As Then, So Now? (2)

Edward M. Panosian

This article first appeared in Faith for the Family March/April, 1973. It is reproduced here by permission. This is Part Two • Part One here.

Part One compared and contrasted the world of the first century and the world of the sixteenth, demonstrating many similarities between the periods. It closed with these words:

These, then, are at least some of the similarities between the first and the sixteenth centuries, the days of the Incarnation and those of the Reformation. And what of today? How much of this description is relative to these present times?

Part Two:

There are many efforts today at international unity. “One world” has· become a frequent theme. However, it is one world not under the rule of God’s Christ, but under an imaginary brotherhood of man. Yet just under this veneer of unity lurks the growth of a totalitarian system which will emerge under a coming world dictator who, promising peace, order, and protection, will set himself up against God.

Concerning the effects of travel and communication today, we have an almost instant sense of world present-ness made possible by communication satellites transferring both sounds and sights. Some have suggested what being seen and heard universally and simultaneously may mean for a potential world ruler, The opportunity today to disseminate ideas and influence wills far exceeds that of either ancient Rome, with her universal language, urban character, and ease of travel, or of the Reformation and its movable-type printing.

The religious and the political realms seem to be more in accord than in discord today. Councils of churches, with few happy exceptions, parrot the programs of governments and the policies of natural men when these councils should reflect rather the principles of the Scriptures. Surely we should know that the effectiveness and power of the Church of Jesus Christ has always been greatest when that Church has been most opposed to and opposed by the systems of this world. When a supra-denominational church organization has power to determine where and whether any particular church may be built, it is not spiritual power being exercised.

Further, in reviewing the list of parallels in the comparisons above, there is today also no shortage of religions, denominations, organizations, sects, cults, and quasi-religious systems. Much religion, but little real life abounds. Religious corruption, immorality redefined as pious liberty is headlined. There are churches for homosexuals, ministers applauding abortion, worldly “rock” music in church services, and moral and dress standards adopted without regard to Biblical separation unto God and from sin. So it is not surprising that such shallow and hypocritical religion does not satisfy heart longings and produces disillusionment and outright reaction.

Another interesting phenomenon is the clear reminder from present experience that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen” (I Corinthians 1:26b-28a).

Once again it is from “humble soil” that the God of Heaven is pleased to work. What is being accomplished for Him today is being accomplished not by the mighty and the wise in the eyes of men, but by those with the authority of Heaven. Churches, educational institutions, and individuals outside the “mainstream” are the ones doing a job for God. It was so four hundred years ago; it was so nineteen hundred years ago; and it is so today.

Today’s faithful ones have been preceded by men who paved their way, just as in the prior ages considered here. The continuity of the faithful is a blessed lesson from the pages of spiritual history. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” The faithful few also, in pointing out error and unrighteousness in these times seem to be the troublers of the land; they bring not peace, but a sword, when they expose wickedness and contrast man’s ways with God’s words to man. So it has ever been.

Finally, our times enjoy cultural achievement, material benefits almost beyond calculation, progress 1n the sciences; at the same time that we suffer increased crime, narcotic addiction, rampant drunkenness, moral relativism, and decline of national spirit. Stated simply, In this generation we can put a man on the moon, but we cannot chain the beast in man’s breast. As in the Renaissance just preceding the Reformation, when learning and the arts flowered, so man is in another knowledge explosion, but also, as then, he is anchored with no sure standard for moral or ethical action. Once again man at his best approaches man at his worst.

The meaning of all this lies in what significance these parallels possess. The three eras have been similarly characterized. In the first, God’s visitation came in the fullness of the time, when God sent forth His Son, the Incarnate Word. In the Reformation, God’s visitation was by calling man back to His revealed written Word. In the third era, our own time, may it be that we are poised once again for God’s visitation?

The following biographical sketch appeared in the original publication of this article in the March/April 1973 issue of Faith for the Family.

Dr. Edward M. Panosian is professor of Church History at Bob Jones University, A native of Elmira, N. Y., and an avid student of church history, Dr. Panosian has also had considerable acting experience in Shakespearean productions presented by the Bob Jones University Classic Players, and appears in a major role in the Unusual Films motion picture Flame In The Wind. He holds a bachelor of arts, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees from Bob Jones University.

Dr. Panosian is now retired from his teaching duties.