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Does the Bible lead us to expect that Christians will be able to transform society?

It’s not uncommon to hear folks in the United States crying about the moral state of our society. It’s also not uncommon to hear blame being cast on ‘the church’ for our social ills. The ‘church’ isn’t doing its job. If churches were teaching xxxxx, or not teaching xxxxx. If churches were doing their job, the country would be better than it is.

Like every broad brush stroke, there’s some truth to that, organized religion definitely has influence. But let’s consider what the Bible says before we write ‘Ichabod*’ over our door. Here’s a brief answer of what believers should expect.

Does the Bible lead us to expect that Christians will be able to transform society?**
In order to answer that question we need to put a few biblical and theological pieces into their proper place:

The gospel transforms those who believe it (2 Cor. 5:17).
As believers grow in godliness, every area of their lives will increasingly reflect the character of God, which should have a significant impact in that person’s sphere of influence.

Christians are called to be salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:13-16).
To the extent that we’re faithful to that calling we will have a positive impact on the society we live in.

However…
The New Testament seems to indicate that in general, society will continue to oppose Christians, persecute Christians, and even hate Christians (Jn. 16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12; Mark 13:13; Jn. 15:19). That there have been occasional exceptions to this only proves the rule.

Moreover…
The Bible presents the entire course of fallen human history as a general slide deeper into sin punctuated by periodic judgments and occasional revivals of true godliness.

Examples:
— The whole history of Israel pictures this slide deeper into sin. Consider the progression evident in the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings.
— In the New Testament, human depravity culminates in God’s condemnation of Babylon in Revelation 18, which symbolizes the totality of fallen human culture. The bottom line is that the Bible nowhere leads us to expect large-scale, far-reaching societal transformation.

*’Ichabod’ is a Hebrew expression for, ‘the glory has departed,’ or, ‘no glory.’ It’s become known as term to describe a situation where the presence of God’s blessing is believed to be no longer present.

**Adapted from 9Marks

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