May 10, 2013

Pursuing Nubia: An Analogy of Cultural Extinction

Can a Christian culture become extinct? Yes.  Can your culture become extinct, Christian or otherwise?  Yes.  It has happened before, and throughout history is not uncommon.  This is set to occur in some Western countries in the next few decades.  This isn’t a reference to the ghost town scenario where entire populations disappear, but where either: a.) one ethnic group is displaced by another, or b.) where a worldview shift occurs that is so dramatic, that though the ethnicity remains the same, the replacement culture is not recognizable.

The primary difficulties with evaluating this sort of thing are: 1.) accessing and evaluating the data, i.e. getting the data right and correctly interpreting it—factors leading to the demise of a culture typically develop slowly, often over decades or more; 2.) there is a huge psychological barrier—those who take part in revolutions always think the new principles are superior to the old; 3) there is a spiritual barrier—people have a spiritual bent which dramatically complicates the above two factors (Rom. 1:18-32)—they are both blind and hostile to the truth (except where God gives grace for clear understanding). 

In a relatively slow, non-militaristic style revolution, the vanguard group is broad and moves like a wave rather than like the lighting of a militaristic revolution.  Europe is experiencing a slower revolution primarily of the “a” type above.  America is experiencing a revolution primarily of the “b” type, but which exploits factors of the “a” type for its goals.

Most often it is difficult to show individuals within the shifting culture that this is happening (until it is too late) much less to warn them of the dangers.   America is in the midst of a violent conflict of ideas, a revolution in thought, an exchange of worldviews.  Despite what we hear from many, there are many serious negative aspects to this revolution with forthcoming disastrous consequences.  To make the point: when was the last occurrence of a revolution that went really well and resulted in really good things for everybody?  Conversely, how many revolutions have gone wrong?  The Judeo-Christian American culture is on the cusp of extinction.  But this is not the first time such a thing has happened.  Consider the following analogy of one example of a cultural extinction:

 “During the early centuries of the Christian era, Nubia, which lies between Egypt on the north and Ethiopian on the South, comprised three independent kingdoms.  When Christianity first reached the Nubian people is not known, but the vast stretches south of Egypt would have given shelter to more than one Christian driven from Egypt by the persecutions ordered by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 303.  The first formally designated missionaries arrived in Nubia about the middle of the sixth century.  Over the centuries, the number of congregations in Nubia multiplied and were counted, we are told by the hundred.  For about five centuries, Christianity flourished, providing the chief cohesive element in Nubian society.  By the close of the fourteenth century, however, having been cut off from the rest of the Christian world by Arab invaders pressing southward from Muslin Egypt, the weakened Nubian Church was ready to expire.  The growing power of Arabs hemmed in the Nubian Christians on the north, east, and west and, finally the whole population embraced Islam” (The Text of the New Testament, Metzger and Ehrman, p. 123).

I’m familiar with Nubia primarily because it plays a role in Ancient Near Eastern history, but even more, it is relevant, somewhat, to the study of ancient Bible versions—Old Nubian is the oldest recorded language of Africa, and about a hundred or so ancient Christian documents were discovered in the 20th century written in Old Nubian, including Old Nubian biblical texts.  In spite of the 5 centuries of vibrant Christianity in the region, all that’s left of Nubia’s great Christian culture are a few ancient documents.

On the current trajectory, to use the analogy of cultural extinction, America’s Christian culture is a dinosaur that is soon to become extinct and fossilized.  At some point in the distant future, cultural paleontologists will unearth it, reassemble her bones, study her, and place her in a museum only to marvel over how great she once was. 

The above is set to occur sooner rather than later, unless, however, we address complicating factor #3 from above.  We must deal with the issue of spiritual barriers.  The only effective tool we have to reverse this trend is the Gospel.  The goal, however, is not merely to save a culture, but to save souls. We must do this.  In fact, the only thing the church can do better on Earth than in Heaven is to make disciples.  This is the one reason we are here. 

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