Our Father’s World
“Worldly-mindedness, infidelity, and dissipation threatened to deluge the land, and sweep away all vestiges of piety and morality.”
Sound familiar? This is the way many of us see the world today. Things are so bad that they cannot get worse. Our country—in fact the whole world—is going downhill so rapidly it’s like a runaway freight train. Oh, if we could only go back to the “good old days,” of _____(fill in the blank), when people were_____(fill in the blank), we would be so much better off. Maybe God should just send another flood (or some other means of destruction), wipe out all the immorality, infidelity, impiety and worldly-mindedness and just start over—leaving us, of course, and all people who think and believe like us.
Actually, the quote comes from Robert Davidson, a nineteenth-century historian writing about the State of Kentucky in 1800. Not more than four or five percent of the state’s population claimed to be members of any church, say Lester G. McAllister and William E. Tucker in their book Journey in Faith. Davidson also said, “The population of the State advanced with incredible rapidity, and soon outstripped the means of grace.” Does that sound familiar?
That’s a scathing criticism, but it’s something we need to be reminded of. The world has always had problems. Yes, it was created perfect by God. We only have to read the first chapter of Genesis to know that. God created the world good—God said so! After each act of creation was completed, “God saw that it was good.” Our ancestors were handed a perfect world.
We know the answer. Sin entered the world and caused the brokenness we see all around us. We’re all imperfect. As a result, all our institutions are imperfect (yes, even the church!). But if we want to return to some more perfect past, we have to go all the way back to the beginning. On the whole, we’ve never been better or worse off than we are today.
There have always been people who have felt the world pressing in upon them and who seek to escape. In the early days of the church there were the desert fathers (and mothers) who opted out of society in order to experience God more fully. Today there are still men and women who seek release from the world in monastic enclaves. We should be grateful to these people, because they have given us some of the world’s greatest thoughts on God’s relationship to humankind. Most of us are not called to that life. We are called instead to live in this imperfect world and to strive to make it better.
Above all, we must remember that, while the battle seems to be against us, it is far from over. While things have always been bad, and Christians have always been in the minority, we know the outcome. We know, even if we cannot prove it day by day, that this is still God’s world, and God will not let it destroy itself. As Maltbie D. Babcock said so well:
This is my Father’s world:
Oh let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.