Sometimes I fear a looming darkness. I fear that a new dark age is creeping upon us. But then I remember that I took history classes in college and learned a little bit of perspective. I learned that there were other people in other times who went through tougher times than I ever will. I realized there wasn't actually a “Dark Age.” That was a pejorative term used in the so-called "Enlightenment" to describe a superstitious past. I realized how good I have it. And that scattered the darkness. It scattered my modern chauvinism. This idea that I can't learn anything from anybody in the past is a bigotry of the present. It is a modern chauvinism that cries out, “Look at me.” It assumes that this moment and this place is by far the most important of any moment in the history of the universe. In my history classes, I learned to get over myself.
Still, sometimes I fear. Maybe this is precisely because of my modern chauvinism that I believe in looming darkness. A parched land, seemingly without any life, dead-eyed citizens who cannot be bothered or maybe just are simply incapable of caring, thinking, or forming well-thought-out opinions. People who are simply mesmerized by whatever flickers before their eyes. Cheap entertainment. Shallow opinions. Obvious propaganda. Sometimes I do wonder about a creeping darkness, a parched land, surrounded by haunts, where jackals lay. Jackals who don't even bother anymore with the decency of covering up their lies and their misleading statements. Maybe it is because they believe the lies themselves.
I fear a creeping dark age because I fear a lack of confession about our own immorality.
I do fear, sometimes, a dark age creeping upon us. But I fear this not because of a seeming lack of morality among us. The truth of the matter is that we live in one of the most morally upright times in the history of the world. This isn't always good. Low morals are not the problem. There have always been bad morals, and there's always been Christ to forgive. That's the easy part. Sin can be forgiven. I fear a creeping dark age because I fear a lack of confession about our own immorality.
I don’t fear a creeping dark age because the truth is under attack, although it is. The truth has always been under attack. But the truth has always remained because it's not just a thing, it's a person and you can't snuff out the person who is the Light of the World. I don't fear a coming dark age because the truth is under attack. Rather, I fear that the church might fight the bald assertions of the world with bald assertions of its own. Some assume there is no spiritual realm, there's no soul, no God, and no angels. These are assertions lacking evidence and thoughtful argumentation. They think that they can explain all of existence with only material causes and explanations. I fear a creeping dark age not because of those bald assertions but because the church will combat those bald assertions from the world with her own bald assertions. And then it becomes nothing but a power struggle.
I do not fear a creeping dark age because my candidate lost by the slimmest of margins. Nor because my candidate won by the slimmest of margins. Nor because I might feel like a foreigner in my own land. I fear that the church will put her faith in the princes of men. I fear a coming dark age not because society has gone this way or that way but because I fear that the church will become impatient with the gospel. That when it doesn't see its immediate results it will move on to something else, usually power or politics. I fear a creeping dark age because I fear that the church will get bored with the gospel. That it will treat it like a prerequisite. We say it, we got it, that's good, now let's move on to more important matters. I fear that the church will assume the gospel. That it will assume that it has been preached and believed. To the point where I'm not sure if the church could pick the gospel out of a lineup of moral aphorisms. All those things that we say to get us through the day, those nice little things. I'm not always sure that the church can pick the gospel out of that lineup.
I fear that the church will become impatient with the gospel. That when it doesn't see its immediate results it will move on to something else, usually power or politics.
So I do fear a coming dark age. But only for a moment, and it's truly only a fleeting moment that I fear. Because the gospel always stands, whether the church messes it up or not. I don't fear beyond a moment because there will always be the Light in the World. And this Light stands forever. This gospel is truly the only answer to all of this. And it's so very simple. It's simple in this way: it's right there in front of us. It is not lost. It is not hidden. It's right there in front of us, lying in a manger. It's right there for us to be washed in, to dine with, to sing about, to be heard, and to take and read. It's right there hanging in a cross for everybody to see. It's just right there, plain as day.
My fear of this coming darkness only lasts a moment. Seriously, only a moment. All the problems that we have, all the problems we will have, and all the problems we pretend to have are solved with an everlasting solution. A love that actually forgives. A king that actually rules with mercy and justice. A morality that is not a club that we use to beat each other with. A virtue meant to flow out of self and to others. A life that actually swallows up death.
So hear now Isaiah the prophet. Hear now Isaiah in a time that you and I will never know and can barely fathom and comprehend. Here is the prophet Isaiah speaking at a time when God had publicly pronounced judgment upon the nations, including his own. A time when the Northern tribes of Israel had long been gone, carried off into exile, never to return. Never to be remembered again. Lost in the dust of history. A time when the big bad Assyrian army, backed by this huge empire, was about to surround Jerusalem and starve it to death. Hear the prophet Isaiah and maybe then, when we hear these words in his time, maybe then we can put our modern chauvinism to bed. And along with it our fear of death. Maybe then we can throw our worries into the fire.
The desert and the parched land will be glad. The wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the crocus. It will burst into bloom. It will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it. The splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands. Steady the knees that give way. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong. Do not fear. Your God will come. He will come with vengeance, with divine retribution. He will come to save you” (Isa. 34:1-4).