I have seen many speaking about how generations in the past have encountered and endured persecution, and this is a vitally important truth that we should be speaking of regularly. We should speak to our children, regularly, about the persecuted church, and how we could be called to face the very same kind of physical persecution, suppression, and attacks that our fellow believers face daily around the world. We have been blessed indeed with peace in Western nations for centuries, but there is nothing in Scripture that tells us to expect that to be a “given.” When cultures rebel and profane God’s truth, they will not stand forever. While God is patient, His justice is sure.
Let me highlight one area in which church history will indeed play itself out yet once again. In the early centuries it was the response of the church to persecution that led the deepest troubles and sorrows. That is, when persecution ended, what was the church to do about those who had lapsed? This led to splits and divisions and tremendous strain. Two of the greatest early schisms (Novatianism, Donatism) came directly from differences of view regarding how to deal with the “apostate” situation, including who should even be considered to be in that category to begin with.
As we move into a time period where totalitarianism is setting itself up for yet another “reign of terror,” we will find ourselves having to deal with the reality that many Christians have, for reasons I will not delve into here, aided and abetted the forces that are seeking to establish a thoroughly anti-Christian totalitarianism. They have contributed money, time, and their vote, to bring about their own self destruction, and in so doing, have brought the rest of us along with them into bondage. And so once again the question is going to be—when hindsight provides clarity, when the reality of the plans and intentions of evil men and women have come fully to light, when churches are shuttered (and apostate churches are given free reign, but only in submission to Caesar), what can be done to establish peace with those who, while truly believers, foolishly went along even against clear warnings from fellow believers? The experience of the early church tells us that there were “hard liners” who refused to even consider reunification, forgiveness, grace. Others were quick to accept any professed repentance, and most were in the middle, requiring some kind of expression of repentance, some saying a period of time must be allowed to pass where such believers proved their integrity. Interestingly, those who had been imprisoned and beaten were normally the first to extend a desire for the re-acceptance of the lapsed.
This is surely a topic that should be discussed by local elderships now. The time when we will have free access to communication between communities is coming to a close, I believe.
So while there is certainly much we can gather from the wisdom of the past, I also wish to point out that our modern situation has its own unique aspects. I am somewhat concerned that many are content to think that the Scriptural paradigm “there is nothing new under the sun” actually means that nothing changes. That is not what it means. We are facing a challenge today that no generation before us has ever faced. In what way?
Technology. The Totalitarian State today has access to a wide array of technology that no preceding Caesar could have ever dreamed of. Not even the Soviets could foresee what today’s tech can do for an autocratic regime. We have satellites in the sky above us. Drones silently flitting about, observing everything. Most people carry devices that allow their every movement to be tracked by Big Tech. And AI (artificial intelligence) now exists to predict our every move, to track our every purchase, our every action. Others are working tirelessly to create the neural interfaces that will allow modification of human behavior through implanted technology, the “trans-humanism” movement—bigger, better, but in this case, more subservient.
This is why we cannot simply go back to the 1970s under Soviet domination and go, “Ah, this is how we will do church.” No, there were no drones, and satellite technology was not yet able to do the kind of observation that is now available. All we need to do is look at the Chinese Communist Party if we want the full-on dystopian vision of the future technological totalitarianism. As you walk down the aisle at the grocery store, your every purchase is recorded, and your “social credit score” updated accordingly. Your every movement becomes part of the ever growing database of AI. You’ve heard of “contact tracing,” allegedly for our own “good” about the virus panic? It will be constant and universal, globally, very soon. AI will be able to identify any gathering of any group of Christians, not just instantly, but predictively. All communications—voice, text—monitored and recorded. The ultimate ability to isolate any group, any individual. The totalitarians know the power of the gathered church, and they now have tools to keep that from happening, if they choose to use them.
If you have read this far hoping for the solution to the coming technological totalitarianism—I apologize. I do not know how to get around Big Brother. But I do know that Big Brother will not win in the end. Big Brother lives a lie–the lie that we are but fizzing containers of chemicals. There are still humans behind the control panels, and those humans are made in the image of God. The coming darkness of techno-totalitarianism will be overcome by the light that comes from the empty tomb. That light cannot be stopped.Tags: technological totalitarianism