Suffering by Indifference

In my recent review of Hendrikus Berkhof’s Christ the Meaning of History, I noted that Berkhof provides insight into the present situation of the church by examining the theology of history present in the early church. Here is a great example:

Once the gospel has taken root in a culture, and the old powers are more or less driven back, the phenomenon of apostasy appears in the foreground. This has increasingly been the case in Europe during the last three centuries. Apostasy is the central Gestalt the suffering of Christ momentarily assumes among us. Sociologically, psychologically, and historically much more could be said, of course, regarding the phenomenon which in a narrower sense is usually called secularization. But all this receives perspective and value only when one recognizes the theological necessity of the apostasy. Only then will the Christian Church be able to find her place in time without defeatism or frantic activism. To be obligated to live and labour in a wilderness of indifference by people who think they know better can become a heavy burden for both minister and congregation. We should, however, ‘not be surprised…as though something strange were happening to you’ (I Peter 4:12). The pressure of post-Christian indifference is the burden of suffering now placed upon the Church. She may consider it, too, an indication of the Kingdom’s presence. She must respond to it with the same soberness and joy as the early Church had done in her situation. (p. 106)


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