To understand what this sign means, one must know its historical context. By its very nature it is a negation - a reaction against the otherworldly Christian world view which emphasizes asceticism and the "unseen warfare" against the devil and the world in order to obtain eternal joy through communion with God in the Kingdom of Heaven. The founders of the new philosophy declared the Christian God "dead" and proclaimed man a god in His place. This view is merely the latest stage of the modern battle against Christianity which has resulted today in the virtually universal triumph of unbelief.
The contemporary controversy, however, centers about a new and unusual phenomenon: it is now "Christians" who are the unbelievers. Yet in a sense this too is the logical culmination of an historical process that began in the West with the schism of the Church of Rome. Separated for over nine centuries from the Church of Christ, Western Christendom has possessed only a steadily-evaporating residue of the genuine Christianity preserved by Holy Orthodoxy. Today the process is nearly complete, and large numbers of Catholics and Protestants are hardly to be. distinguished from unbelievers; and if they still call themselves "Christians," it can only be because for them Christianity itself has been turned into its opposite: worldly unbelief. One may observe in this what one Orthodox thinker has called "the self liquidation of Christianity": Christianity undermined from within by its own representatives who demand that it conform itself entirely to the world.
For Western Christendom God is indeed dead, and its leaders only prepare for the advent of the enemy of God, Antichrist. But Orthodox Christians know the living God and dwell within the saving enclosure of His True Church. It is here, in faithful and fervent following of the unchanging Orthodox path -- and not in the dazzling "ecumenical" union with the new infidels that is pursued by Orthodox modernists - that our salvation is to be found.