At the Threshold of a New Millennium

The beginning of the century saw the dreams of Enlightenment science moves closer to reality than ever before. The intellectuals' conceit that God was no longer necessary gained popular acceptance, and the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's assertion that "God is dead" burst forth in this century like a clap of thunder. The first casualty of these revolutionary ideas was the doctrine of original sin. If we could dispense with God, we were told, we could dispense with the dour view that man is a sinner. This opened the door to utopian ideology, for if man is naturally good, then improving society could produce paradise. This will be remembered as the century of the Holocaust and other horrors because, with God pushed to the sidelines, men presumed that they, through their own cunning, could create heaven on earth, liberating mankind from all oppression. But as I explain in my book, How Now Shall We Live, utopianism always leads to the death of liberty and the imposition of tyranny. This was the central point in my address when I received the Templeton Prize in 1993. The idea of "the death of God" and false utopianism made this the bloodiest century in human history. Perhaps the best summary of the 20th century was offered by that great Soviet dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his own Templeton Address. Looking back on the century's horrors, he said he was reminded of that pithy Russian explanation offered whenever things go bad: "Men have forgotten God." But even though this was a century of undeniable horrors, holocausts, and genocide around the world, Western liberal democracy emerged triumphant over tyranny. What must be remembered, however, is that this Western model is made possible only by a Christian understanding of limited government. Calvin and the reformers argued that government is not supreme. Its task is one of facilitating other, also divinely ordained, structures of society-like the family. This is what Abraham Kuyper, the great Calvinist scholar of a century ago, called "sphere sovereignty." And the great Reformer, Samuel Rutherford, in his classic book Lex Rex, argued that the law alone is king. These doctrines profoundly affected the Founders of the American experiment, emboldening them to demand a republican form of government and the rule of law. And today this ideal is sought worldwide. Christianity thus made the greatest advances of the 20th century possible. The irony, then, is that the century began with intellectuals shoving God aside, making Him publicly irrelevant. Well, by no coincidence, this led to the Gulags, blood running red through the killing fields, and mass graves. Yet it is our Western liberal experiment, undergirded by Christian truth, that now offers the great hope as the century draws to a close. The lesson in all of this is that God cannot be mocked, His truth cannot be denied. For this reason, I am filled with hope as we enter the third millennium from the birth of Christ that people will soberly recognize this, the greatest lesson of the 20th century. And if the Church is faithful to be the Church, this can indeed be what so many have hoped and prayed for, a great "Springtime of Evangelization."


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary