The Wounded Beast Shall Rise
From time to time, Protestants have been tempted to think that the Roman communion has been dealt a fatal blow. History, however, tells us that though she has been wounded from time to time, she always returns. However vigorous the Reformed churches may be in some parts of the world (e.g., Brazil, South Korea, and Nigeria) the confessional Presbyterian and Reformed churches in North America (NAPARC) are tiny compared to the Roman communion.
At the moment, the Roman churches seem to be flourishing and there is little reason to think that will change. Buoyed by the vigorous pontificate of John Paul II, Roman institutions seem positively robust. Evangelicals, ignorant of the Reformation and the Reformed confessional tradition, tired of shallow worship and moral flabbiness will continue to find Rome a congenial place in which to find a connection to a tradition beyond Pentecostalism or the Second Great Awakening.
There are other ancient and persistent challenges to orthodox, biblical, Reformed Christianity that we might mention, e.g., Islam. No other global religious movement presents a greater threat to social stability and the mission of the church across the globe than Islam. After a period of repression under colonialism, Islam is back with a vengeance both theologically and militarily. Few Christians today are equipped to meet the intellectual and theological challenges presented by Islam.
In most parts of the world, Biblical, orthodox Christianity is returning to the position it held before the rise of the European church-state complex we call Christendom. We are living in the wake of its collapse. This is a frightening reality for some but our hope is where it has always been, at the right hand of the Father. Christ is ruling the nations now and no movement, not Gnosticism, Moralism, Romanism, or Islamism can alter our Lord’s plans for his church and for the nations. After all, the Apostle Paul promised the church in Rome, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). On that basis he pronounced peace upon a church that was about to endure a grave trial in which Christians would be put to a violent and sometimes fiery death merely for bearing the name of Christ and for refusing to renounce him. Yet, even in that, Christ’s sovereign will was being accomplished and the Spirit was drawing his elect to new life, true faith, and to union with the risen Christ. So it shall be. No one shall snatch them out of his hand (John 10:28).