The 20th century was one of superlatives, both good and bad. The invention of the airplane, the landing on the moon and the advances in medicine, communication, and in almost every field of science were breathtaking. People today live longer, healthier and more productive and secure lives than ever before. Unfortunately, the utter devastation of modern warfare, the oppression and murder of millions, and the falling away of whole cultures from the truths of God are also breathtaking. People live under the constant shadow of mass destruction and a lonely, materialistic worldview that drains the humanity out of man.
The Church, that rock of God’s making in the midst of the tumultuous sea of human life, has been greatly impacted by the cataclysms of the 20th century. The end of colonialism, the civil rights movements, liberal education and theology, new technologies, increased exposure to other cultures, and a host of other factors have changed the church in sometimes obvious and sometimes barely perceptible ways. Nothing, however, has changed it like the Great War, 1914-1945. Though many divide this into two different conflicts, World War 1 (1914-1918) and World War 2 (1939-1945), in many ways they were simply Acts 1 and 2 of a great drama, the decline of European (and Western) civilization.