Home | Downloads | About CWI | Donate | Site Map | Contact
Covenant Worldview Institute Home



Trinity and Covenant

The Christian Worldview

by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

Chapter Four

A Covenantal Tour

Applying the Covenant to Our Day

The English word "worldview" is used by Christian teachers and philosophers to refer to one's beliefs about ultimate issues. It is seldom, if ever, used to mean one's views of the actual world of politics and international relations. But if ultimate metaphysical questions have any meaning at all, they must impinge on real live history. We cannot avoid questions like, How do Christians view the present state of Western culture? What is the present condition of the Church militant and how will she influence the history of the world in the near and far future? We have to ask these questions in our day because it is becoming apparent even to non-Christian scholars that our Christianity is of profound historical importance. In marked contrast to what was widely believed in the recent past, no competent scholar today believes that Christianity is going to fade away in the light of the progress of scientific knowledge.

End of History or Beginning of a New Order?

In the summer of 1989 Francis Fukuyama published an article in the National Interest that he expanded into his well-known book, The End of History and the Last Man.[1] Applying a Hegelian view of history to the post-communist world, Fukuyama concluded that history was over because all of the important questions had been answered. According to Fukuyama, it should now be clear to the entire human race that Western values, Western liberal democracy, and Western capitalism were the expression of a universal concept of the ideal society. Hegel's assertion that "Europe is absolutely the end of history" seemed to be fulfilled.

Fukuyama's view has now been challenged by Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington,[2] the founder and co-editor of Foreign Policy and president of the American Political Science Association. Huntington's new book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is the expanded form of an article that appeared in the summer of 1993 as an article in Foreign Affairs, "The Clash of Civilizations?" According to the editors of that magazine, Huntington's article stimulated more discussion than any article published since the 1940's.[3]

The differences between Fukuyama and Huntington are profound. Fukuyama's thesis was that the world is moving toward a single idea -- liberal democracy. As Huntington described that view: "The disintegration of the Soviet Union removed the only serious challenger to the West and as a result the world is and will be shaped by the goals, priorities, and interests of the principal Western nations . . ."[4] Fukuyama did not see religious differences as central to the future development of culture. Nor did he consider the paradoxes of liberal democracy, either in the relatively simple cultural situation of the West, nor, more importantly, in the multicultural situation of the rest of the world.

But, if it is true, as Paul Johnson asserts, that even in North America liberal democracy is "to some extent a contradiction in terms," how much more is the idea of liberal democracy problematic when applied, for example, to the Muslim world, Africa, and Asia? Now that a few years have lapsed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the initial optimism has faded, the contradictions of democracy are emphasized by the West's seeming inability to export its vision of Utopia. What happens is explained by Huntington in these terms: " . . . adoption by non-Western societies of Western democratic institutions encourages and gives access to power to nativist and anti-Western political movements."[5] In the Muslim world this paradox was most ironically manifested in the Gulf War. Supposedly the West was working in collaboration with Muslim countries -- including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and others -- to save Muslim Kuwait from the secular tyrant Saddam Hussein. However, in the eyes of the Muslim world Saddam Hussein was fighting against the evil West and was therefore acclaimed "a Muslim hero."[6] Furthermore, the "support for Saddam Hussein was most 'fervent and widespread' in those Arab countries where politics was more open and freedom of expression less restricted." The spread of "liberal democracy" did not bring world unity in this case; rather, it exacerbated intercultural tension because democracy placed greater freedom of expression into the hands of people who would use that power to promote Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Westernism. When there is less democracy, it is not uncommon for the people to be controlled by leaders who tend to be more moderate, whereas democracy unleashes the popular antipathy to the West. In other words, more than anti-democratic opposition, it is the spread of democracy that may lead to its rapid demise.

Fukuyama's thesis did not take into account the deeper religious and cultural factors that divide men. Thus, in the end, the expression Paul Johnson uses of Hegel, Fukuyama's philosophical guide, perhaps applies equally well to Fukuyama's thesis: "clever and influential nonsense."[7]

By comparison, Huntington's views are far more realistic. With Fukuyama, Huntington sees the demise of communism and the end of the Cold War as an important historical divide. During most of the twentieth century, conflict between various Western ideologies occupied the historical stage. Fascism (national socialism), communism (international socialism), and liberal democracy fought a battle of the Superpowers while third world nations looked on, sometimes aligning themselves with one or the other of the contending powers, sometimes maintaining neutrality. Since World War II, the global politics of the Cold War "became bipolar and the world was divided into three camps," the United States and its allies, the Soviet Union and its satellites, and nations that remained on the sidelines of the conflict. When the era of the Superpowers ended with the collapse of communism, however, history returned to business as usual, "intercivilizational clash of culture and religion." For human history is the "the history of civilizations."

"Civilization" is the basic cultural unit, grounded in blood, language, way of life and, above all, religion.[8] In our day, Huntington sees the world divided into eight civilizations: Western, Russian Orthodox, Muslim, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, Latin American, and African (with hesitation). Except for Islam, the more important civilizations each have a "core state" which represents and defends their values. What is new about our age is that more than any previous age, the different civilizations come into inevitable contact. And increased contact means unavoidable conflict.

Of the eight civilizations identified by Huntington, three especially are potential centers of trouble -- the West, Islam, and China. The West may be a source of international trouble if, unaware that global politics has radically changed, it attempts to continue to dominate world politics and economics. China and other East Asian countries are a potential source of trouble because their rapid economic development unsettles the global balance of power. Islam contributes to international tension through its demographic expansion, especially the predominance of young men in their violent years.

Westernization (or rather, modernization, which Huntington carefully distinguishes from Westernization) has made a major contribution to global unrest insofar as the introduction of Western technology undermines the traditional village culture of a society. "Industrialization, urbanization, increasing levels of literacy, education, wealth, and social mobilization" are just some of the products of the expansion of scientific knowledge. The shift from a traditional to a modern society is comparable only to the shift from primitive to civilized society.[9] The resulting social trauma leads to a new search for identity, which is being found in a revival of local religions, even if they have sometimes taken new forms to accommodate modernity. Also, religious revivals throughout the world are a reaction against the "secularism, moral relativism, and self indulgence" that have accompanied modernization and are seen to be part of the West.[10]

Huntington demonstrates the application of his thesis to global politics in some detail, discussing each of the core states of the various civilizations and explaining various conflicts in the world today in the terms of his thesis. To take just one example, according to Huntington, the conflict in Bosnia is best seen as a cultural conflict between the Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosnians, and Catholic Croates -- three groups which maintained peaceful relations when dominated by the communists, but which have now returned to civilizational roots that provoke inter-cultural hostility. In the Yugoslavic past, the peoples of the region were not deeply religious. "Muslims, it was said, were Bosnians who did not go to the mosque, Croates were Bosnians who did not go to the cathedral, and Serbs were Bosnians who did not go to the Orthodox church. Once the broader Yugoslav identity collapsed, however, these casual religious identities assumed a new relevance, and once fighting began they intensified. Multiculturalism evaporated and each group increasingly identified itself with its broader cultural community and defined itself in religious terms."[11]

For the future, according to Huntington, world peace can only be preserved if the West abandons its attempt to universally apply its moral standards to other civilizations. "In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous."[12] The re-appearance of non-Western cultures as serious players in the game of global politics proves that Western culture is not universal, so the idea is clearly false. To bring about the universality of Western values in a world that resists them so vigorously would require an application of force that can only be called immoral. And, thus, the Western belief in the universality of Western culture is a dangerous idea that must be quickly disposed of.

The West itself is in danger of not being able to maintain its own coherence as a civilization unless it renews its commitment to its own cultural values and rejects the multiculturalism that is fashionable in our day. Multiculturalists, rather than attempting to convert the United States into another civilization, wish "to create a country of many civilizations, which is to say, a country not belonging to any civilization and lacking a cultural core. History shows that no country so constituted can long endure as a coherent society. A multicivilizational United States will not be the United States; it will be the United Nations."[13]

Huntington believes that by reconfirming its own commitment to traditional core values while at the same time not imposing them on others, the West, led by the United States, can help preserve world peace. Leaders in the various civilizations must find those values on which they are in basic agreement and build their relationships on them rather than trying to build on Western values. "In the emerging era, clashes of civilization are the greatest threat to world peace, and an international order based on civilization is the surest safeguard against world war."[14]

Covenantal Analysis

A Christian view of the present world must concur with Huntington's emphasis on the importance of civilization, for, as Huntington says, "Civilizations are the ultimate human tribes, and the clash of civilizations is tribal conflict on a global scale."[15] In other words, Huntington's book is about the curse of the tower of Babel, which Christians acknowledge to be an inescapable issue in world history and contemporary politics.

Babel was the first attempt at creating a universal civilization based upon the rejection of the God of the Bible. God's response was to confuse men's language, leading to their separation from one another. In time this brought about the physical differentiation of races, increased linguistic differentiation, and cultural differentiation. Most important of all, the groups that departed from Babel to become the tribes of the world varied from one another in religious confession.

The change in language at Babel was thus associated with divergences in blood, customs, and religion. It was God Himself who imposed this judgment on man so that there could never be a single world-kingdom united in rebellion against God. The judgment at Babel amounts to a divine imposition on man of the logical consequences of his sinful rebellion against the One True God, outside of whom unity and harmony are not possible.

Insofar, then, as Huntington's view of the world recognizes the importance of religion in world affairs and the fact that unity among men cannot be achieved by a merely political program, it represents an advance over the narrowly political interpretation of nations that dominates most discussions of the present world. Thus, "Religion is a central defining characteristic of civilizations, and, as Christopher Dawson said, 'the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest.'"[16]

We must also agree with Huntington that modernization has undermined much of the traditional way of life which results in an identity crisis. According to Huntington, this has led to a greater emphasis on cultural differences: "In coping with identity crisis, what counts for people are blood, and belief, faith and family. People rally to those with similar ancestry, religion, language, values, and institutions and distance themselves from those with different ones."[17] Politics, in Huntington's view, is following culture: "Spurred by modernization, global politics is being reconfigured along cultural lines. Peoples and countries with similar cultures are coming together. People and countries with different cultures are coming apart."[18]

No doubt a time of change is a time of tension. Huntington is probably correct when he suggests that there is a greater possibility of war between nations representing different civilizations, for the potential for misunderstanding among peoples with different worldviews is no doubt greater. Also, the greater incompatibility of their customs and laws means there are more areas of possible misunderstanding and conflict, and the disruptions caused by economic and demographic changes push these differences to the foreground of international relations. But none of this is fundamentally new. These are simply the inescapable realities of the post-Babel world.[19]

It is ironic, however, that, at the very time he emphasizes the importance of religion, a scholar of Huntington's ability should betray such fundamental misunderstanding of the religious foundations of his own culture. For there can be no doubt that Christians believe that just as there is One and only One God, there can be one and only one definition of right and wrong. Belief in the transcendent God of the Bible includes belief in the transcendent ethic of the Bible. Moreover, every branch of every form of Christianity believes that Jesus has commanded His Church to teach that ethic to all of the world. All Christians agree on the vision of a universal civilization, even though Christians do not all agree on the question of whether or not it will be achieved in history.[20]

It must be granted that the Christian belief in One God and one ethic and in the Christian hope of the kingdom of God does not mean that Christians should persuade the governments of Western nations to attempt to impose Christian ethics on non-Christian nations. Most Christians would agree that it is not the business of Western States to force Christian ideas on non-Christian nations. But if Western nations themselves followed the Christian ethic, these Christian beliefs might indeed be a source of at least some tension, especially in relating to Hindu, Sinic, and Islamic nations. Now, however, the problem is very different.

Which brings us to another irony: for all of the important distinctions Huntington makes in his book, like the distinction between Westernization and modernization, he fails to note the important distinction between the rejection of modern Western values and Christian values. It may well be true that the Chinese and Muslims would reject Christian values, but at this point what is more often referred to in discussions of values are the West's modern anti-Christian values.

Huntington comes close to recognizing the issue when he refers to a distinction between "modernity" and "modernism":

The movements for religious revival are anti-secular, antiuniversal, and, except in their Christian manifestations, anti-Western. They also are opposed to the relativism, egotism, and consumerism associated with what Bruce B. Lawrence has termed "modernism" as distinct from "modernity."[21]

What is important to note is that non-Western nations do not reject the science, industrialization, urbanization, development, or technology of the West. They do not even altogether reject capitalism. What they clearly reject is the morals of the modern West which they regard as degenerate. When the non-Western world looks at modern America through the media, including especially TV, movies, rock and roll music, and the daily news, what do they see but moral relativism, secularism, sexual immorality, crime, violence, selfishness justified as individualism, decline in education, etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum? If Hollywood movies and New York crime define the West, who can blame non-Western nations for being anti-Western?

On the other hand, when have the people of non-Western nations protested against Western ideas of political or economic freedom? The demonstration at Tiananmen Square does not reveal a rejection of Western ideas of human rights on the part of Asian people. What Tiananmen and many other events perhaps do reveal is fear on the part of non-Western political leaders that the introduction of Western freedom may undermine their power. It does not seem unlikely that much of the public profession of religion on the part of non-Western leaders has more to do with politics than faith.

At any rate, Huntington has not demonstrated that non-Western nations reject the traditional ethical norms of the West so much as he has shown that the leaders of non-Western nations fear Western ideas relating to political freedom, and that religious leaders and intellectuals in non-Western nations are deeply critical of the "new" values of those in the West who oppose Christian ethical teaching.

Another point of agreement with Huntington is his observation that Western culture faces an internal crisis. Within the West there is a cultural conflict much more intense than that which is supposedly being waged between the West and non-Western civilization. Non-Christian and anti-Christian movements led by feminists, homosexuals, pro-abortion activists, and educators committed to multiculturalism clearly reject traditional Christian and Western ethics with a passion seldom seen in non-Western nations, except possibly among the Muslims. Huntington acknowledges the deep cultural schizophrenia of our age in these words:

The clash between the multiculturalists and the defenders of Western civilization and the American Creed is, in James Kurth's phrase, "the real clash" within the American segment of the Western civilization. Americans cannot avoid the issue: Are we a Western people or are we something else? The futures of the United States and of the West depend upon Americans reaffirming their commitment to Western civilization.[22]

But when he discusses the core Western values, he does not seem to remember that the West was founded first and foremost upon the religion of the Bible so that the root beliefs of Western civilization depend far more upon Christian doctrine than on ideas such as liberal democracy, capitalism, or individualism, the last being of recent and questionable origin.[23] We may be faced with the irony that traditional Western values face far more opposition at home than they do abroad.

Huntington's knowledge of history is displayed impressively in many discussions of non-Western cultures throughout the book, but the importance of Christianity for Western culture is not adequately treated. The importance of covenant theology for Western political philosophy, the relationship between capitalism and Christianity, and the growth of science and education in Christian cultures are all fundamental issues that Huntington neglects to even mention. In other words, while Huntington emphasizes the importance of religion in non-Western culture, he does not give Christianity the place it deserves either in the formation or the definition of Western culture.

One of the important facts of Western history neglected by Huntington is the cultural and political meaning of private property. Richard Pipes complains that Huntington leaves out "what is most decisive in the rise of the West to world hegemony: namely private property with its corollaries, political freedom and economic growth. It is these that make Western civilization unique. Any country that wishes to attain prosperity and power in the modern world has no choice but to emulate these Western ways with all their attendant consequences."[24]

As Pipes further points out, private property depends upon a political and judicial system that upholds it. Trade is dependent upon a law system that protects property, and prosperity is dependent upon trade. In the West, this judicial system gradually evolved. In that process, the influence of Christian ideas of God and man were significant. In that sense, if the non-Western world should adopt the Western idea of private property, which is essential to achieving prosperity, they might be importing more than they initially realize. Be that as it may, the whole subject is left out of Huntington's discussion.

One other fundamental problem, from a Christian perspective, is that Huntington assumes that civilizations are virtually unchangeable entities. He does not seem to think that the importation of certain Western ideas is going to have intellectual or behavioral consequences for the non-Western societies that adopt them. He does not take into account that there is world-wide "competition" in the religious sphere that may be very significant for the future.

In the end, then, Huntington's analysis of the current situation is accurate in so far as he recognizes the problem of "tribalism" -- the result of God's judgment on the nations at the tower of Babel -- but superficial and inadequate in so far as he leaves out the universal meaning of Christianity, the Christian essence of Western history, and the real meaning of Christian ethics. He sees the meaning of Babel, but not of the cross of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, or the spread of Christianity in Western history.

Covenantal Perspective

A Christian evaluation of the present day must begin with the words and work of Christ as its foundation, for something has happened since Babel to render it inadequate as the basis for historical interpretation. As the cross defeated sin and Satan, and the resurrection was the beginning of new life, so the miracle of tongues at Pentecost was God's promise to the Church that in Christ, the judgment of Babel had been overcome. At Babel God judged man's attempt to create a false unity through a humanistic religion, but when Christ had died for sin and risen from the dead, He sent the Holy Spirit to create true unity: " Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:3-6).

After Babel, God chose Abraham and his seed to be a "tribe" of priests to minister to the rest of the world. Thus, in the old covenant, both within Israel and without, the tribal distinctions grounded in Babel continued to be important.[25] But it is one of the main themes of the Gospel as Paul preached it that the new covenant transcends tribalism through adoption into Abraham's tribe: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:28-29; cf. Gal. 5:6; Rms. 4:11-12; 1 Cr. 7:19; Eph. 2:11-22; Col. 3:11).

The Gospel, then, includes the promise of unity. Twelve men, the foundation for the new "tribe," are called to "disciple" the nations (Mt. 28:18-20). It is through this new race of men recreated in Christ that God will fulfill His historical purpose. Christ is the head, the Church is His body through which He works His perfect will.

From a Christian perspective then, the distinctions between cultures to which Huntington calls attention are not irrelevant but neither are they final. In so far as they reflect the judgment of Babel, they must be acknowledged as historically meaningful. But in so far as the Gospel creates a new race of men, we cannot end with Babel. We must look beyond Babel to another important issue.

Jesus taught us that there are two ways, the broad way which leads to destruction and the narrow way which leads to life. In the new covenant, this is the distinction among men that is most important. In the old covenant, the distinction of seventy nations (Gn. 10) and Israel's national priesthood were important, but now national entities are no longer central to God's program. It is not the intellectual traditions of men and nations, it is not their language, customs, or race that is the final issue. The whole race is divided into two groups on the basis of how they relate to the One True God.

This is most important for a Christian view of the present world. Whereas Huntington seems to regard civilization as a rather rigid category, Christians emphasize the power of the Gospel to change civilization. Although Europe never matured in the Gospel to the degree it should have, no one can doubt that not only was her civilization reformed by the Gospel, it was virtually created by the Gospel.[26] In the Christian view, the history of Europe centers in the Church, whereas in Huntington's description of the history of the West, Christianity is virtually left out of the picture.[27]

From the Christian perspective one of the most important trends in the world today is the growth of the Gospel in Asia. Huntington is not altogether unaware of this. He points out that by the 1980's at least 30% of South Korea's population had become Christian and that in China there are now perhaps 50 million Christians.[28] While he grants George Weigel's point that the "unsecularization of the world is one of the dominant social facts in the late twentieth century,"[29] he is pessimistic about Christianity's ability to make a real impact on China:

The Chinese have to date consistently defeated intense Western efforts to Christianize them. If, at some point, they do import Christianity, it is to be expected that it will be absorbed and adapted in such a manner as to be compatible with the central elements of Chinese culture.[30]

But when Huntington refers to "the value system of Confucianism," he mentions "thrift, family, work, and discipline," hardly values that can be used to distinguish Confucianism from Christianity, though perhaps they can be used to distinguish Christianity from the modern West. What Huntington demonstrates in his discussion of Chinese values and beliefs is that the Chinese follow a "common sense" sort of morality. The problem is that Confucianism provides no metaphysical system in which to ground morality. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that the Chinese government's enthusiastic persecution of Christians is motivated by a recognition and fear of the influence Chinese Christians are having. Over the next twenty to fifty years, the most important factor in Chinese history is going to be the success or failure of the Chinese Church.

The Christian witness to Islam, a subject entirely neglected by Huntington, but nevertheless significant, is entering a new era. Because Islamic nations forbid proselytizing, Christian evangelism in Muslim countries has always been difficult. Two, new factors promise change for the future. One, Muslims are coming to the West in great numbers, where they are confronted with Western freedom and prosperity [31] and can also be reached with the Gospel. Two new methods of communication, especially the Internet, mean that Muslim nations will find it ever more difficult to prevent their populations from hearing the Gospel.[32] It is important to emphasize that new means of communication have always meant the growth and spread of the Gospel, whether in the ancient world of Persia, Greece, and Rome, or in the world of the Reformation. It will not be different in our day.

The fact that we are entering an era in which the importance of religion has come to the fore is not bad news for Christians. What it really means is that the secular enemies of the Gospel have been defeated. The enlightenment philosophy and its children, especially communism and liberalism, have come to the end of themselves -- communism in a public political collapse, and the enlightenment in the subjectivism and relativism of postmodernism. The major non-Christian religions of the world today, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Confucianism, all represent weak religions that could not and did not produce freedom, science, or economic prosperity. If these religions and the civilizations they dominate cannot provide answers to the basic problems of modern life, how will they be able to resist the Gospel?

We live in a time in which Christians should be optimistic about the spread of the Gospel and the future of a global Christian civilization, even though the transformation will take time and no doubt cost much in the suffering of Christian people. What Christians need more than anything else is to avail themselves of the power of the Gospel as it is revealed in Scripture so that they can fight the cultural battle of the 21st century.

In particular this means understanding that the doctrine of the Trinity provides us with the basis of a worldview in which man, as God's image, not only may, but must be one and many. The Christian vision of a global civilization is not a vision of a uniform culture. God is not only One, He is also Many. There should be differences among various Christian nations, just as there should be differences among Christian individuals. The coming of the Spirit does not obliterate our individuality; it sanctifies, refines, and develops our individuality in a covenantal relationship with God and His Church. We become ourselves as we submit to God and love His people. What is true of individuals is also true of families and nations. The coming of the Gospel does not obliterate all group distinctions; it reforms them so that a global Christian civilization can reflect God's manifold glory. The result is unity in ethical righteousness and faith in God, diversity in cultural "personality" just as God is one Being, one in righteousness and one in His self-knowledge, but three in Personality.

Covenantal Christianity means influence by what Huntington, following Joseph Nye, calls "soft power," that is the ability to influence others through the appeal of culture and ideology.[33] Two distinctions must be made, however. First, Huntington and Nye discuss soft power as political power whereas the Christian church is not a political entity and is not primarily concerned with political power. Second, Huntington and Nye see soft power as based upon military and economic power: "Soft power is power only when it rests on a foundation of hard power."[34] This might be called the "Islamic" interpretation of soft power. For Christians, however, soft power -- the power of the preaching and holy living demonstrated by individual Christians and local churches -- is dependent on the "hard power" of God's Spirit, not man.

Even in our world today we see in operation the principle that Moses taught the Israelites of his day:

Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Dt. 4:5-8)

If Israel would keep the commandments of God, they would be blessed. That included agricultural, political, and economic success (Dt. 28:1-15). Jesus has made the same kind of promise to the Church. If we keep His commandments we will be blessed and bear fruit (Jn. 15:1-16). Since the Church is not a political entity, the form of the blessing bestowed is different. To borrow Huntington's language, Israel was blessed with both hard, political power and soft power, the Church with soft power, the power to influence others through her words and example, backed up by the hard power of God Himself.

Today, even in the world of nuclear war, soft power is still real power, as Huntington explains:

In the early 1990's Asian triumphalism was articulated anew in what can only be described as the "Singaporean cultural offensive." From Lee Kuan Yew on down, Singaporean leaders trumpeted the rise of Asia in relation to the West and contrasted the virtues of Asian, basically Confucian, culture responsible for this success -- order, discipline, family responsibility, hard work, collectivism, abstemiousness -- to the self-indulgence, sloth, individualism, crime, inferior education, disrespect for authority, and "mental ossification" responsible for the decline of the West.[35]

Singapore is certainly not a "hard power" nation. That it can be respected and exercise influence in the modern world demonstrates the importance of soft power. Success in business and in broader cultural issues draws the attention of others who come to learn and be influenced. But if Singapore, with far fewer people than the 50 million Christians of the Chinese Church, can attract attention through its soft power, so can Asian Christians who preach the Gospel and show its power by their holy living.

Finally, whether or not the West is culturally finished depends upon whether or not it experiences a true reformation of its Christianity -- Huntington wishes to see the West return to its traditions, but he does not see, or at least does not admit, the need for a reformation. But the Church is not identified with the West, nor is it confined to any nation or culture. Perhaps it will be the Church in the East that becomes the world leader of Christian culture and evangelization. Whether Christians in the East or West, or both together, it will be obedience to the covenantal Word of God that brings blessings so obvious that even the non-Christian world will not be able to deny them.


The early Church faced prolonged and intense opposition from the greatest empire of the ancient world and defeated Rome through her patient persistent faith. A new age of religions and perhaps also of religious persecution may mean years of trial, but it does not imply defeat nor does it suggest that Western Christians should become less aggressive in spreading their worldview. The enemies of the Church today are civilizations and religions that cannot handle the problems of the modern world. The fragmentation of knowledge and society seen in the West is the result of the rejection of Christianity. As the other civilizations become more modernized, they will face problems similar to those that have confronted the West and apart from the Gospel, they will experience the same cultural fragmentation.

When Constantine finally decided to discontinue the fruitless persecution of the Church, it was partially because he recognized that Christians were the only group in the Roman Empire capable of providing a basis for social order:

Christianity appeared to him, as it proved in fact, the only efficient power for a political reformation of the empire, from which the ancient spirit of Rome was fast departing, while internal, civil, and religious dissensions and the outward pressure of the barbarians threatened a gradual dissolution of society.[36]

When Christians obey the commandments of Christ, they bear fruit. The growth of their numbers is unstoppable, the growth of their influence is inescapable. In our day the powerful counterfeit gospels have been defeated and are in their dying throes. This is the time for Christians to renew their commitment to the Triune God of the Bible and His covenantal Word with full confidence in Christ's words:

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (Jn. 15:16)


1. Richard Pipes, "The West and the Rest" Commentary, March, 1997 (New York, American Jewish Committee), p. 62. This entire paragraph is indebted to Pipes.

2. Huntington's book does not present itself specifically as a reply to Fukuyama's thesis, but Richard Pipes is certainly correct when he writes that "Samuel P. Huntington's book is a response to Fukuyama." Huntington refers, for example, to the idea that "the collapse of Soviet communism meant the end of history and the universal victory of liberal democracy throughout the world." See, Pipes: "The West and the Rest" p. 62; and Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), p. 66.

3. Information in this paragraph is found on the cover of Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

4. Ibid., p. 81.

5. Ibid., p. 94.

6. Ibid., p. 248.

7. My entire section on Fukuyama is based upon secondary sources, especially Paul Johnson's book review, which was so devastating that I did not bother to read the book. Paul Johnson, "To the 21st Century," Commentary, March, 1992.

8. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 42.

9. Ibid., p. 68.

10. Ibid., p. 97 ff.

11. Ibid., p. 269.

12. Ibid., p. 310.

13. Ibid., p. 306.

14. Ibid., p. 321.

15. Ibid., p. 207.

16. Ibid., p. 47

17. Ibid., p. 126.

18. Ibid., p. 125.

19. I frankly doubt that communication between ancient civilizations was so infrequent as Huntington assumes (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 48 ff.). But the impact of modern forms of transportation and the speed of modern communication must be granted.

20. Huntington's discussion of the various meanings of "universal civilization" does not include the Christian meaning. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 56 ff.

21. Ibid., p. 100.

22. Ibid., p. 307.

23. See: Barry Alan Shain, The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994). Of this book, the well-known historian Forrest McDonald is quoted on the cover as saying, "This is a work of major significance. Shain has demonstrated that ordinary Americans during the Revolutionary epoch were impelled neither by acquisitive individualism nor by classical republicanism, as many have believed, but by communal, Christian, and rural values. The implications are profound."

24. Pipes, "The West and the Rest," p. 64.

25. It should be noted that in the ancient world, these tribal distinctions were not primarily a matter of blood, even though they were associated with the family, clan, and tribe. In Israel, for instance, from the time of the Egyptian captivity, many who were considered God's people were not literal physical descendents of Abraham. The most famous example is Caleb the Kenenzite, a member of one of the condemned tribes of Canaan (cf. Gn. 15:18-21; Nms. 32:12; Jsh. 14:6).

26. See: Christopher Dawson, The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1932, reprinted, 1945).

27. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 301 ff. Though he does refer to the importance of Christianity in many places, even calling it the "central component" of Western civilization (p. 305).

28. Ibid., p. 99. He also refers to the remarkable growth of Protestant groups in Latin America.

29. Ibid., p. 96.

30. Ibid., p. 76.

31. No doubt they will also be confronted first hand with Western corruption. But I wonder why so many Muslims come to the West, if they regard the West as so corrupt? If we compare the Western cultural situation to the Western cultural standards, the West is deplorable. We can agree with the Muslims that unless the West repents, it is finished. But is the West really more corrupt than the Muslim countries?

32. There are a growing number of Internet sites dealing with Islam and a growing number of Muslim sites devoted to defending Islam from these efforts at evangelization.

33. Ibid., p. 92.

34. Ibid., p. 92.

35. Ibid., p. 108.

36. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910, reprint, 1985), vol. 3, p. 14.

[ Trinity and Covenant | Introduction ]
[ Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Conclusion ]

 site design and maintenance
BERITH.ORG  —  Copyright © 1997 by Ralph Allan Smith.  All rights reserved.