In Europe, one often see churches closed up and turned into pubs as is this one. In many cities, churches have been made into Buddhist temples, centers for Scientology or some other thing like spiritualism and so forth. Shown here is what was once one of the main Lutheran churches in the center of Tonsberg. It is now a drinking establishment and filled to capacity on this bright Saturday afternoon. An overwhelming number of Norwegians are baptized and confirmed into the Lutheran state church but almost no one attends except as a matter of tradition at Christmas and Easter. It is reckoned that a vast number of clergymen are not believers in a god of any kind and hold atheistic views. For many priests, it is simply a job, like that of being social worker. “While men slept the enemy came in and sowed tares among the wheat… The blind leading the blind, they shall both stumble and fall into the ditch… Shall I find faith when I return? But first, there must come a great falling away, and then the end shall come.”
Yet, there is an occasional small ray of hope here and there. As we walked to our car, we saw a group of Christians publicly praying for the healing of two ladies they had come across. I went over to join them. Of course, it was all in Norwegian but I like this kind of boldness whenever or wherever it happens. “He that denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” It takes much more courage to stand up and be counted in anti-theistic societies than in Charlotte where we live. Most of western Europeans are not just atheists. They entirely oppose Christianity and might favor committing such people to institutions. They view all religious faith as irrational, perhaps dangerous, and a detriment to progress. I have students in my class who have parents that think their children have been brainwashed by a cult and are concerned that their children are wasting their lives. Imagine this kind of pressure? This is why we are here! We are doing our best to fan whatever small flicker of flame there is. If we do nothing more than motivate and encourage a few people on, we have done what we could. This is what you are doing when you help us. You are encouraging weary front- line troops.
Think of this. We Americans are rich with spiritual opportunity. We have become fat with mega-Church, worship, bookstores, conferences, television, radio (we have ten in our market alone) and so forth. In my class, I mentioned two popular books, “Mere Christianity” and “Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, and they have neither in their language. The students have never heard of Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone and have no books in their language that tells these missionary stories that most American Christian’s are somewhat familiar with. They have never heard of Ravi Zacharias or any other well-known Christian thinker. Yet, there is a glut of teaching (most of it spurious and theologically questionable) through satellite “Christian” television. What books they do have often border on heresy. They have few ways to know this.
Mark Twain (or Charles Spurgeon) was right when one of them apparently said, “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”