The post-9/11 international order finds itself in the grip of a global struggle ‘for the hearts and minds of people and the souls of nations’.
So writes author, speaker, teacher, and activist for the poor and hungry, Darrow Miller, in the vitally important new book, Emancipating the world: a Christian response to radical Islam and fundamentalist atheism.
The aggression launched on a fateful September day would blast into contemporary consciousness the knowledge that jihadists are waging what Miller describes as a ‘War from the East’. Islamic tyranny is spreading as ‘holy warriors’ fight to subjugate every tribe and nation to Islamic power by any means necessary, including the barrel of a gun, the edge of the sword, and the explosions of homicide bombers. If we take Islamists at their word, the use of nuclear devices and other weapons of mass destruction is far from unthinkable.
West in denial
One would expect that the Western nations, out of a sense of self-preservation, would rise up to defend themselves against this onslaught. But, alas, this has not been the case. Instead, we see halting, stumbling, and outright denial.
What is the reason for such a weak response? Miller explains that the ‘War from the East’ is being facilitated by a ‘War in the West’. Atheism and secularism have produced a moral anarchy that is eviscerating the West’s ability to rise up to meet even so basic a challenge as self-preservation.
Atheist ideologies have unleashed an assault on truth, goodness and beauty. Truth is reduced to subjectivity — whatever works for you at a particular moment. Goodness is dissolved into moral relativism — what is right for you may not be right for me. And beauty is lost in the banality and coarseness of the advertising and entertainment culture.
Though this breakdown of Western culture is couched by the liberal and secularist PR machine in glowing terms of liberation, Miller is more clear-sighted: he diagnoses this internal breakdown as the source of the West’s suicidal vulnerability to external aggression.
Indeed, jihadist groups often justify their violence by pointing to the cultural and moral degradation in the West. Thus the two wars are united at a deep level.
What can be done? Can the West mount an effective resistance? Or has the struggle already reached a point of no return?
Christianity is the key
Darrow Miller argues that the situation is desperate but not hopeless. America and the West still possess the spiritual capital needed to meet the twin challenges of Islamic tyranny and morally debilitating secularism. The crucial question is whether the West will avail itself of these resources to combat, repulse and overcome this two-pronged assault on human freedom and dignity.
After diagnosing the problem, Miller deploys the second half of Emancipating the world to argue that a robust, authentic understanding of historic Christianity is key to winning both battles. This section of the book is dedicated to the proposition that the Christian community has an ongoing biblical calling to face precisely this kind of challenge, here and now in this life, instead of turning away to concentrate on a private spirituality while awaiting a future in heaven.
Commission and culture
That scriptural calling is expressed in the intrinsic connection between the known but much misunderstood ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28.18-20) and the neglected but foundational ‘Cultural Mandate’ (Genesis 1.28). The Cultural Mandate reminds us that human beings, created in the image of God, are called to exercise caring stewardship over the whole of creation. In other words, the command in Genesis 1.28 to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and ‘subdue’ the earth is not a simplistic call to reproduce and run the show. Rather, it communicates the Creator’s challenge to humanity to go forth into the world, exercising creativity to develop his creation in ways that demonstrate love and respect for the human race and nature.
Furthermore, this most basic and expansive of human tasks remains in effect, even though the world is now fallen and broken. The God-proclaimed goodness of creation has not been destroyed by evil.
And neither is life in this world to be disrespected as lacking ‘eternal value’ and therefore a meaningless waste of time when compared to ‘the things of God’. This devaluation smacks of ancient Greek culture, with its low regard for the material world and the physical body, unholistically viewed as a prison house of the soul from which one seeks to escape.
In fact, this world and human life upon it, including existence in its material and physical aspects, are precisely ‘things of God’. To use the vernacular, they are a ‘God thing’. To act and think otherwise is to embrace not historic Christianity and not the Great Commission, but instead a subversion of Christianity devitalised by a kind of ‘Greek Commission’.
Evident in Emancipating the World is Miller’s incisive, grassroots understanding of worldviews, a product of years of hard-won experience in nations around the globe. He has witnessed personally the power of ideas to elevate and improve a society — or to enslave and impoverish. He has travelled, lectured and worked face-to-face with Africans and Haitians holding animist and voodoo worldviews, and with Muslims submitting to an Islamic worldview.
Love of neighbour
Miller has witnessed first-hand the way ideas shape not only how people think, but also the social and political institutions they create. His burden in Emancipating the World is to communicate the gospel’s humane and revolutionary power to create societies that foster liberty and prosperity. It is love of neighbour released into the fullness of creation, unbounded by privatised spiritualities or by inward-looking ecclesiastical applications.
‘True spirituality’, to use Francis Schaeffer’s phrase, covers the whole of life. Or, as Miller writes, life in community with our Father in heaven is a life in which humanity works and prays, farms and philosophises, loves and protects, so that his will is done … where? ‘On earth as it is in heaven.’
Unfortunately, Miller notes, some in the Christian community run too quickly past that first phrase, ‘on earth’. Yet the Creator calls his people to steward this creation and to love our neighbours in this present life, here and now, and not just in the life to come. To meet that call, each generation must address the real-world threats and questions that arise in their particular moment of history.
The church, therefore, as a living community of renewed humanity, has the potential to become nothing less than a training ground to educate and equip frontline responders to act effectively and concretely in the present struggle on both fronts of the two wars. As a matter of humanity, as a matter of love, as a matter of neighbourliness, secularists and jihadists should be challenged here, today, this moment, ‘on earth’.
The resistance stems not from a rebranded paganism (autonomous licentiousness or the secularised state) or from a soft-focus religiosity (you have your private ‘truth’, I have my private ‘Jesus’). The pushback, instead, emerges from the self-sacrificing love and wisdom of human beings who embrace a public and verifiable Christ who defeated hatred and death in space and time.
In the course of human history, truth can be won but truth can also be lost. Civilisations rise and fall. But whatever the present condition of a particular society, newness of life for the individual and for a people is ever at the door.
But none of this will occur without an effective cause. For, in this world, freedom is axiomatic but never automatic. A key is needed to activate the givens embedded in God’s good creation. Fortunately for the poor and the hungry, for the rich and the bored, and those strong in power but weak in love, meaning, and humanness, the freedom narrative for man has always been an eternal imperative from God.
It is encouraging to imagine what a nation or a people might look like if they took seriously the lessons of this book and applied them to their daily lives, corporate structures, mission works and public institutions. This we know: the West would begin rediscovering its ultimate rationale for a free and humane way of life. As for advocates of Islamist tyranny and atheistic fundamentalism, they might not know what had hit them at first. But their bewilderment would likely last for only a little while. It is impossible to contain really Good News.
This article is an edited version of J. Richard Pearcey’s foreword to the book Emancipating the World: A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism by Darrow L. Miller (YWAM Publishing, ISBN 978 1 576 587 164).
J. Richard Pearcey is editor of The Pearcey Report (http://www.pearceyreport.com) and the blog Pro-Existence, and is on the faculty of Rivendell Sanctuary.
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