There Are No Real Unprecedented Times

There Are No Real Unprecedented Times

We ought to be asking, how should Christians live in this time at this cultural moment? And the answer is simple: faithfully, just like other believers who have lived in similar times and similar cultural moments. There is nothing more demanded of us from the Lord than that we seek to live faithful lives to him in whatever time and culture he has placed us. 

I read an article recently that asked the question, how are we to live in what feel like unprecedented times? I like the way that question was framed because of the care that was taken with it. Times may feel unprecedented, but in reality, the Bible is clear enough ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

I am just not so convinced that we do live in unprecedented times. I can concede on one level, as the article suggests, that every period in history is an utterly unique time. In a sense, that is true. This exact set of circumstances, surrounding this exact set of people, has never happened before. But, in an altogether different sense, there really is nothing unique about our times at all.

I am always surprised by the number of Christians who seem to think that this or that politicians, or political position, means that Christian people now face some unprecedented challenge. And, as someone who holds a degree in politics, I know what it can be like to so focus on that area of life and study that it can seem, in the moment, very little else matters quite so much. But perhaps it is also the fact that I hold history, religious studies and theology degrees too that I have come to see how easily we over-focus on the political present and lose perspective.

The truth is, very rarely is any moment properly unprecedented. Believers have faced challenges to their Christianity, and found times of both ease and severe discomfort, ever since they were called Christians. Those who think the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented time in history seem to forget more recent history of the SARS and MERS in East Asia, the Spanish Flu epidemic and smallpox all coming about within the last few hundred years. The plague ran rampant in Europe before all of them. Pandemics and Epidemics are, in one sense, nothing new.

And the church having to navigate civic life and non-believing governments is an issue as old as the church itself.

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