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10. THE WORLD IS GROWING BETTER
The redemption of the world is a long, slow process, extending through the centuries, yet surely approaching an appointed goal. We live in the day of advancing victory and see the conquest taking place.
There are periods of spiritual prosperity and periods of depression; yet over all there is progress. Looking back across the two thousand years since Christ came, we can see that there has been marvelous progress. This course shall ultimately be completed, and before Christ comes again we shall see a Christianized world. This does not mean that all sin shall ever be eradicated—there shall always be some tares among the wheat until the time of the harvest, and even the righteous, while they remain in this world, sometimes fall victims to sin and temptation. But it does mean that as today we see some Christianized groups and communities, so eventually we shall see a Christianized world.
"The true way of judging the world is to compare its present with its past condition and note in which direction it is moving. Is it going backward, or forward, is it getting worse or better? It may be wrapped in gloomy twilight, but is it the twilight of the evening, or of the morning? Are the shadows deepening into starless night, or are they fleeing before the rising sun? ... One glance at the world as it is today compared with what it was ten or twenty centuries ago shows us that it has swept through a wide arc and is moving toward the morning."7070 The Coming of the Lord, P. 250. For a very excellent discussion of the question, "Is the World Growing Better?" see Snowden's book, Chap. VIII.
Today there is much more wealth consecrated to the service of the Church than ever before; and, in spite of the sad defection toward Modernism in many places, we believe there is far more really earnest evangelistic and missionary activity than has ever been known before. The number of Bible schools, Christian colleges, and seminaries in which the Bible is systematically studied is growing much more rapidly than the population. Last year over 11,000,000 copies or portions of the Bible in various languages were distributed in the home and foreign lands by the American Bible Society alone—a fact which means that the Bible is being broadcast over the earth as never before.
The Christian Church has made great progress in many parts of the world, and especially during the last two or three centuries it has developed thousands upon thousands of individual churches and has been a powerful influence for good in the lives of millions of people. It has established innumerable schools and hospitals. Under its benign influence ethical culture and social service have greatly advanced in the world, and the moral standards of the nations are much higher today than when the Church was first planted here.
"Already the Church has penetrated every continent and planted itself on every island and flung its outposts around the equator and from pole to pole. It is now the greatest organization on earth, the one world enterprise. And it has results to show that are not unpromising. In our own country Christianity has grown at least five times faster than the population. One hundred years ago there was one professing Christian in every fifteen of the population, and there now is one in every three, and excluding children, one in every two. In the world at large the results are astonishing. In 1500 AD. there were 100,000,000 nominal Christians in the world; in 1800 there were 200,000,000, and the latest statistics show that, out of a total world population of 1,646,491,000 there are now 564,510,000 nominal Christians, or about one-third of the population of the globe. Christianity has grown more in the last one hundred years than in the preceding eighteen hundred."7171 Snowden, The Coming of Our Lord, p. 265.
The statement that Christianity has grown more in the last one hundred years than in the preceding eighteen hundred seems to be approximately correct. According to late statistics, 1950, Christianity has a considerably larger number of nominal adherents than the combined total of any other two world religions. These figures state that there are approximately 640,000,000 Christians, 300,000,000 Confucianists (including Taoists), 230,000,000 Hindus, 220,000,000 Mohammedans, 150,000,000 Buddhists, 125,000,000 Animists, 20,000,000 Shintoists, and 15,000,000 Jews. (And while many of those who are listed as Christians are only "nominally" such, the proportion of true Christians is probably as great or greater than is the proportion in any of the pagan religions). All of these other religions, with the exception of Mohammedanism, are much older than Christianity. Furthermore, Christianity alone is able to grow and flourish under modern civilization, while all of the other religions soon disintegrate when brought under its glaring light.
Only within the last one hundred years have foreign missions really come into their own. As they have recently been developed, with great church organizations behind them, they are in position to carry on a work of evangelism in heathen lands such as the world has never yet seen. It is safe to say that the present generation living in India, China, Korea, and Japan, has seen greater changes in religion, society, and government than occurred in the preceding two thousand years. And when we contrast the rapid spread of Christianity in recent years with the rapid disintegration that is taking place in all of the other world religions, it appears very plain that Christianity is the future world religion. In the light of these facts we face the future confident that the best is yet to be.
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