Theological Moral Decline – the rotten fruit of the terrible departure from the truth and practical godliness which has taken place.
One has only to read the writings of Charles Spurgeon — perhaps God’s most valuable gift unto His people since the days of the Puritans — from 1880 to 1890, to discover the terrible departure from the truth and practical godliness which had taken place even then. Plainly and pointedly did that faithful minister denounce the “Downgrade Movement” in the churches, and when the leaders refused to right things, Spurgeon withdrew his “tabernacle” from the “Baptist Union.”
During 1890 to 1910, which falls within the memory of this writer, the decline accelerated rapidly: there was scarcely a theological seminary in Germany, Britain or the United States, which was not a hotbed of heresy. Ministers vied with each other in preaching “higher criticism,” the “evolutionary hypothesis” and the so-called “new theology,” and only here and there was a feeble voice raised in outcry.
In thousands of instances, “churches” became little better than social clubs and places of entertainment. Well do we remember, some forty-odd years ago, the innovation and popularization of the “Pleasant Sunday afternoon” services, when worldly vocalists and instrumentalists tickled the ears of the audiences with semi-sacred and then downright secular items of music. And the so-called “Christian Brotherhoods” to whom the pastor gave a talk on “Christian Socialism” — or the local member of parliament was invited to air his political views before them. And the multiplication of “bazaars” opened by the “mayoress,” “socials,” “fund drives,” charades and plays to attract and “hold the young people.”
Even the pretense of requiring creditable evidence of regeneration before one was received into church-fellowship was dropped, and the maintenance of Scripture discipline ceased.
Such was the awful sowing — now we are reaping the horrible harvest. How could it be otherwise, then, that the Holy Spirit should be grieved and quenched by such a travesty — conducted in the name of Christ!
Today all who have eyes to see cannot fail to perceive that “Ichabod” has once more been written over a degenerate Christendom, though only those with honest hearts will acknowledge it. The glory of God — the token and evidence of His presence — has “departed.” The Spirit of God has withdrawn His unction and blessing, and their House is left unto them “desolate.”
The temple remained standing in Jerusalem for forty years after Christ pronounced the awful sentence of Matthew 23:28 before Titus destroyed it in AD 70. The priesthood continued to function and its services were perpetuated — but God no longer owned it.
Thus it is with Christendom — the body still exists, but it is lifeless. The “form of godliness” has not yet entirely disappeared, but its power has. Even the smaller groups who came out from the apostate mass, though some of them have preserved “the landmarks of the fathers,” yet they are so pharisaical that the Spirit of God is quenched there too.
Pride is as hateful to God as worldliness and false doctrine, and those who boast “we are the temple of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:4), “the Testimony of God is with us,” “all others have departed from the Truth except our party”; are too lacking in spiritual discernment to perceive their own sad condition. Lookers-on generally see most!
Theological Moral Decline
The “march of progress” from 1920 onwards, was, if measured by the standards of righteousness and decency, steadily downwards and not upwards. During the fifteen years that followed, “Civilized Britain” became more and more a “Paganised Britain.” That which our fathers had so carefully erected — their children took pleasure in tearing down. Everything which had ennobled the “Victorian” era — was sneered at and jettisoned.
Those with the least sense of decency were determined to drag down into the gutter, the whole of the rising generation. An orgy of licentiousness was widely entered into. Night-clubs were multiplied, gambling spread like wild fire among the young people, and cocktail parties abounded on every side. The beaches lowered their bathing restrictions and modesty became a thing of the past. Youth was allowed to have its fling unrestrained. The sanctity of the Sabbath totally disappeared — the Lord’s day being devoted to pleasuring and carousing.
The novels and magazines of the last decade have been filled with obscenities and blasphemies. A friend of ours engaged in the publishing business years ago recently wrote us, “Today we have shops stacked with books which, had they been published when we were boys the authors and publishers would have been put in jail!” Censorship has long since been reduced to a farce. The great majority of the children never entered either a “Sunday school” or “church” in the years between 1920-1938 and their ideas were formed by the pictures they saw at the “movies” and the debasing productions of a degenerate press.
As a recent writer of “the Evangelical Christian” said, “The best sellers of today are more often than not books whose morals are of the barnyard, whose language is of the sewer, and whose ethics are of the pit. The ghastly thing is that you will find such novels prominently displayed and often commended by large Church publishing houses.”
The breakdown and breakup of “Civilization” appears in such things as the decay of the sanctity of marriage — as evidenced by the multiplication of divorces, the abandonment of such numbers of babies, the fearful increase of bigamy; juvenile delinquency and of immorality and disease among the young, the vandalism which is now so rife, such widespread pilfering, the appalling amount of absenteeism in all sections of labor, and the lazy efforts of the authorities to deal with such evils. Thousands of culprits who ought to be sent to prison are given nominal fines. Law and order almost reduced to almost a farce!
No matter in which direction we turn, it is the ugly and the vulgar which is preferred to the beautiful and refined. What a commentary on our so-called “progress.” Someone has said, “The popular taste is a good index to the health of society.” Apply that dictum to our own times, and it will quickly appear how the moral health of society has declined.
Arthur W Pink writing on the serious matter of Theological Moral Decline (1943).