would one day be declared the law of the land, as occurred in June 2015 with the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.
And what shall we say about a nation that so openly mocks the law of God. It is common for Americans to say “God bless America.” But really, why should he? After the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, the minister of my current church commented, quite correctly, that America has now placed itself further outside the [preceptive] will of God than at any other time in its history. It seems to me that, considering just the gay marriage issue alone, God would have much more reason to visit destruction on America rather than bless it.
Some may suppose that because hellfire and brimstone did not immediately descend from the heavens and consume the Supreme Court building along with those justices who voted in favor of gay marriage, arrogantly supposing as they did, that they can set aside the eternal law of God, that nothing bad will follow as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges. But I wouldn’t be so sure of that. As the Apostle Paul makes clear, God is not mocked. While it is true that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, it is also true that judgment can come in this life. And Sodom and Gomorrah stand as stark witnesses to the proposition that God will not forever put up with a civilization that so flagrantly mocks his law.
But the sudden and dramatic overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah is not the only Biblical example of God visiting destruction on a civilization due to its gross sinfulness. The destruction of the Canaanites was a consequence of their sinfulness. “But in the fourth generation they [Abraham’s descendents] shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16), were God’s words to Abraham. God destroyed the Tower of Babel and scattered the people, confusing their language, due to their disobedience.
The experience of Israel in the promised land ended in a similar fashion. Even before Israel entered Canaan, God laid out for the stipulations of his covenant. If the people obeyed, they would receive blessing. If they did not, curses and destruction would follow. As Scripture tells us, Israel was eventually given over to conquerors due to the unfaithfulness of the people. The writer of Chronicles puts it this way,
And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:23).
The Old Testament also reports the destruction of the destroyers of Israel and Judah. Both Assyria and Babylon were judged for their iniquities and overthrown.
Civilization-wide judgment is not limited to the Old Testament either. It is also found in the New. In the Olivet discourse, Jesus predicted the judgment that God would visit on Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In Revelation we are shown the coming destruction of Mystery Babylon the Great, the Antichrist system of the papacy, for its many sins.
The Deluge by John Martin, 1834.
The End of the World As He Knew It
Relative to the subject of this study, I would like to end this brief review of God’s civilizational judgments by discussing his destruction of the world at the time of Noah. Back in the 80s, R.E.M. had a hit song titled It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Despite the rather depressive sounding name, it’s actually a pretty catchy tune. And the title really does capture the experience of Noah. After all, here was a man who had never so much as seen rain, being told by God that the world would be destroyed in a flood. Everything would be wiped away.
And why is it that God decided to end all human life save eight people? He doesn’t leave it to our imagination, but rather expressly tells us it was due to the exceeding wickedness of man.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:5-7).
I would like to draw the reader’s attention to two aspects of this passage. First, note well that the destruction of the antediluvian [pre-flood] world was brought about by God. Sometimes people speak of God permitting this or that disaster to occur. But as Gordon Clark argues in God & Evil: The Problem Solved, permission makes no sense in a universe created by, and completely under the control of, God. God himself says, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth,” so it is hardly slander to state that God brought about the destruction. But what is more, the wickedness of man that prompted God to destroy the earth was not some unplanned or unforeseen eventuality, but God caused men to act as they did. God was not the author of their sin, for the wicked men themselves thought and performed evil themselves. But God was the ultimate cause of their doing so.
Second, although God is the ultimate cause of the sinfulness of the antediluvian world, he is not responsible for the sin, those who commit the sin are. God is not responsible for the simple reason that whatever God does is right and good. There is no one to whom he must give account. Put another way, God is Ex Lex, above the law. As sovereign of the universe, it is his prerogative both to will men to be reprobate and to punish them for it.
In his address to the Athenians on Mars Hill, Paul stated the end to which God established nations. Said Paul,
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26, 27).
The intended result of his establishing nations, is that the people seek for him. But when nations fail to do this, and when they, in fact, do quite the opposite, wearying themselves to do evil, it should come as no surprise that God would bring them to an end. And this he has done many times in history, as the Bible makes clear.
It is my contention that Western Civilization has just about run its course. Beginning in earnest in the 19th century, the people of the West first rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the chickens are now coming home to roost. It appears that tough times lay ahead.
I do not write these things as a pessimist. Rather, I believe Christians have every reason to be optimistic about the future. We have the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. That said, this does not mean we will not suffer along with everyone else should it turn out that I am right about what the future holds.
As Christians, we are not called to look upon the world with rose colored glasses. We are called to see it in light of the Word of God and to heed its warnings.
Detail from the Arch of Titus in Rome showing a scene from the triumphal parade celebrating the Roman general Titus’ sack of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned his hearers to flee to the mountains when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies. It would be interesting to know how many took him at his word and got out of town before general Vespasian showed up outside the city walls with his legions.
As Christians, let us be as the prudent man of Proverbs and prepare ourselves for the evil that appears to be coming our way. In so doing, not only will we preserve our lives and the lives of our loved ones, but also position ourselves to speak the truth of the Gospel to a world in desperate need of hearing it.
To be continued
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