Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Monday, August 31, 2009

Can a nation be redeemed by God ?

Lighthouse in Swakopmund /Namibia


Yes God can!

The Scriptures and history testify to the fact that God rules over the nations ( Ps 22:28; 47:8), watching over them ( Ps 66:7) . The sovereign Lord brings nations down ( Ps 9:15-17; 59:5 ; 110:6; 135:10 ) but He also establishes them ( Ps 33:12 ; 147:20).
From the history of various nations we have many examples of how God has graciously answered the prayer of his praying people . I have many books on my bookshelves that speak about revivals in which God had been pleased to restore life and vitality to the church and through the church to the nation . I have presented a number of papers over the years on such happenings .

One of my favourite books in this regard is the biography of "George Whitfield" by Arnold Dallimore ( published by Banner of Truth in 2 volumes) . The first chapter in Volume 1 , entitled "Spiritual and moral conditions in England before the Revival " is worth the price of the book ! A friend of mine would say : " sell your shirt and buy this book !"

The reason why that chapter speaks to me so very poignantly is because I see so many parallels between our Namibian situation and 18th Century England .

England at that time was in the grip of Deism - a form of religious rationalism , in which God was seen to be merely the first cause , - essentially uninvolved in the affairs of the world , in the same way in which a watchmaker would make a clock , winding it up , and then leaving it to itself to run out .
Don't get me wrong ! Namibia has not been in the hands of deists , but I want to argue that Namibia has been profoundly influenced by theological undercurrents and thought patterns that have led to a steady , general spiritual decline in our nation , just as the first cause of England's moral decline has been attributed by Dallimore to a certain spiritual undertone in the nation , called ' deism '.
Namibia's religious thought patterns have been influenced by the forces of liberalism . I will not trace the development of liberalism in Namibia in this essay . Another forum will have to do that .
At the heart of liberal theology is a deep dislike for the authority and sufficiency of the Bible . "The proof of the pudding is in the eating " , an English Proverb says . What do we taste when we eat the "Namibian pudding " ? I am afraid , it is ' lean fare' . Many churches in our nation do not 'preach the Word ' ( 2 Tim 4:2) . By this I do not mean that preachers do not have Bibles in the pulpit . They do , but one gets the impression that once they have read from the scriptures they will not proceed to expound that word which is meant to impart spiritual life to our hearers . Our preaching lacks lively, ( lengthy and passionate !!) forceful , Christ centered exhortation and application .
Our nation is fed on "pop psychology" , "health, wealth and prosperity teaching " , " social gospel" and "moralistic preaching " . The church in Namibia is very centered around people . We have countless apostles and prophets and other 'anointed and appointed' men and women , dividing the country into the " Paul, Apollos and Cephas" syndrome - each with and according to their various dreams , visions and revelations.
In addition to this , the Namibian church , for lack of sound doctrinal preaching tends to spend much time and focus on choirs and music in the worship service . It is not uncommon for services to have well over an hour of singing before a short homily follows , by which time the attention time span of the average listener has shrunk to almost zero !

Practically speaking that means that "Mr Average" in the Namibian society , though he may be religious and go to church frequently , will not be exposed to deep doctrinal and applicatory and Christ centered preaching that will help him to examine himself and cause him to cry out to the Lord for help . And because he is not helped and fed from his pulpit , he will subsequently not build his life upon a Christian worldview , but will follow the opinions of politicians , TV personalities and the like .
Consequently the Namibian church does not have a strong influence upon the destructive thinking patterns of the Namibian nation .
As a result we note that the nation is not well led , for it is not led by the sustaining Word of the Lord. And because it is not well led , people do not live well .

Back to George Whitfield's 18th century England :
As a result of this theological vacuum the English people were like sheep without a shepherd . Dallimore writes : " Nowhere was the nation's weakness more evident than in the Gin craze... every 6th house in London had become a gin shop and the nation was in an uncontrollable orgy of gin drinking.... Bishop Benson wrote :" Gin ( alcohol ) has made the English people what they were never before- cruel and inhuman " (p.25) .
My observation exactly ! Every 6th house in Windhoek is just about a "shebeen " - an alcohol outlet ! By the way, this phenomenon is found at all levels of our society : Old , young , rich and poor , and in every cultural group . Ask me - I am a pastor . I see these things all the time!

The cruelty and inhumanity that follows substance abuse shows itself in child abuse , women abuse , absent fathers , murder , rape, stealing ... the list goes on ... and as I said in my last blog - our newspapers daily bear eloquent commentary to these facts !

ENTER THE GOSPEL !

I quote selectively from the closing words of Arnold Dallimore's first chapter , and here's the Word of hope for us :

"But how was this torrent of impiety to be stopped ? ... The successive failures of the several attempts to better conditions simply proved that the nation's trouble lay basically with the individual human heart, and that the ' torrent of impiety ' would flow until some power was found that could stanch it at its source ...
England was startled by the sound of a voice . It was the voice of a preacher , George Whitfield , a clergyman but twenty -two years old , who was declaring the gospel in the pulpits of London with such fervour and power, that no church could hold the multitudes that flocked to hear . His voice continued to be heard, and then was joined by the voices of John and Charles Wesley and of many others, in a tremndous chorus of praise and preaching that rang throughout the land and was sustained in strength for more than half a century. The effect has been described in these words :

A religious revival burst forth... which changed in a few years the whole temper of English society . The church was restored to life and activity . Religion carried to the hearts of the people a fresh spirit of moral zeal , while it purified our literature and our manners. A new philanthropy reformed our prisons , infused clemency and wisdom into our penal laws , abolished the slave trade , and gave the first impulse to popular education."
God had mercy on 18th century England ! Did you read that ? ... " in a few years the whole temper of English society was changed ..."
The effects of the revival upon the English nation were marvellous indeed !


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