The 5th Dimension-How the West Was Lost
The second half of the biblical Book of Daniel (of Lions’ Den fame) paints an apocalyptic view of middle-eastern history through the period of the successive Persian, Greek and Roman empires. This, what might be called ‘the series of the collapse of the empires’ (Chapters 7-12), should be of particular interest to us for, particularly in the shadow of the recent Paris carnage, it is a prism through which it might be useful to view these ISIS or Islamic State times. Though of course in the technologically ‘advanced’ but spiritually shrivelled Australia (Western world) of the 21st century such an exercise is not likely to happen.
Daniel provides a salutary, and perhaps timely, lesson that empires and civilizations are not permanent. The Roman empire has an additional lesson to teach us in that its fall was not entirely due to military defeat. In fact it may well be relevant to our time to observe that the reason for Rome’s conquest by the Barbarian hordes was to a large extent due to its moral bankruptcy. As Edward Gibbon described the Goth’s crushing of Rome in 410 AD.
“In the hour of savage licence, when every passion was inflamed, and every restraint was removed, . . . a cruel slaughter was made of the Romans; the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies. Wherever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition, they extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble the innocent and the helpless.”
Another commentator described the end of the Roman West as the destruction of
“ . . a complex civilization, throwing the inhabitants back to a standard of living typical of prehistoric times”.
It is not difficult to see parallels between the fall of the great Roman empire and our own decaying western civilization which has now lost its spiritual foundation, the moral shaping of the Christendom biblical world view and the moral glue it provided. The great and tragic irony is that such a society, now fashionably rejected, would be the desperately sought after bulwark against ‘radicalisation’ to alien and malevolent world views.
It is a fundamental Biblical reality that we don’t live in a 4 dimensional (breadth, width, height, time) world. Rather we live in a world with a 5th dimension, the spiritual realm, in which things are happening that affect us in ways we are mostly not aware of. For example, the angel Michael fighting in Daniel 10, John’s glimpse into heaven (in Revelation 9:18) to name but two. The 5th dimension, effectively ignored even by most western Christians, is also the realm of the evil activity of the “god of this World” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the ‘going to and fro’ of Satan in Job 1:7, and so no attempt to understand what is going on in our times will be complete unless we wear biblical spectacles that will give us 5 dimensional sight.
Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China once said it is necessary to ‘know your enemy’, yet it is in this 5 dimensional reality that our 4 dimensional politicians and our political system are both incompetent, for there is a failure to recognise let alone know our spiritual enemy, rather the tendency is to deny it! The reality is that the western world has lost not only its spiritual (5 dimensional) awareness but as a consequence no longer possesses the spiritual armaments (of prayer, kingdom dedication etc) required to fight the enemy.
The attempts to disconnect ISIS from what is alleged to be REAL Islam is the result of an Ostrich-like spiritual myopia. All the attempts to ignore, and avoid the religious, spiritual dimension of the ISIS threat actually increases it. The battle with ISIS is a war of ideas, of theology, and it is also a battle for ‘Truth’, the very concept of which our post-modern, relativistic society has also thrown on the scrapheap. Tragically the truth is that our political leaders do not, and society in general does not, have the spiritual, moral or intellectual equipment for the threat of our times.
We may of course ask in all of this the question “where is the church?” which should be the store of the spiritual weaponry necessary for the fight. The reality is however that the church which should be the army of Christ is enfeebled, rapidly losing soldiers, and the ones it still has don’t generally want to make the sacrifices necessary for the fight, diverted by “the cares of life, the deceitfulness of wealth etc” (Mark 4:19) and largely having become unskilled in the weapons of spiritual warfare.
The reality is that the western church fiddles with ‘Gay rights’, same sex marriage and women bishops digressions (important though they may be at a certain level) while its numbers, strength, and its very spiritual vitality decline with the retreating echoes of a faded Christendom. The Christendom which for centuries shaped and glued western society, a society now grown decadent “in its malls and stadiums” (Niall Ferguson), now becoming unglued Roman-style as the biblical grand story is rejected.
So what is needed? Firstly, a rediscovering of the biblical view of reality, a 5 dimensional realisation that whether ISIS is ‘true’ Islam or not, there is still a spiritual power driving it- one largely unrecognised and unchallenged. It is an enemy that no amount of bombs or United Nations resolutions will defeat because its power lies in the 5th dimension.
Secondly, for the church to unshackle itself from anachronistic forms and strategies and remember its reason for its existence, which is not to be a museum of quaint religious memories and comfortable rituals. Rather it is to be the army of the Kingdom of God, to wage war in the power of the Spirit against the forces of the Dark kingdom.
Thirdly, a restoration of the church’s emphasis on mission to recapture the hearts and minds of the pagan tribes that now constitute the West from the Dark kingdom’s chains. That is the energetic and sacrificial taking of the gospel into the parallel universes where the pagans live, and to bring a Christ-centred spiritual renewal to a decaying society, such that, to use a phrase from Winston Churchill, history will say of the 21st century church “This was its finest hour”. Nothing less will suffice.