Some people believe that American society is more wicked and corrupt than it has ever been. Should we be looking for hopeful signs in the culture, or just in the church?
Not having lived in past eras, I prefer to be cautious in my judgment of earlier generations. However, it is my impression that people of the past were just as sinful as they are today. I suppose some of the judgments of the present are traceable to the sins of our forefathers as well as to ourselves (Acts 7:51-53).
But there seem to be fewer restraints these days. The church has less influence on the culture, and this is due in part to the rise of unbelief and compromise with the world (Acts 2:24).
Are there signs of hope? We should remember what God has done in the past. In the days of the First and Second Great Awakenings society had become thoroughly rotten. At other points the Lord brought lesser revivals, but ones that still brought blessing to the land. These movements began in the churches or through church members, not in segments of society bent on reforming the culture. Such works of God should give us hope today. God has not changed (Ps. 85:6).
Awakening usually begins in the church (2 Chron. 7:14, Rev. 2:12-17). Peter says that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), and it stands to reason that blessing will begin there as well. If the church catches fire, the world will come to see it burn (Acts 13:44). So I would look for hope first in the church.
The Reformers spoke of "the three uses of the Law of God": to keep society in check, to drive sinners to Christ, and to guide Christians in holy living. When an awakened church preaches the whole counsel of God, that first use of the Law will come into play, and society and its culture will accept restraint. When the true Gospel is proclaimed, the second use will make people afraid of judgment and appreciative of the Cross, by which many will radically change (2 Cor. 5:17). Converts to Christ will live in holiness and so transform society (Col. 3:8-10).
But beware of "moral" societies that adopt some parts of Christian living but do not consist mainly of regenerate, believing men and women. They may prosper for a time, but without personal faith in Christ alone and lacking the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, society is doomed (Matt. 13:3-9). Therefore, look for vibrant churches through whom God is converting the lost.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.