This Un-Christian Century

THE WORLD HAS NOW ENTERED into the new millennium, and the twenty-first century. The twentieth century has turned out to be vastly different from what was confidently expected by the majority of people 100 years ago. This fact was highlighted fifty years ago, by information published in an independent Protestant weekly, “The Christian Century,” a publication that was still in its prime at that time. Prior to 1901, this magazine was called “The Christian Oracle.” Beginning then, the name was changed to “The Christian Century” as an expression of the editor’s conviction that the next hundred years would witness the virtual conquering of the world for Christianity, and he wanted his paper to be among the first to recognize and herald this great accomplishment. Commenting on the reason for this change, in 1950 the paper said:

The files [of “The Christian Century“] offer no evidence that the paper’s readers found any element of presumption in the new title. Rather, it was greeted as a reflection of the spirit of optimistic prophecy which everywhere marked the passage into a new cycle of time. The nineteenth century just closing had been a period of unparalleled triumph in man’s perennial pursuit of control over the forces of nature. What could be more reasonable than to expect that the twentieth would see these conquests multiplied, and that to the physical there would be added commensurate moral and spiritual triumphs? Why should not the century then dawning come to be known, long before its close, as the Christian century? The halfway point, the contrast between the mood in which men entered the century and that which now envelops them, is so completely irreconcilable, that it is difficult to convince oneself that the optimistic expectations of 1901 were so widely and deeply held as scarcely to be challenged.”


Perhaps the editor who penned this confession of the failure of human wisdom to properly forecast world developments is not aware of the fact that the optimistic view of 1901 was at that time challenged, and that the challengers were held up to ridicule and scorn by professed Christian teachers and leaders throughout the world. That challenge came from Bible Students who were contrasting what was being said with their understanding of Bible teachings. These called attention to prophecies of the Bible which forecast the impending collapse of civilization, and that in the place of this selfish social order, there would be set up in power and great glory the long prayed-for kingdom of Christ. This forecast of world developments pointed out that the year 1914 would mark the turning point in man’s boasted progress.

Many of the Bible’s prophecies foretold these tragic years of the twentieth century, but the meaning of all of them is best summed up by the Prophet Daniel who wrote that there would be a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) Jesus quoted this prophecy and indicated that its fulfillment would be at the time of his return, when the end of the age would be reached, and the time had come for the establishment of his kingdom.

Contrary to the expectations of the optimists at the beginning of the century, we are now in the prophetic ‘time of trouble.’ This is apparent, when, for example, we read the statement of the late William Faulkner, a Nobel prize winner. While in New York on his way to Stockholm to receive the prize, he said to reporters: “Man has only one question in mind: ‘When will I be blown up?’ The question of honor or no honor, courage or no courage, virtue or no virtue, doesn’t exist.”


This is a far cry from the expectations of the worldly-wise in 1901. All the elements of the social order, which is now sick unto death, have undergone changes which were wholly unexpected by the majority of people in 1901. Take the political changes, for example. What was thought to be a fairly stable political world by the statesmen of that day has almost entirely vanished. In 1901, at the funeral of Queen Victoria of England, there assembled a most impressive array of reigning monarchs who marched through the streets behind the coffin of Victoria. By contrast, when near the close of 1950, the King of Sweden was buried, the best showing royalty could make was a thin line of three Scandinavian rulers, a royal duke from England who represented the British crown, and an Ethiopian crown prince.

Not only has royalty disappeared as a controlling factor in the crumbling world of today, but almost no one is advocating a return to the hereditary ruling house form of government. Winston Churchill was about the only conspicuous defender of monarchy as a preferable ruling system of government. Truly, kings have had their day, and with their going has passed one phase in the crumbling of a social order which must completely give place to God’s new social order—the kingdom of Christ.


One might suppose that with the passing of monarchy the world would experience a great upsurge in the popularity of the republican form of government; and indeed, the virtues of democracy have been trumpeted far and wide. But as all now know, democracy is very unsafe in the strife-ridden world of today. One of the objectives of the First World War was to make the world safe for democracy. It was thought then that this could be achieved by defeating the monarchists of central Europe. But with their defeat, together with the overthrow of nearly all royalty, including the House of Savoy in Italy, there sprang up the ugly head of dictatorship in the form of fascism, Nazism, and communism.

The world was again dragged through the weary and suffering years of another war in order to stamp out fascism and Nazism; but by joining hands with communism in order to attain victory, the democracies helped greatly to spread the influence and power of this form of dictatorship. After a long struggle, communism started to wane. Apparently the freedom of democracy is the battle cry of the western world; but in order to defeat the dictatorship of communism, democracy had to join with other dictatorships of one sort or another, seemingly blind to the end result of this unholy alliance.

No matter from what standpoint the world situation of today is viewed, to all sincere and truly peace-loving people the outlook is very disquieting. During the hectic years which followed the first and second global struggles, much attention had been given to setting up some form of world government, some authority that would be able to resolve the differences of the nations and promote the well-being and happiness of all. We know how miserably the League of Nations failed. The United Nations has shown more strength than the League of Nations, and has been able to send peacekeepers in the form of troops from different nations to trouble-spots in the world. The Korean and Vietnam Wars were attempts made, mainly by the United States, to prevent the spread of communism. Recently UN troops have been sent to many countries—most recently to Serbia.


At the beginning of the century, those who lacked a vital faith in Christianity believed that Science was the god which would bring Utopian conditions to the world. That hope has now foundered on the rocks of nuclear despair. Science is no longer looked upon as the world’s redeemer and savior. Science today is feared by the masses, for while great technological advances have been made which could have meant prosperity and security, the assembly line, on the one hand, if uncontrolled, soon results in an overproduction of human needs, thus leading to unemployment and depression; or, on the other hand, is speeded up to produce instruments of destruction by which the human race may wantonly annihilate itself. Science has proved to be without responsibility, and totally unable to solve the problems created by its own inventive genius.


The Christian religious world is also totally different from what it was expected to become when the century opened. The early years of the century were years of unparalleled missionary effort. China, one of the great missionary fields for all denominations, had now been lost to the churches; while all the missionary fields of Asia are so preoccupied with political strife and international struggle, that the missionaries are greatly hampered in their efforts to gain respectful attention.

Meanwhile, half of Europe or more, came under the atheistic rule of a godless dictatorship, which tried to liquidate all religion. After the demise of communism, a few people turned to religion, but most remained atheists or agnostics. Even in the democratically-free countries of the world, genuine devotion to Christianity and its principles has been at a very low ebb.

In this country alone there are many who belong to no church and who make no profession of belief in God, while only a few attend church with any degree of regularity. True, there is seemingly a disposition to turn to God on the part of many, but to a large extent this merely reflects the attitude of a man who thinks he is about to drown and is willing to ask God to help him until he can get his feet on the ground.

There has, perhaps, never been such a demand for religious literature; and, paradoxically enough, the churches, on the whole, have never been so nearly empty. If this indicates anything, it is that the people have lost faith in the churches, but are willing to try God.


Certainly, the twentieth century has not turned out to be ‘the Christian century.’ And yet, maybe, before long the world will see Jesus Christ enthroned as its Ruler, and will live under his just and beneficent rulership, enjoying peace and happiness! This is indeed what the prophecies of the Bible clearly indicate! The prophecies gave the true forecast of the first half of the century, although scorned by the wisdom of this world. But in calling attention to this bright outlook, let no one suppose that the statesmen, or militarists, or religious leaders of the world, will at last find a formula for peace, and that Christ’s kingdom will merely be a product of human wisdom which well-meaning men may presumptuously label the kingdom of the Lord.

Christ’s kingdom will be established by Christ, not by the diplomacy of man. Human efforts have failed! The world will gradually learn this great lesson, as one after another of their plans for world peace and security end in failure. Indeed, few have learned this lesson as yet. Even those who speak of God and seem willing to include him in their plans, still imagine that the welfare of the world rests upon their shoulders, and that God’s part is to approve and bless what they plan and do.

God will bless them as individuals, for he has promised to bless all the families of the earth. (Gen. 22:18) But God has his own plans for extending his blessings to the people. These we might call ‘the kingdom plans.’ He has selected and prepared his own personnel for that kingdom. Jesus will be the Ruler supreme, although invisible to the people. Associated with him will be his church—that class of faithful disciples who will be raised from the dead in what the Scriptures describe as the “first resurrection.” (Rev. 20:6) These will reign with Christ in the spiritual phase of his kingdom.

These spiritual rulers will have human representatives who also have been selected and trained in advance. They are the Ancient Worthies of Old Testament times, beginning with Abel and ending with John the Baptist. These will be brought forth in a “better resurrection,” and will be made “princes in all the earth.” (Heb. 11:35; Ps. 45:16) What a wonderful government that will be!

There is every reason to believe that it will be ruling the earth soon!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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