From time to time able historians have drawn anxious comparisons between the notorious decline of the Roman Empire and the current amoral path of the United States. During the last four years, eight major books have been published about ancient Rome's demise. First consider these seven:
- The Ruin of the Roman Empire
- The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
- The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization
- Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire
- Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West
- Attila the Hun: Barbarian Terror and the Fall of the Roman Empire
- The Fall of the West: The Death of the Roman Superpower
All of these titles are modern additions to Edward Gibbon's classic late 18th-century work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. One of the most compelling reasons for writing historical accounts of past civilizations is to learn from their tragic mistakes—seeking not to repeat them today. Alas, for the most part modern Westerners behave like "now people" who do not read much history in spite of the tireless efforts of concerned historians.
Current global and national trends have made some insightful observers predict that we are now sailing into very dark and troublesome waters. No wonder these knowledgeable academic authors have recently focused on the fallacies of the ancient Roman Empire. It lasted for more than 400 years (roughly from 27 B.C. to A.D. 395), swallowing up much of the known civilized world at that time. Four of these seven modern writers express their concerns about the current decline of our Western world and to some extent relate the causes with those that severely disabled Rome—eventually bringing it down.
The eighth author, Cullen Murphy, puts it much more explicitly. He asks the crucial question in his title: Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America. He draws obvious comparisons between our very questionable behavior and that of the inhabitants of ancient Rome. The parallels are painfully obvious.
Our current moral conduct, particularly in societal relationships like marriage, should cause us the kind of deeply concerned anxiety that hopefully would lead to a radical reform in our individual and national behavior. Rome started out with reasonably stable marriages and disciplined sexual conduct, but deterioration set in as the decades slipped by and conditions came to resemble our modern version of illicit sexual behavior, both inside and outside of the marriage relationship.
The demise of the Roman home is well documented. Such sources as E.B. Castle's Ancient Education and Today show that "the consequent easy attitude to the marriage tie, the increasing frequency of divorce, and growing freedom and laxity in women's morals" guaranteed that the once stable Roman family unit did not endure (p. 15). Another writer spoke of an epidemic of Roman divorces.
Learning critically important lessons from secular history has a parallel in our spiritual need to heed the plain warnings of biblical history. The apostle Paul wrote: "For whatever things were written before [in the Old Testament] were written for our learning" (Romans 15:4 Romans 15:4For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
American King James Version×). He was much more specific in his first epistle to the Corinthian Church. "Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell... Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Corinthians 10:8 1 Corinthians 10:8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
American King James Version×, 11, emphasis added).
If the United States as a nation continues down the rutty road of disobedience to God's basic spiritual law, are we staring at the fate of the ancient Roman Empire? We can help you discover the biblical answer if you will read or order our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy, and especially the chapter on "From Punishment to Destiny."