“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
We live in this day now. The power and influence of the church has been steadily eroding in the West for more than a generation. A good argument can be made that this has been a progression that started back in the 19th century and has continued apace with only a few interruptions since.
About ten years ago, when the western world was still reeling from 9/11, several prominent atheists and skeptics wrote some books that became hugely influential. The media jumped on board the secular train wholeheartedly, and we were treated to many reports on the coming death of religion. A number of “experts” boldly predicted that they would live to see the functional end of religion in the world.
The truth is that the Christian worldview has occupied a huge role in the western world in terms of shaping the beliefs and basic assumptions about what was real and what was not for centuries. This was indeed changing, just not in the ways the secularists in the media and the culture more broadly predicted.
People need to believe in something. We are drawn to it naturally. In the absence of one belief, another will rise up to take its place. Stronger religious worldviews always eventually overtake weaker ones. As the influence of Christianity began to ebb, it was not secularism to which people turned, it was to superstition of various kinds. Paganism is on the rise in Europe again, heading back to levels not seen in hundreds of years. The number of folks who believe in the existence of any number of mythical creatures has shot up in recent years.
In Iceland, over half the population believes in the existence of Elves. They are human-sized, invisible, and very much real. A highway in Ireland was halted because it involved the destruction of a certain type of bush known to be a common meeting place of faeries. The Order of Jedi Knights is an officially recognized religion in England, and a growing one. And let us not think this silliness is reserved for those who would not claim the title “Christian” in any way. While professed Christians who are active in church are statistically the least likely to believe in various superstitions like these, professed Christians who are not active in church and are therefore not living out their faith with intentionality are among the most likely to believe in them.
The day Paul was talking about is not merely coming, it is here. As Christians, we must be ready to respond. We must be ready to respond to a people who think they know all about us and have rejected our “lies” in favor of older “truths” with more practical power in their daily lives. Our apologetics will have to change. We will have to earn the right to be heard in ways we have not had to do since before we can remember. We must stand boldly for the truth in all its glorious fullness. The Gospel has the power to overcome all superstitions and false beliefs that exist. We must hold to it with tenacity and fearlessness. We must hold to it in word and in deed, letting love be our constant guide.
The God whose word has overcome every human religion that has ever risen up to challenge it will not be stopped by this new wave. It will stand firm. So also must we who claim it as our own.