Two brothers arrive in the city to attend seminary – this is what they find:
In the churches there is “little belief…attached to the characteristic doctrines of the church, and those which were preached were sadly diluted. The sermons of many breathed a spirit of rationalism…”
“Religion was a Sunday concern without the least influence on heart and life. Conversion was an antiquated word.”
“The Holy Spirit appeared to have been replaced by the spirit of the age.”
“The greatest tolerance was displayed towards all manner of strange views, and men of all schools made this broadmindedness their boast” (italics mine).
As I read the above, the syncretism of the last quotation struck me. Syncretism was what people were boasting in, it permeated the faculty of the seminary and the clergy of the nation. It also permeated the seminary’s student body to the point that when the two brothers in question started meeting with a small group of other students who desired to follow Jesus rather than the spirit of the age, that this faithful group of disciples was ridiculed and ostracized by the student body. There was no professor on the theological faculty who taught the Bible as the Word of God.
The year is 1845, the place is the Netherlands, the brothers are John and Andrew Murray – and they have no choice as to where they will attend seminary because they are preparing to return to South Africa and serve in the Dutch Reformed Church – therefore they must perfect their Dutch and attend a Dutch seminary.
The spirit of their age dictated that there was one law, one truth, which at all costs must be preserved; “There is no one truth. All points of view are equally valid.” Of course this “truth” is contradictory in that it becomes that which it insists does not exist – and it does so in a dictatorial fashion that seeks to crush all opposition.
I see this same “spirit of the age” on a daily basis. People are afraid to call a duck a duck or a mailbox a mailbox. Statements are prefaced with, “My opinion is,” when what is needed is not an opinion but a statement of fact that can be tested. Then there are the instances when absurd statements of “truth” are made that have sweeping sociological implications and results that we are expected to accept as “true” because an expert or a political leader or a court has declared it to be so – when such pronouncements are against all common sense.
Our conditioning is such that people doubt their common sense, their innate sense of right and wrong; we have been taught to rationalize away morality and true ethics.
And in the professing church? Jesus did not really mean that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. John did not really mean that we are not to love the world or the things in the world. Paul did not really mean that knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified is to be central to all that we do. Jude did not really mean that sexual sin is toxic to the church and humanity. Peter did not really mean that we are to suffer for Jesus.
There is hope when God’s people are faithful. The Murray brothers would remain faithful to Jesus Christ and God would use them to renew His church and bring others to Him.
There is hope when God’s people are faithful.
Will we be faithful…to Christ…and His Word…His Gospel…no matter what the spirit of the age may be?