Nobody has written a real moral history of the Greeks. . .  The wisest men in the world set out to be natural; and the most unnatural thing in the world was the very first thing they did.  The immediate effect of saluting the sun and the sunny sanity of nature was a perversion spreading like a pestilence. . .  It would seem simple enough for the people whose poets had conceived Helen of Troy, whose sculptors had carved the Venus of Milo, to remain healthy on that point.  The truth is that people who worship health cannot remain healthy. . . The early church called the gods of paganism devils; and the early church was perfectly right.

G.K. Chesterton1

I have loved sports all of my life both as a participant and as a spectator.  I have even learned to a certain degree not to get too upset when I hear of another moral failure of an athlete.  Should I have expected any different?  But I experienced a whole new disappointment last Friday night when I watched the opening of the Olympic Games in Atlanta.  If there were any doubt about this being a post-Christian America, that visual demonstration of pagan worship has erased all skepticism.  Seeing the spirits of the continents called upon to protect and watch over the games and their visual representation lauded, hearing the announcers worship “sport” and “health,” with the obvious absence of God’s name or any reference to Christian belief, my heart sank to a new low.  Should I have expected any different?  Perhaps not.  But this is the nation which has held Christian principles above the pagan principles of the world and has sent missionaries to convert the pagans to Christianity.  Without our knowing, the pagans were converting us much faster than we were converting them.

Erwin Lutzer wrote of Nazi Germany, “This national obsession with occultism prepared the way for Hitler’s meteoric rise to world prominence. . . and in no country were so many miracles performed, so many ghosts conjured, so many illnesses cured by magnetism, so many horoscopes read.  There were telepathy, seances, and spiritual experiences of every sort, which camouflaged Hitler’s deceptions.  Just as the New Age movement today might well be preparing the world to accept the miracles of Antichrist, so the occultism of Germany made mass deception much more difficult to detect.”2

I don’t know if the Lord will return in my life time or a hundred years from now.  But I realize that I can no longer expect the average American to be part of “Christendom.”  I will have to begin with him at a much lower level of moral understanding and general knowledge of God and Christ.

Consider his everyday world!  My small file on Mysticism and Metaphysics reminded me of the coach of the world champion Bulls calling himself a “Zen Christian” while employing “aspects of Eastern and American Indian spirituality;”3 an Eckankar conference in a major American city combining “Religion of the Light and Sound of God, also called the Holy Spirit,” combined with the ancient wisdom of the east; a metaphysics conference in my city that teaches ways to use tarot cards, crystals, psychic hotlines, astrology, numerology, biorhythms and even internet divination; and a Kansas woman who started a new business called “Magical Moments” in which she communicates with your pet “on the level of the soul;” and besides these, I have some really bizarre ones!

In a decent report, I read that Christian groups are receiving thousands of letters from Muslims who claim to have had a vision of Jesus appearing to them and saying “I am the way” and are therefore ready “to freely respond to the gospel message.”  This is said to be a response to AG missionary Gordon Barnett’s “prayer initiatives.”4 In other words, there are many Christians out there willing to take the opportunity of today’s spiritual ignorance to put a few feathers in their evangelistic cap.

I have to rather agree with Douglas Groothuis when he writes, “Spiritual deception is far from rare.  If we do not discern and reject deceptive claims to the truth, we will become ensnared in error and mistake darkness for light.  It is only by knowing and adhering to the truth of God’s Word that we can discern when the demonic is inducing or influencing spiritual experiences.”5

Is America becoming more civilized?  No!  We are believing what other generations scorned.  In the late fourteenth century, Christopher Marlowe wrote a story about a man who insolently made a pact with the Devil to grant his wishes in exchange for his soul.  In the last hour of his life, Dr. Faustus is wishing against hope that God’s hell were not literal and eternal but metaphysical, as Pythagoras taught.  His wish for pagan reality is vain.

Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,

A hundred thousand, and at last be saved!

O, no end is limited to damned souls.

Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?

Or why is this immortal that thou hast?

Ah, Pythagoras’ metemphychosis-were that true

This soul should fly from me and I be changed

Unto some brutish beast.6

Marlowe reminds us that in the hour of death, no wish for some ethereal existence without judgment is possible.  Our gospel ministry to this generation is serious business!

Notes:
1. G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis Of Assisi  (New York:  Doubleday, 1990) 28.
2. Erwin Lutzer, Hitler’s Cross (Chicago: Moody, 1995) 67.
3. “Bullish On Faith” Dayton Daily News, 6/1/96.
4. National & International Religion Report, 1/8/96, p. 1.
5. Douglas Groothuis, Deceived by the Light (Eugene:  Harvest House, 1995) 154.
6. Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (New York:  Washington Square Press, 1968) 77.