I’m not a Prophet or a Prophet’s Son. I can’t see the future. I’m usually wrong. I’m known for over-reacting. I have no statistics. You probably shouldn’t read this. The “Gracious God” post depressed me.
Part 1: The Coming Evangelical Collapse, and Why It Is Going to Happen
Part 2: What Will Be Left When Evangelicalism Collapses?
Part 3: Is This A Good Thing?
I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”
The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.
This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.
The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.
Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”
This collapse will cause the end of thousands of ministries. The high profile of Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Hundreds of thousands of students, pastors, religious workers, missionaries and persons employed by ministries and churches will be unemployed or employed elsewhere. [ ]. Visible, active evangelical ministries will be reduced to a small percentage of their current size and effort.
Nothing will reanimate evangelicalism to its previous levels of size and influence. The end of evangelicalism as we know it is close; far closer than most of us will admit.
My prediction has nothing to do with a loss of eschatological optimism. Far from it. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But I am not optimistic about evangelicalism, and I do not believe any of the apparently lively forms of evangelicalism today are going to be the answer. In fact, one dimension of this collapse, as I will deal with in the next post, is the bizarre scenario of what will remain when evangelicals have gone into decline.
I fully expect that my children, before they are 40, will see evangelicalism at far less than half its current size and rapidly declining. They will see a very, very different culture as far as evangelicalism is concerned.
I hope someone is going to start preparing for what is going to be an evangelical dark age.
Why Is This Going To Happen?
1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes. Evangelicals will become synonymous with those who oppose the direction of the culture in the next several decades. That opposition will be increasingly viewed as a threat, and there will be increasing pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society.
The investment of evangelicals in the culture war will prove out to be one of the most costly mistakes in our history. The coming evangelical collapse will come about, largely, because our investment in moral, social and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. We’re going to find out that being against gay marriage and rhetorically pro-life (yes, that’s what I said) will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith.
2) Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure.
Do not be deceived by conferences or movements that are theological in nature. These are a tiny minority of evangelicalism. A strong core of evangelical beliefs is not present in most of our young people, and will be less present in the future. This loss of “the core” has been at work for some time, and the fruit of this vacancy is about to become obvious.
3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors. I believe most of these new churches will fail, and the ones that do survive will not be able to continue evangelicalism at anything resembling its current influence. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.
Our numbers, our churches and our influence are going to dramatically decrease in the next 10-15 years. And they will be replaced by an evangelical landscape that will be chaotic and largely irrelevant.
4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself. I believe Christian schools always have a mission in our culture, but I am skeptical that they can produce any sort of effect that will make any difference. Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.
There are many outstanding schools and outstanding graduates, but as I have said before, these are going to be the exceptions that won’t alter the coming reality. Christian schools are going to suffer greatly in this collapse.
5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement. The inevitable confrontation between cultural secularism and the religious faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, that much of that work will not be done. Look for evangelical ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.
6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a vital reality. At the core of this collapse will be the inability to pass on, to our children, a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.
7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before. The passing of the denominationally loyal, very generous “greatest generation” and the arrival of the Boomers as the backbone of evangelicalism will signal a major shift in evangelical finances, and that shift will continue into a steep drop and the inevitable results for schools, churches, missions, ministries and salaries.
Next: What Will Be Left?
236 thoughts on “My Prediction: The Coming Evangelical Collapse (1)”
I just want to to partner with you so that I can learn the truth about Jesus’s second coming from you.Be blessed .
From Dominic Omwando
You are right in a lot of what you say. So-called christians will walk away from the church, the sad fact is the majority of people in the pews are more than likely not believers. They are there for reasons besides, a desire wrought in their heart by having a new nature, these reasons could be social status, business, something to do, and what I personally believe the worst thing, to have their temporal needs met. I say that not because we should not be helping, others, when we are able. But as you state most of those who profess Christ, do not know the Gospel,and could not articulate it. We have forgotten the part of scripture that, along with telling us to love God with all our heart and, strength, we are also to love God with all our mind. Sadly church(a first day of the week gathering, of believers to praise, and glorify God, and here His Word taught) has become, going to the church building(a once a week thing that must be endured, so business can coninue, friendsips can be kept up, and somewhere at the last of it all, maybe a tip of the hat to the, uhhhhh! to the, uhhhh! to the, oh yeah the man upstairs, yeah that guy we sang a emotional song about, that guy who got me that Cadillac, I had been wanting, that guy who I promised I would do better if the cancer test came back negative). All the while not one of these professors, could spell, doctrine, much less expound on it. And heaven forbid the pastor’s sermon be longer than 25-30 minutes. Becuase the people are in a hurry. That is why the so-called evangelical church will collapse, and I believe we will enter a dark, yet glorious period of the church age. Don’t believe me, my sunday school classmates pickup their books only on Sundays. Doctrine, isn’t that the new wonderdrug for people suffering from restless hair syndrome or something. Yes truly the so-called believers are truly a mile wide and an inch deep. But change is coming, so get on board, and hide an extra bible, you are going to need it. Even so come Lord Jesus.
Just my thoughts on it all.
I agree with your post. It seems churches are dying because they focus to much on quantity rather than quality. They water down the gospel out of fear of “offending” their flock thus suffering their loss. My husband and I both feel that the church no longer is true to the Lord where it counts. I understand the need for missions and the like, but if their on congregation is suffering through lack of faith or lukewarmness, how are they to shine enough to go out and do any evangelical work for the Lord?
“The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.”
Most of these churches were burdened by hauling around a building on their backs. The real estate based church is not the New Testament church model, the house church network is. The real estate based church disobeyed scriptural commands to spend on the unscriptural demands of worldly assets. God’s values were distorted by money pressures, false doctrine (tithe) is preached to support the asset that must be served. Unscriptural pressure bought to bear on the poor to comply with the false doctrine.
“Evangelicals” were undermined coming out of the gate. Their unscriptural four year seminaries were prone to false doctrine and supported sabotaged texts over the Lord Jesus Christ’s preserved text, the Textus Receptus. (Read “The Revision Revised”) Seminaries are money intensive and present unscriptural hurdles for someone desiring to be a Christian leader. What does this do to the types of candidates who gain entry and the leaders they produce?
“Evangelicals” have had to deal with the Satan’s constant sniping against God’s word from the margins or footnotes of their sabotaged scriptures with the complicity of the “church.” This has lead to strange unscriptural understandings of the purity of God’s preserved scripture.
“Evangelicals” are polluted with pagan political doctrine and sometimes seem more conversant in it than scripture that teaches differently on the same issues. Preaching is watered down with the burden on one preacher (unscriptural) instead of the orderly tag team commanded by scripture. Bible studies are a cacophony of translations.
It does seem like a collapse is coming, but has been coming for a long, long time, for reasons that are exposed by scripture.
Maybe Christians will now, finally, use New Testament, house church network model from scripture.
This post has many inteligent seekers of God and truth discussing if the evangelical church is failing,falling. I have much to write about this but will wait to see if my response can go through. I’ve often read articles,blogs and such but never felt to participate until now..here goes….
I have to point out that it seems to me that as Evangelicalism has tied itself so greatly to the United States that it has primarily become a nationalistic endeavor, with only nominal religious foundations. I think the post addresses this somewhat but I think conflates Republican with American.
It’s true that Evangelicalism is the core of much of the Republican political structure, but it’s also tied into many fundamental national structures.
Evangelicalism is faith practiced through the sort of industrial marketing practices that has typified American free enterprise and American style capitalism since its inception.
Evangelicalism is religion given modern business practices. Crudely: It’s Jesus Wal-Mart.
It’s religion on a huge (some say grotesque) scale done with all the apparatus of a modern branding venture: focus groups, coordinated media, etc.
As this “American way” falls prey to resource depletion and failure abroad so will this form of Evangelicalism.
wow you guys are really immature . yeahh this class is boring but really ?
Please STOP commenting on this. You are abusing this website.
this is why i beat up R
this artical is a great prediction for the coming collapse of evangalism
this article has many points!!
my wife loves this artical, she has feeling like that cuz its so true
my wife loves this artical, cuz its so true
i love this article so true
this was great
I fully agree with you, christians of today are luke warm and dont walk with the Lord as strongly as before.
This discution in the fail of the Evangelical Church is nothing but a but a bunch of laligaling leftest on a coffee high! This is unacceptable to me and my institution. I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS! i need a to go a potty break. TTFN (ta-ta for now)
DUDE DUDE IM HIGH ON SUGAR DUDE DUE BOOM BOOM ahahhahhahahahhahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahha
yea because were to busy playing on microsoft paint because were horrible people
this was to be read by 10th graders in a bible class…and guess what…? we didnt read it! hahahah
who cares? hahahahah
Ir may be true for many evanglical churches that have all sorts of flaws (doctrinal, economical, etc.) However, there are many people drowning out there in life that when they finally get hold of the Word of God and understand it properly, the become a new generation of belivers, call it a constant regeneration. If my church happens to be empty one Sunday according to your predictions, rest assured at least I’ll be there sitting alone on a chair… reading my Bible.
God bless you and let’s PRAY thanking God that he will never let his church down.
I sat in the balcony of Constitution Hall in Washington DC many years ago now, at an evangelical event, attended by various denominations who were listening to a variety of high profile speakers. Each came to the podium and predicted the failure of the church, unless we won the coming election by voting for Jimmy Carter. Each echoed the sentiment that our education system in this country was a failure, the economy was a mess, thecorruption of our land was about to overwhelm us and this meeting might be the end of our churches as we knew them.
After 8 or so speakers had come to the podium and built on that theme, a elderly black Bishop from Chicago took the pulpit and just stood there for perhaps 3 or 5 minutes, until the chatter and noise of the crowd subsided into total silence. Then he started…
“God did not ask the Roman Empire if He could send His son,” – long pause – “Because He is God!” – short pause – God did not ask the US Congress if He could create the universe,” – long pause – “because He is God!”
Using that theme and that effect, he spoke for an hour until the sense of fear and forboding that was in the auditorium gave way to spontanious clapping and praise.
While I agree that the evangelical church as we know it is in trouble, I am not sure that is a bad thing or something to be feared. We are constantly moving back to the premise that the power of culture and of our world is in the hands of the political system. I wonder if we would not at times like to take up arms and follow Constantine once again on a crusade to bring christianity to the world. But that has never been the highest and best for the church. In fact, historically I suspect the church does better in persecution than it does in times of patronage. Having political power and acceptance may have the effect of shifting our focus to the power of the earthly system and away from the greater realisty that there really is a God in heaven who is both the creator and sustainer of the universe, including planet number three.
Ultimately it is not the trends of society or the shifts in culture that determine the future of the church, but His purposes worked in us regardless of the human or governemtal system.
That’s my story…. And I’m sticking to it .
Primeramente lo hare en espaÃ±ol porque para la informacion de las personas que leen esto, deben aprender que la vida no solo es Ingles y que aunque no sepamos escribirlo, si entendemos el tema que se esta tocando…se los dejo de tarea.
Creo que la vida cambia, porque las personas cambian, lo que para unos hoy es fortaleza, maÃ±ana sera su fracaso. Lo que hoy es exito, maÃ±ana es obsoleto.
Creo que el mundo en general siempre hace de una idea, un pensamiento, una doctrina y la enseÃ±an porque tienen a Dios en sus corazones y le adjudican que Dios esta de aceurdo y siguen por alli.
El punto esta que nadie es SABIO en su propia opinion, porque DIOS PESA LOS CORAZONES, es el unico. Hoy tengo este pensamiento y apoyo a los que estan de acuerdo, pero maÃ±ana esa persona cambia y ya no me gusta.
El problema mas serio que tenemos los humanos es que no nos amamos con un amor incondicional, sino de conveniencia….mucha hipocrecia y Jesus vino para desenmascarar la Hipocrecia y a todos nos llegara nuestro tiempo de presentarnos ante EL a quien tendremos que dar cuentas de nuestras acciones.
La vida pasa y sus deseos, pero la PALABRA DE DIOS QUE DEBE SER LA QUE GOBIERNA AL SER HUMANO, es la que nos juzgara delante de el.
Asi que Sr.Michael Spencer no generalice y respete a las personas…por favor!!!
Thank you for the Finney references. I read enough to cause me to recall a forgotten resolution, made in a long past year. I remember thinking that â€œquoting a dead theologian can get you into trouble.â€ At that time, I resolved to focus as much attention as possible on Godâ€™s Word. But, since I have feet of clay, and a bad memory, I stray from time-to-time.
Perhaps a Mark Twain quote would have been less strident: â€œIt will be conceded that a Christianâ€™s first duty is to God. Then follows, as a matter of course, that it is his duty to carry his Christian code of morals to the polls and vote them. Whenever he shall do that, he will not find himself voting for an unclean man, a dishonest man. If all Christians would vote their duty to God at the polls, they would carry every election, and do it with ease. Their prodigious power would be quickly realized and recognized, and afterward there would be no unclean candidates upon any ticket, and graft would cease. If the Christians of America could be persuaded to vote God and a clean ticket, it would bring about a moral revolution that would be ever incalculably beneficent. It would save the country.â€ (Attributed to Mark Twain – Colliers magazine, September 2, 1904)
Yes, I agree with that. I believe that Christians, who live their faith, could indeed effect needed change in our society. What timeless words these are, and uttered by a humorist of the past century! All one must do, in order to refute Michaelâ€™s reasoning as to why his predicted evangelical collapse may occur, is to compare the graft and corruption in our contemporary body politic to this wisdom of the late Mark Twain. There will be a great â€œfalling awayâ€ (2 Thessalonians 2:3). But, who knows when that will occur?
I most certainly agree with you and Pogo, the swamp rat. Back in the fifties, Pogo said â€œI have met the enemy, and he is us!â€ Those few you see â€œpointing the fingerâ€ at Hollywood, at the abortionists, at the drug pushers, at the pornographers — they are not entirely representative of the sleeping giant at the polls. No, Sir, divine boundaries are being trampled into the dust of shredded copies of our Constitution, in our halls of justice, in our oval office, and on our legislative floors. The giant sleeps, silently. â€œHow long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.â€ (Proverb 6:9-11)
Like you, Jack, I believe that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16) But, without the law and the prophets, without the hundreds of prophecies of the coming Messiah, would Jesus have been recognized? â€œFor had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.â€ (John 5:46) â€œAnd he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.â€ (Luke 24:44)
Yep! As you say, we are â€œsinners, saved by grace.â€ But, you know what — even sinners, saved by grace, transient though we may be, have a God-given place in the fourth branch of our US Government. God grant that we have the courage to claim it! AMEN!
Thanks for the comments and web links. Lets get down to the nuts and bolts. This will be my last submission and I will give you the last word. First as far as Finney I will direct you to 2 articles. 1. Theological Observer Charles Finney on Theology and Worship. 2. Charles Finney Father of Satanic Counterfeit Salvation. Now this second title is mighty strong, and it is my hope that it has been over stated, but it is a good article with Finney quotes and where they can be found. Also if you really want to know where Finney stands I would suggest you read his Systematic Theology. I can also tell you that toward the end of his life Finney himself worried what the effects of his continuous revivals would have on the people. His worries were justified. The areas where Finneys revivals were most prominent are now referred to by historians as the burned over district. To verify this run a search on the web by typing in historians burned over district. Finney clearly left his mark on the Chrstian Church here in America. But I believe that this mark he has left has been detrimental. One of his tactics was to engage people emotionally. He would appeal to the peoples emotions to envoke a responce. Therefore most of his respondents were only emotionally engage with nothing of intellectual substance to substain them. When the emotion wore off they fell right back into their old way of life. I believe this has become common in our Churches today. Therfore we have many Christians that can tell you how they feel, or what they have expirenced, but cannot really explain what they believe or why they believe it. One of the ways that you can clearly see this effect is in the way the Church has adopted the altar call. This tactic surely appeals to the emotions, and many times has little lasting impact. Another area where Finney has had an impact, is in the fact that he believed that the Church should be an agent of social and moral reform. Now you may agree with this, but I would ask you to look more closely at these words, social and moral reform. You see I believe it is far more drastic than this. If the Church truly proclaims Christ and His Gospel, then the Church will not be an agent of moral and social reform, but rather a theater of death and resurrection. And make no mistake there is an enormous difference between social and moral reform and death and resurrection. The former is temporal while the latter is eternal. This is what I do not understand about Christians who push for moral and social reform. They seem to be satisfied with attempting to build a kingdom here on earth through thier own social and moral efforts, instead of pointing people to the Kingdom that only God can construct. I would like to ask you this question. Do you believe that the preaching of God’s laws to the nation has the power to save? It does not. The law kills. This was the intetion of the law, to kill. This was the death I talked about earlier. And what do we die to? We die to self and our own moral efforts and live to Christ. I want you to understand that I certainly believe in the preaching of the law, but only as it was intended and that is to kill. As I’ve heard elsewhere bad law preaching levels some of us, elimination of the law levels none of us, biblical preaching of the law levels all of us. This is the problem as I see it, we continue to preach the laws of God to our culture. But the culture can clearly see our hypocrisy as we are unable to keep those laws ourselves. How much better to portray ourselves as we really are SINNERS saved by grace. Although we strive to keep God laws out of love and great graditude for what God has done for us through Christ, there are times when we fail to measure up to Gods standards. But we have a promise that if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us. What a wonderful message to give to our culture. In other words we would not be giving them a list of things to do (deeds) but rather something and Someone to believe (creeds). I wonder what kind of an effect this would have on society. Let me close by saying something that I am sure will make me very unpopular with many of my Christian brothers and sisters. As we look at the social and moral depravity of our society,I believe we have been pointing the finger at the wrong people. It is not Hollywood, it is not the abortionist, not the drug pushers, or pornography. No I believe we have seen the enemy and the enemy looks a lot like us, because it is us. We Christians are the problem. And it is not because we have not stood up for God and preached His laws. We been doing this for decades, with no results. In fact I would say it has continued to become worse. Our task as a Church is not to be agents of moral and social reform. Our calling and mission is to be an agent of forgiveness. Most Christians dissagree that the Church is an agent of forgiveness. In thier view only God can forgive. But I would ask if the Church is a God ordained instution. If so the Church then is a miraculous institution,and is Gods agent to forgive. Maybe this is why the Chuch has lost its influnce, because we have stripped it of its power. To demonstrate this another way, I would say most Christians would say that just because you have been baptized does not mean you are actually saved. And I would agree but only because of the simplistic altar call where people are mostly engaged emotionally, then sent to the waters of baptism. If instead the Church is Christ Church and the pator has been truly called of God and this pastor insures that each canidate for baptism truly understands what is taking place, then when this man of God announces I baptize you in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit then I believe that this man of God speaks on Gods behalf and we could then understand that baptism is not our act but rather and act of God. We could then look back on our baptism with confidence, not in our ability to live moraly, but rather to Gods promise. Again maybe the problem is us, in that we have stripped the Church of its power. The law has its place which is to drve us to Christ but it does not have the power to save. I believe the GOSPEL is the power of God unto salvation. Start with Jesus which is the gospel and you get sanctification in the process start with Jesus which is the gospel and move on to something else and you lose both. Listen I could continue its been a joy thanks so very much and my God bless
Please donâ€™t misunderstand this as â€œproselytizing.â€ But, Sir, if you are not in a church where the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not clearly preached, I would advise you to search high and low for a new church home. The method that I would use, in that search, is simple. Search for a church that preaches, and teaches both the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Many of the modern churches call themselves a â€œNew Testament Church.â€ If that were true, they would use only the Old Testament, because in the days of that Church, the New Testament had not been compiled. Itâ€™s not â€œeitherâ€œ, â€œorâ€, itâ€™s â€œbothâ€ the Old and the New, both prophecy against sin and salvation of the soul. Without the law and the prophets, our sin would not be known to us, either personally, or corporately. With the law and the prophets, we know that we are sinners, and that we all fall short of Godâ€™s glory, and that the penalty of our sin is death, spiritual death of the soul. We know, too, that we need to be reconciled to God, who created us in his image, or die in our sin, separated from God, to suffer eternal damnation in Hell. Jesus, Godâ€™s only begotten Son, provides that reconciliation. John, the Baptist, when he saw Jesus approaching, said: â€œBehold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.â€ (John 1:29)
I realize that I cannot preach the whole counsel of God to you, in this brief reply to your comments, so Iâ€™ll just give you the gospel in a nutshell, as John, the Apostle, tells it: â€œAnd this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.â€ (1Jn 5:11-12)
Yes, I â€œcontinue to point to the prophets of the Old Testamentâ€, because prophecy is lacking in the modern churches, like yours. Times have not changed much, since Jesusâ€™ ministry on earth. To those, in his time, who preached only from the Old Covenant, he said: â€œWoe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.â€ (Matthew23:23) To those, who would have believed only in the gentle, loving, and forgiving Jesus of the New Covenant, he said: â€œThink not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
To those, in our modern culture, who believe that the message of the gospel is only for Christians, the Apostle, Peter, says: â€œThe Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.â€ (2Peter 3:9) You see, when the gospel is preached to society-at-large, we are preaching to â€œpotentialâ€ Christian converts. But, I am not here to promote Peter. Jesus, whom we preach, always says it best: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.â€ (John 3:16)
Neither am I here to promote Charles G. Finney. But, in his defense, perhaps I can give you a better understanding of his theology. Here are a couple of linked excerpts, relevant to your portrayal of his ministry: (1.) â€œHis first aim, therefore, was always to secure united prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.â€ (A Biography of Charles Grandison Finney by G. Frederick Wright, D.D., LL.D. Professor in Oberlin Theological Seminary, Ohio 1891 – http://www.gospeltruth.net/Wrightbio/finneybi.htm); and (2.) â€œBut means will not produce a revival, we all know, without the blessing of God.â€ ( Excerpt from a Finney Lecture – http://www.charlesgfinney.com/1868Lect_on_Rev_of_Rel/68revlec01.htm ) I am willing, of course, to access the link where you found your information, or misinformation, about Finney.
One last point: If we continue to preach morality, â€œwithâ€ (not â€œoverâ€) the gospel, we may reach those moral people who believe, mistakenly, that â€œreally good moralityâ€ is all that is required for entry into Heaven. Preaching â€œmoralityâ€ means to â€œprophesyâ€ against sin, in all of its ugly forms or venues, personal or corporate, local or national. The hope, in this restoration of the Churchâ€™s prophetic voice, is what Paul taught to the Corinthian Christians: â€œBut if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.â€ (1Corinthians 14:24-25) As he says, in verse 39, we are to â€œcovet to prophesy.â€
Art, I certainly appreciate your comments. It is sad but you and I are not only on a different page we are in a whole other book. First I would like to point out that you continue to point to the prophets of the Old Testament warning Israel against these moral evils. Israel was Gods chosen people. Israel was Gods nation. The USA nor any other nation is Gods chosen people today. The Church is Gods elect today. So these warnings are for us his Church that are called by his name, not for those that are not. This is my point you seem to be overly concerned about what is occuring outside the Church, in the cultue that you have over loooked what is not occuring inside, And what I believe is not occuring inside is the clear proclamation of the gospel. We are preaching method over message, deeds over creeds, and it shows. As for Charles Finney this just shows are far we are apart. I believe he is one of the main downfalls of the Church. He certaily preached method over message, deeds over creeds. In fact he stated that you do not need God to have a revival all you need is the right means and methods. If we continue to preach morality, over the gospel we may well have really good moral people in hell
It is about time people saw through the lies of Christianity and started living in the real world.
Evangelical christianity is just a cover for American Fascism.
I hope so.
You guys are menaces.
If I had resources to do a properly controlled survey, aimed at quantifying Christians who are able to articulate the gospel, I would accept your challenge.
But, let me counter your challenge, using a part of Michaelâ€™s hypothesis, immediately following his â€œprediction.â€ I refer you to the second paragraph under the heading â€œWhy Is This Going To Happen?â€ Michael states : â€œThe investment of evangelicals in the culture war will prove out to be one of the most costly mistakes in our history. The coming evangelical collapse will come about, largely, because our investment in moral, social and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Weâ€™re going to find out that being against gay marriage and rhetorically pro-life (yes, thatâ€™s what I said) will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of evangelicals canâ€™t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith.â€
My counter-challenge is as follows: If, and when, you are able to ascertain, with hard data, which of the â€œfewâ€ evangelicals who can articulate the gospel coherently, ask them if they are the ones who are also able to coherently articulate their dissent to those abominations mentioned above.
If Michaelâ€™s hypothesis proves out, the â€œwhyâ€ will not be that evangelicals voiced dissent to those abominations. The cause will be that â€œmassive majoritiesâ€ of disobedient, and brainwashed, evangelicals did not raise a concerted prophetic voice against those abominations which God hates.
In Jeremiah, chapter 7, verse 10, you can get a relevant sense of Godâ€™s anguish, when his elect buys into the satanic brainwashing that fosters these immoral national sins: â€œAnd come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?â€ Jeremiah teaches us to be â€œvaliant for truthâ€ (chapter 9). Isaiah encourages us to â€œcall for justice and plead for truthâ€ (chapter 59). But, like the priests of Gilead, we have become murderers â€œby consentâ€ (Hosea 6).
You say that â€œwe as Christians have been so concerned by what we perceive important issues of the times, that we have forgotten to proclaim the gospel. Therefore most all Christians can tell you where we should stand on abortion, gay rights, or pornography. However few are left who can explain the gospel.â€ But, Jack, the truth is that we Christians have not understood the depth of Godâ€™s concern for these issues. If, as it is written, â€œhistory repeats itselfâ€, then we need to study the history of the nation, Judah, with a focus on the reasons that caused God to remove his hand of protection from them, allowing them to be taken captive. That history, found in 2 Kings 24:1-4, bears a striking resemblance to our current American â€œculture of death.â€ Sadly, what we have learned from history is that men refuse to learn from history.
It would behoove us to consider these words of Charles G. Finney, an important evangelist of the Second Great Awakening: â€œIf immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.â€ (â€œThe Decay of Conscienceâ€ – The Independent of New York – December 4th, 1873)
To predict a collapse of evangelicalism is to misjudge the power of God. Better to pray and work toward a brand new Great Awakening.
2nd Observation: The decline in church culture also mirrors the decline in Western Culture as a whole. No, I’m not talking merely about morals or economy. For reference, I point out:
1. “The Clash of Civilizations (Remaking of World Order)” by Samuel P. Huntington
2. “The Crisis of Our Age” by P.A. Sorokin.
Thanks M&M (Monk Michael), for putting into bullets what we’ve been living for the past 15 years or so. I’m a new arrival to the front line and it is here that I can finally take in a breath of fresh air into my lungs. It may smell like gunpowder and smoldering flesh, but it smells beautiful to me.
I believe you are absolutely correct. In the early 90’s a book was written by the title The coming evangeical crisis. I believe John Mac Authur and M. Horton were two of the contributors. It predicts exactly what you are discussing here in this article. However I do not believe this is something that we should fret. In fact I believe it could be a positive and could trigger the reformation, (not revival) we so desperately need. As for Arts comments above, I would just like to challenge him to begin asking Christians that he may run into from day to day to articulate the gospel. It has been my experience that a very tiny portion can do so. In fact I once heard Christians being interviewed at a Christian conference to do exactly that, and the results were very sad indeed. So sad in fact that R C Sproul said he was driving in his car while listening to it and had to pull over to weep. This is the piont, we as Christians have been so concerned by what we precieve important issues of the times, that we have forgotten to proclaim the gospel. Therefore most all Christians can tell you where we should stand on abortion, gay rights, or pornography. However few are left who can explain the gospel; justification by faith alone in Christ alone to God be the glory alone.
Where can I find the poll that has determined that “massive majorities of evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith?” Are you sure you are believing a truth? Thought provoking articles are sometimes nothing more than thought provoking articles. Could it possibly be that you are believing propaganda? Where has truth been written, that says that evangelicals can have no voice on the important issues of our time, while walking in the faith of Christ? The Apostle, Paul tells Christians to “covet to prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14) What does that mean to you? Are you familiar with the term “whole counsel of God?” What does that mean to you?
This is a very thought-provoking article.
“Weâ€™re going to find out that being against gay marriage and rhetorically pro-life (yes, thatâ€™s what I said) will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of evangelicals canâ€™t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith.” <—-I agree. This is a sad, hard, terrible truth.
I have no idea. I don’t do the tech end of this site. I’ll pass the comment along to those who do. In 8 years, no one has mentioned it before.
QUESTION: Why does it say our emails are hidden yet they appear when an internet search is conducted?
There was a time when “Christendom” went into the dark ages and it was Ireland that was outside the fringe of “the empire” that saved it. Who knows, maybe this so called (corrupted) “Christian Empire” of the West has to collapse so that it can be rescued by a purer version from China or elsewhere?
Would you please let me know where you get your information, what is the real data behind your assessment, and why you have written such an article
I think that much of what you said could possibly happen, but have a bit more hope for the future of the church. I believe that numbers will be decreasing in churches across America, but this will be good in the sense that being a Christian will hopefully be re-defined as being a follower of Jesus and not merely a believer in a detached God that makes you feel good when you need something (which some have called â€œMoralistic Therapeutic Deism,â€ which in a recent study was the major religious disposition of American teens). So, although the numbers will be less in most churches, the prophetic witness to Jesus will be stronger (unless the numbers drop because people donâ€™t see the church as a source of action for justice in the world).
Second, I agree that many students are not properly aware of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They are not educated in their faith, but even more detrimental is that they havenâ€™t taken ownership of their faith. They must be instructed in the TRUTHS of Jesus and our orthodox roots, but some how we must help them move from instruction to ownership to implementation. Ultimately, students have not taken what they hear in church and partnered that with their experience. Chap Clark and other youth ministry experts have noticed this in a serious way. I want to borrow and adapt some of their observations about why this is happeningâ€¦
1. Lack of trusting Godly adults that invest in the lives of students at a deep relational level to journey with them during the adolescent years of faith. This relational mentoring must be holistic and authentic, dealing with all matters of life from an orthodox perspective. I think of the schema (Deuteronomy 6.7, â€œImpress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.â€) They need to be journeyed with on the road of faith to know that they matter, and donâ€™t want to be lost in a crowd.
2. Prepackaged answers will not suffice for teens that are at the stage of their cognitive development in which they are individuating. Students must be instructed in truth, but must be given room to wrestle with relevant questions based on our increasingly â€œpost-Christianâ€ environment. This does not mean that we donâ€™t teach the truth, but rather that we present various viewpoints within our tradition so that they can come to intelligent decisions on issues of faith and life. (an example might be the science debates: young earth? Old earth? Theistic evolution?)
3. Students must be given opportunities to experience the realities of orthodox faith, rather than simply sit in a class and absorb information. Information does not equal transformation for â€œMillenialsâ€ and younger. They must see that their faith actually works in the real world: in both their personal life and for the good of all humanity.
4. Finally, community is a value that must be fostered. Teens and young adults crave authentic community that validities what they believe about faith. Community gives students (and adults) a common place to wrestle with and implement the realities of orthodoxy.
Well, these are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I do not quite think that there is doom ahead, but I do think that the landscape of evangelicalism and Christianity as a whole is in the birthing stage of some kind of shift.
If this is the future that we see, then what are we going to do to prevent it from happening?
Quote from Article “Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught ”
I wonder is there has been any statistics on the number of young Evangelicals who go off to college and abandon their faith convictions due to their inability to dialogue and then defend what they believe? How many pursue involvement in parachurch campus groups such as IVP? Do these groups help in forming/refining their Christian worldview or simply provide a further pigmyizing of their faith?
Christ’s promise “Upon this Rock (of Faith) I will build My Church and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against It” refer to Christ’s awesome descent into Hades to rout Satan and Death as seen in Orthodox Icons of the Resurrection. There He freed Adam and Eve along with the OT saints who foretold His coming (I Pet. 3:18). Also, the Gates are the place of judgments in the OT “at the city gates” the elders of the city heard law suits, etc. (Bk of Ruth). Also refers to the goings and comings of the true Christians who Christ tells us, are His flock who feed in His pastures (partaking of His Holiness in the Eucharist – Bread of Heaven).
These are thoughts from the Ancient Orthodox Faith which keeps the commentaries of the Apostles and disciples to guide us by the Holy Spirit into understanding His Word to us in Holy Scriptures. Of course, the secularized evangelical churches will fall..nothing left of solid Christianity in their services. Pastors are building their own “kingdoms” to sustain their personal lives and so sell out the Cross of Christ. Persecution will come when large numbers of Americans become true Orthodox Christians (formerly “eastern”); only then, is Satan’s kingdom threatened with Christ’s Kingdom, and the Lord will allow us to be “winnowed” so that the “chaff” will be separated from His wheat – His followers.
I think the distinction you are missing is that just laws, rules, and regulations are not â€œaboveâ€ the welfare of people — they are â€œforâ€œ the welfare of people. The Christian evangelical stance is now, and has always been, that all truly just laws, rules, and regulations must be based on standards first established and given to mankind by Almighty God, the sovereign creator and judge of the universe. His laws were never intended to be anything other than for the benefit of mankind. Godâ€™s just laws and the laws of mankind, which are based on Godâ€™s laws, create order where chaos would otherwise reign. The tenets of the Humanist Manifesto are diametrically opposed to Godâ€™s order. A perfect example of this is in the sixth tenet — â€œThe right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized.â€ Focus on just the right to abortion. The Preamble to our Constitution gives us litmus tests for just laws. Has Roe vs. Wade insured â€œdomestic Tranquilityâ€, or has it caused a major division in our once united culture?â€ Can we â€œsecure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselvesâ€, but not to â€œour posterityâ€, and still call ourselves free?
Thank you for sharing some of your background information. I encourage you to remain â€œopen to the possibility of God.â€ From your words, I perceive that you are a â€œseekerâ€ of God. Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. God is acutely aware that you are open and seeking. He is not willing for you to perish. I am praying for you now, and claiming Psalm 25:14 specifically to be shown to you.
Unlike so many of the imonk enthusiasts, I am unimpressed. I am in an Evangelical (non-mega)church and although I agree that the culture is about to become more openly and aggressively anti-Christian, nearly everything cited here as a reason for the collapse looks false to me. Starting with the idea that the church has hitched itself to the conservative political movement – I think you have it backwards – “Evangelical Christianity” is what would in the past have been called “Christianity” and it is conservative politicians and voters that have hitched themselves to this more traditional movement in opposition to the liberalism of mailine demominations. As evidence, I would offer black churches, hispanic churches, etc – these are a huge chunk of the Evangelical world, including considerable involvement with the other “parts” of that Evangelical world, but have little or nothing to do with conservative politics.
Evangelicalism may very well be on a rapid decline. And it should if it is no longer about Jesus, but about countless other things. God promised the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against The Church – he didn’t say that of the countless movements that mankind has gotten behind that are contrary to the gospel.
Evangelicalism – in many ways, has just been a cheap, rip-off sub-culture, just offering the same things as the rest of culture, but with “Christian” labeling and brands.
Following Jesus and being The Church is counter-culture and altogether otherworldly. I believe we will see much shaking in The Church, and Lord-willing, all that is not centered in the supremacy of Jesus Christ will pass away. What remains will be a force to be reckoned with.
Part of the problem is we have left the first love. Another is a hardening of men’s hearts. Quite possibly, these things put into the context of the times in which we live make diminishment of Evangelicalism inevitable and (hopefully) the return of Christ imminent.
Cardinal Newman???? An Evangelical??? You’ve got to be kidding me???? He was an Anglo-Catholic heretic.
What do you mean “coming” collapse???? It’s ALREADY HERE. It’s only going to get worse.
But God will preserve a remnant of the elect as He always has in the past.
This is the best and clearest examination of the failure of Evangelicalism that I have seen or read.
Most of these points have been ruminating in my heart and mind,but never quite as clearly articulated.
I found myself distanced from Evangelicalism for a couple of the reasons cited here. The mixing of Christian Theology with Americanism, Conservatism, secular issues etc.. has made for me a Bastardized Christianity that is absolutely unrecognizable.
The issues that have driven Evangelicals into political action has been one sign to me that their Theology has failed. It is my unsupported opinion, based on nearly 60 years of observation that when a religion has to resort to politics, armed conflict, passing of laws in order to enforce it’s religious dogma on others, it is a sign that they have lost the compelling arguments that bring a soul to Christ.
I constantly hear from evangelical broadcasts terms like ”THOSE liberals, THAT ACLU, those Homosexuals, with accusing and derogatory inflections suggesting that our Christian America is going to hell in a hand-basket because of THEM.
The focus is on PROTECTING our rights reather than the compelling truth of the Gospel.
Add to this the ‘Prosper theology’ where it’s all about.GOD prospering US..Blessing US..etc…in essence, the focus os somehow on us to BRING about some kind of Christian Garden of Eden for ourselves.
I hear a barrage of invest in Gold, and pseudo-health info-mercials on the prominent Christian radio stations.
The taking to task of scientific inquiry that appears to threaten orthodox beliefs and dogma. In essence, trying to maintain that the world is flat and the universe is totally centered around Earth.
News flash, the study of history will show that in all Science Versus religion debates (all started by the religious communities) Science has NEVER had to cede the argument to religion. Religion has always had to accommodate the scientific discoveries. Whether the fact that the earth revolves around the sun, and yes EVOLUTION, science trumps and continues to trump religion AND science never starts the FIGHT..Religion ALWAYS fires the first shot!
The loss of evengelicalism will not be a bad thing. God is able to raise up those that will speak for him . He always has as the prophets of various generations, invariably ‘lose their way’ and begin proclaiming some form of mixed and polluted Gospel. Usually it is mixed and polluted with secular ideas that the church ‘appropriates for iteslf’ then re-names so that it appears to be godly.
The fact that almost to none, great art or literature or Scientific advancement comes out of the Church…nothing..just cheap imitation, watered down so that the Christian’s can let their ‘kids’ have something that appears like the worldly stuff but ‘cleaned up’ so they can feel good about it .
The results are in..the Christian kids all have some form of worldy imitated entertainment and as the writer here stated..the ESSENtIAL and profound core doctrines are being LOSt.
The kids have been entertained…but not educated and challenged.
This will be a good thing and I believe we will see a great revival, perhaps a modern day reformation, a resurgence of ancient orthodox religions or it just may be that ;The time of the Gentiles’ is fullfilled.
It just may be, that the evangelicals have become the modern day ‘Pharisee’s’ hypocritical, judgemental, controlling, power and money mad..and now, their house will be left desolate..
Your “the coming evangelical collapse” piece in Yahoo news was an awesome encouragement to the body of Christ. There are many across North America that recognize we are following a gospel that seems far more political and convent then radical and heart changing. After spending the last election trying to convince Christians that God is not republican or democrat but He is head of His church and all the earth. You spoke it better than we have heard in years. We have read your article to our church and we are in agreement, prophet or not God is definitely letting you see behind the veil of a form of Godliness.
I agree with the general idea, but I think that moving out of the media spotlight and cultural prominence could be good for the Evangelical movement as a whole. Right now in the U.S., it seems like evangelical Christianity is the Starbucks of religion…there’s one on every corner and everyone knows who they are, but plenty of people in there couldn’t give you a thoughtful answer as to why they chose it. Getting smaller will mean shrinking down to the people who really thought it through and have that answer, both for others and for themselves, and will make the churches more respectable in a way.
Jan: While I see many ills being attributed to secular humanism, I have to say, we’re not that many and not that powerful. I truly hope you are not saying that the days of Mussolini and Franco were the result of secular humanism? While communism in Russia was atheistic, it doesn’t represent me in any way shape or form. This goes for many secular humanists that I know. As for the issues discussed I can only say I disagree and that’s fine (at least for me it is. Has a secular humanists eve said to you that you are not allowed to practice your faith in your own home?
Art: Here is the full sentence of what you are quoting “The conditions of work, education, devotion, and play should be humanized. Alienating forces should be modified or eradicated and bureaucratic structures should be held to a minimum. People are more important than decalogues, rules, proscriptions, or regulations.” I think the distinction you are missing is that at least the intent of this was to oppose rules and regulations that place themselves above the welfare of people. Now I do understand the evangelical stance is going to place “God’s Law” above people. I disagree with this. While you may have such beliefs and are perfectly entitled to them, the same applies to me or sec. humanists, Buddhists, Catholics, Rastafarians etc… and their corresponding beliefs. I just truly wish we could focus on poverty or the environment instead of splitting hairs with each other. Neither of us are going away and I believe we do have more in common than not.
FYI: I was raised Catholic and then became “born-again” around the age of 18. After a few months I realized that I simply could not believe in God or Jesus any longer. I have been accused of lying about me being born-again, not having felt the presence of Jesus, not praying enough, not following X, Y and Z, by swaths of Christians of all stripes, but mainly evangelicals which is why I’m chiming in. While I remain open to the possibility of God, I haven’t been convinced of anything yet and I’m not sure I ever will.
Surely you have not read your 1973 manifesto. I seem to recall a sentence, I think in the eighth tenet, that states something about dissenters being “either modified, or eradicated.” That Humanist Manifesto reads like a play-by-play history of the last fifty years of humanist agenda items being ticked off one-by-one, legislated down the throats of the American sheeple. God loves you, Alvaro, and so do I. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begottn Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I think a book written by K.P. Yohannan, president of Gospel for Asia, addresses the heart of what is wrong with American evangelicalism and why God may allow it to fail in His global purpose to bless all nations. Affluence and wealth has left American evangelicalism in a pitiable state, but the “failing” of this movement (in worldly success) may just be what will bring this movement much needed revival in the truest and most spiritual sense of the word.
I enter my comments here with gratitude, humility, and a small amount of fear. I am no longer a Christian, and fear you will discount my experience. And yet, I am so excited that someone has seen my position so clearly, I feel compelled to share and hope my comments may be of value to you, and perhaps towards building a more Christlike Christianity.
My experience was perfectly described when you wrote “At the core of this collapse will be the inability to pass on, to our children, a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith” and further “Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.”
During my years at a Christian college in the bible belt I lived with a philosophy major, a seminarian and an ascetic. After college I began attending a spectrum of churches, trying out various denominations before ultimately abandoning the church all together.
I am this ex-christian you describe. My experience in Christian education, in church and in fellowship was that everyone around me was attending church for the wrong reasons. I did not experience anyone acting out of true conviction nor espousing a faith that I felt I could support. Instead, I felt that at worst those around me were afraid of being bad, afraid of uncertainty, or of defying cultural norms, and at best I think they felt emotionally appeased by their involvement.
You describe my departure perfectly: “Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying â€œgood riddance.â€”
I do not mean disrespect by writing this, but as you say, I have become increasingly opposed to Christianity. In my experience of Christianity now I experience almost nothing of Christ’s teachings, but am regularly exposed to Christian sentiment that is anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-environment and worse, ignorant, reactive, judgmental and wrapped in a fundamentalist victim mentality. Just as you say I see Christianity as opposed to the common good and hostile towards it.
I do not believe that it has to be this way. It seems insane that it is this way. The church is a place of love and understanding and acceptance and intentionality and responsibility, and yet I experience it as being contrary these ideals. When I look to the church or Christians or media the “response of evangelicals to this …[is] a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions weâ€™ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s.”
Your article is the first thing I have seen that gives me any hope for the future of Christianity. I hope that you and your readers find ways to address these real problems the church faces, and make a difference in the world. Thank you so much for your commitment to doing so. Sincerely.
Secular humanists and the governments that they have devised have persecuted Christians on every continent except perhaps Australia and Antarctica since 1789. Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Cuba–need I go on? The forces of progress, as they are called, consider Christianity to be incompatible with human happiness. In claiming the right to the exercise of religious faith, you are an exception to this rule. I congratulate you.
Our deist founders believed that God rules the universe through His providence, that His laws are both physical and moral, that violation of the moral law brings His judgement on a nation or an individual, and that there will be an afterlife in which God will repay the good and punish the wicked in conformity with the moral law. All these things they held to be obvious by the exercise of right reason without any need to make recourse to revelation. (In this they simply followed Kant.) Additionally they all had an admiration for Jesus as the single greatest exemplar of morals and as the greatest of moral teachers. (Additionally some thought Him Divine, as all Christians do.) Quite often these deists prayed, regularly and devotedly, to this God.
To the founders, issues like gay marriage would have been a no-brainer. The homosexual act is an obvious violation of God’s law, since God’s intent for sex is clearly manifested through the law of nature: sex exists in order to create offspring; therefore any act which intentionally violates God’s intention is by nature a condemnable perversion when committed by rational man.
Euthanasia is simply self-murder with an accomplice. Again, a no-brainer. Abortion, being the murder of the most innocent, is simply one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and when done under color of law, makes all of society guilty of shedding innocent blood.
The attempt by secular humanists to co-opt the founders to their socially unnatural views is farcical.
It is not Christians but secular humanists like yourself who have conquered the imagination of our cultural elites and media, and who have as a result of this act of convincing others of the rightness of their views, made their views to appear to be what should be the rational and default position of the law–or the basis of the law. In acting against these historical innovations which are passed off as normal and natural, the same people who convinced Americans that the secular humanist position is right have cast the evangelicals and traditional Catholics as being in the role of opposers.
Well certainly if one invades your country you are right to oppose them. Likewise if one usurps your moral patrimony and attempts to change the law in order to make this usurpation legal, permanent, and backed by the force of the state, you are also right to oppose them even to death.
Christians above all are to love God and then others. But loving others means saving those that can be saved by telling them the truth whether or not this truth is popular or palatable in light of their sexual tendencies or sexual practices. It is not love to tell a hellbound sinner that he’s ok. He’s not. If he dies at that moment, he will spend an eternity in hell. Our loving Jesus and His forerunner the Baptist did not begin their ministries with a word of love, but with the admonishment to repent. Indeed it is this admonishment which is the very act of love, because without it the sinner cannot be saved.
Your misinterpretation of admonishment for hate is hardly of recent vintage. Tacitus thought the persecution of Christians in Nero’s time to be just because ‘of their hatred for all men.’ Christ prophesied that if they have hated the Master, how much more will they hate the disciple? Love is often misunderstood to be hatred. (If you ever have children, perhaps you will understand this better.) It seems to me to be the particular unfortunate fault of evangelicals that when they are accused of hate by those that they have loved, that they actually believe their accusers instead of remaining confident in, and faithful to, their convictions.
(May the Lord repay Jerry Falwell for his courage and faith in the face of constant persecution of many kinds. I fear we will not soon see another of his like, nor of Dr. D James Kennedy, nor Paul Weyrich, nor Fr Neuhaus. These past few years, and deaths, have been terrible.)
I’m from the opposing camp, as you’d probably define me. I’m an atheist and a secular humanist (with a sprinkle of Buddhist thought). If you will accept a critique from an outside perspective, I will give you my two cents for whatever it is worth.
While I have a basic understanding of evangelical eschatology, I personally wouldn’t paint the picture so grimly. There will always be people who more or less think alike. The idea that somehow secular humanists, like myself, would advocate the persecution of anyone is disappointing. Freedom of religion is a right that all should enjoy. Where, the proverbial “we” get into spats is when any religion tries to legislate itself into the public square. While some of the founding fathers and a majority of the populace is Christian of some variety or another, the Constitution was written by Deists and others who, though they had a religious identity, didn’t feel the need/want to propagate tenets of their faith through government. The problem is (again, this is how I see it) many evangelicals seem to deny it. Evangelicals have appeared to me to be a group who oppose things: gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia etc… I don’t know what evangelicals are for. When evangelical leaders, such as Ted Haggard, decry that gay marriage takes away from “the sanctity of marriage” it rings hollow for obvious reasons. While I understand that the “sola scriptura” stance prevents the acceptance of evolution, or that homosexuals are born gay, I find that evangelicals have taken issues to be more important than people. These issues are points of division, but where is the common ground. Evangelicals have taken a road that it’s better to decry homosexuals instead of helping the poor, which I distinctly remember was included in the teachings of Jesus (If I recall, this teaching was a biggie). You and I would be uncomfortable allies in such endeavors, but allies nonetheless. If evangelism is to succeed, it needs to be clearly for something rather than just oppose the culture (I assume evangelicals consider themselves as counter-culture).
This is a debate I have had many times. But since you take your authority entirely from the Bible, you ought to read more closely what the Bible says. In fact you ought to read more closely your own references, since Ephesians nowhere says faith ALONE, nor does it anywhere say grace ALONE.
St James, on the other hand, says quite clearly that “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being ALONE.” James 2:17. And he concludes, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and NOT BY FAITH ONLY.” James 2:24.
What then do we make of those passages in the New Testament which disparage works in contrast to the faith? Well it’s quite simple. Look at the context to determine what kind of works are being discussed. This is amply clear in Romans and Galatians, where St Paul specifies that he contrasts faith not to good deeds, but to works OF THE LAW: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28.
That St Paul means the Old Testament law in this context is made clear by the fact that he illustrates his point by telling us that Abraham was not justified by the act of circumcision, a ceremony of the old law that was outward and of the flesh, and not of the heart.
In Galatians he says the same thing, most clearly I believe in this passage:
“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” Galatians 4:9-10
What days and months and times and years is he talking about? Those ordained in the Old Testament of course. At the end of the book he once again condemns circumcision as a ‘work’ which does not edify us in Christ: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” Galatians 5:1-2.
But in no wise, and in no place, does the New Testament do anything else than encourage us to do good works–meaning, not ceremonial works, but works of charity, prayer, and fasting.
In the selfsame passages in which we are warned against putting confidence in the works of the law, we are admonished to pursue works of love and holiness. You have failed to make this proper, biblical distinction.
Perhaps most starkly the book of Hebrews admonishes us that willful sin comes at the price of our salvation. I observe that many envangelicals have made an idol of their faith to the extent of thinking that even if they sin willfully that they will be saved.
That is damnable heresy.
I hesitate to comment because a sizeable number in these postings aren’t even “born again” – at least by their continued associations with the portion of so called “christendom” that virtually never “rightly divides the Scripture. One would think that by now “christendom” would have Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the shed blood of God the Son on Calvary’s Cross and His subsequent death, burial and resurrection. . . down by now. But NO . . . the vast majority of so called “christendom” believes and teaches a Salvation by works! [See Eph. 2:8-10 for reference] Therefore, by Scriptural definition those who believe and teach that . . aren’t even “born again” into the Family of God.
One Fr. posted that Rome perserved the “faith” during the Middle Ages. When I was growning up it was still called the “Dark Ages” and Rome did everything in her power to keep everyone in the Dark while martyring millions of people who would NOT bow the knee to her misinterpretive “revelations” and her corrupt papal pronouncements.
It is frightening to us . . the coming demise of “evangelicalism”, but most of them do not believe that any Bible is the inspired Word of God. They merely give “lip service to IT, like that crowd did in Jesus day when they gave “lip service” to Him. The “broadway” of any culture or religious movement has always led to destruction. “Everybody talkin’ ’bout Heaven, ain’ta goin’ there, as the old and wise Negro preacher said. Jesus doesn’t need any help. He said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – no man . . . cometh unto the Father but by me!”
Maybe it is time for the “wheat and tares” to be separated. It will not be a pleasant process, but it certainly will be a necessary one. cp. Eph. 5:26-27!
As an outsider, one problem I can observe is that when people think of Roman Catholicism, they think of the pope. When they think of evangelical Protestantism, they think of…yep, all those fine gentlemen on television. I guess you evangelicals must approve of this, because politicians find it advantageous to keep being seen with them in public, and even solicit their political opinions and support. Anyway, I’ve never heard of an evangelical church complaining about TV evangelists. (Possibly some have, and the media has ignored this.)
Another issue is multi-generationalism. In general, a church or religion that consists mostly of converts, is likely to be in big trouble the moment it’s no longer “cool.” One solution is to have another revival (nice work if you can manage it). The charismatics are most likely to manage this. Another is to fold back into a wider mainstream (like Methodism). A few have managed to emerge from the crunch with a small but multi-generational following (like Adventism). But the U.S. religious landscape is littered with the husks of religions that used to be new and dandy, but are now geriatric. (Christian Science, which published your piece, is a perfect example–Mark Twain wrote an alarmist essay predicting that at then-present growth rates, they’d take over the USA in the 20th century.)
On a personal note, I dislike evangelical Christianity for a number of reasons (political, cultural, aesthetic), and fervently hope that your prognosis is correct. I realize that there are fine people in every religion–even Scientology, I suppose–but I must confess that it would give me great satisfaction to see the proverbial door hitting your metaphoric backsides on your way out of the mainstream.
Was “Evangelicalism” God’s ultimate goal? (or the Protestant goal of reforming Catholicism? Wonder what post-apostolic pre-Constantinian christianity was all about?)
Evangelicals have been pounding away at “go into all the world” for so long that the honest self-criticism is gone which asks what it is that they are they now taking with them?
1. The disciples/apostles were to “teach others to observe whatsoever things that Jesus had commanded them to do.”
So what did Jesus command them to do? What were they taught?
There was a huge focus on the kingdom of God. It was the basis for repentance. The kingdom and the good news were fused together as “the gospel of the kingdom.” It was not something future but rather present.
2. The Body of Christ or Bride is the focus for the groom.
Evangelicals replace the Groom’s focus on His Bride (the New Jerusalem) with one of two groups of unbelievers: 1. Ethnic Israel or 2. The Unevangelized.
In order to fulfill the so called “Great Commission” those things that Jesus commanded must first be taught in the church… never mind out there.
Also, let’s get back to a biblical structure of church as laid out in 1 Cor 13 and Eph. 4. No point in talking about sola scriptura and then squeeze it into a pyramid shaped unbiblical construct with one man on the top (and not a team where no one is above the other but each one uses his or her gifts in the church as the Lord enables).
p.s. If Evangelicals really believed in a “Great Tribulation” persecution of Christendom then why do they not decentralize the church and enable the members of the body in their gifting and bring them each into maturity and not engage them in this Sunday morning spectator sport?
The Kingdom (Baselia) of God is wherever God reigns. Forget the world. Start in the church.
You make many good and solid points. I believe that besides what you wrote, the Institutional Church will collapse or morph into something we will hardly recognise because she has strayed further and further from true and solid New Testament teaching, and even further from our Jewish (Biblical Old Testament) roots. I have visited a lot of churches and believe that most of them eat up most of their energy and resources feeding the “establishment” (themselves). Many/most churches are not speaking to the real human needs right in the shadow of their buildings.
I especially like your point about the institutional church abandoning the faith for a cause, and often that cause is conservative politics. The True Faith is much bigger than the United States and any other government on earth. It transcends borders, cultures, and every other human boundary. We are citizens of Heaven first, and our country second. A warning to Christians: the jews in Germany in 1939 were some of the most productive, patriotic and hard-working people in Deutschland. But that didn’t help them a bit when Der Fuhrer’s goons came to take them to the gas chambers. When/if the political climate in the US turns against True Christianity, all of our flag waving won’t save us, either.
I agree totally with Jan Petrovsky. Take a look at Hosea 6 and see if we have not become as the Priests of Gilead, “murderers by consent.” The reluctance of the Church to speak consistently on the important issues of our time could well be the cause of the great “falling away.” Jesus told us to be salt and light. To the faltering culture around us it probably appears that the salt has indeed lost its savour. GO JAN!
You have internalized the criticisms of your enemies. To say that the identification of evangelicals with conservative causes was a mistake is exactly what the liberals want you to say. How can trying to realize the gospel’s values for all of society be a mistake? How can protecting the most innocent among us–the unborn–be a mistake?
There is no graver evil that is presently legal in these United States than the evil of abortion. If you don’t oppose its legality then you are bringing guilt on yourself and your nation.
I am a former evangelical that has converted to Roman Catholicism. I hold no animus against evangelicals. Most of the best people I have known in my life have been evangelicals. Not only have you internalized your enemy’s criticisms of evangelicals, but you have seemingly imbibed some of their hatred for them. Be warned: their hatred is unsparing and will not be mitigated toward one like yourself just because you have parroted their hatred.
You have nevertheless made some valid and interesting observations about future trends.
There is no opposition between the gospel and fighting for gospel values in politics. In fact, the former demands the latter.
As for the lack of gospel knowledge you and your various commentators decry, I would like to see each of you express in writing his version of the gospel. I would wager that not two or three of you could agree together on what the term ‘gospel’ means. How can young people be expected to understand the gospel when the word refers to something that, among evangelicals, is becoming ever less coherent?
I hope you’re right.
As my friend Rose’s Catholic in-laws used to say: “Your mouth to God’s ear!”
This sounds like a good scenario to me. Rather than being antagonistic toward the remaining evangelical Christians, I think and hope that the nonreligious majority (or significant minority) will treat them as a quaint holdover from earlier days just as we all do now for the Amish.
I do not agree with the assessment about Evangelicalism. I think it is a massive economic and social force and will be going strong for the foreseeable future. The content of the faith may be diluted along the way. And this is being argued by numerous practical theologians who love the church–Marva Dawn, Euguene Pederson, Craig Gay. Or a more conservative voice like Don Bloesch. Or a fine theologian like Colin Gunton. Also, numerous younger Evangelicals are working on phd studies in applied theology. All that to say, an influential renewal process is emerging.
I think Cyr’s interest in the church fathers is another fine example of an evangelical who yearns for depth and nuance in his faith and is pursuing it. He is certainly not alone. In my circles i meet numerous young people who are thinking and striving towards better forms of faith. They are reading and stretching themselves in practice.
Ironically, it is the passivity of the mega-church movement that is inspiring the scholarship and social action from many of its adherents.
Thanks for your reply iMonk!
I pray that more church plants can make it as far as we have (8 years and counting) and will be a new face that will make a positive contribution as you stated.
I think if the RCC and EO could ever settle their differences it might lure some of us over and lend credence to their argument about evangelicalism not contributing to the Spirit of Unity. Until that happens though I can’t see the majority turning that route. Largely because Believer Baptism is one of the most effective ordinances in ensuring the faith continues to the next generation in a way that isn’t simply cultural. This strength of the evangelical movement causes me to wonder why it would fall any futher than RCC or EO on an economic basis.
Surely, the result of a severe downturn in income would be the reconfiguration and conjoining of existing evangelical churches rather than an outright defection.
Personally, I am rather attracted to both the RCC and EO and have spent much of my graduate studies in Church history and the Fathers. However, I find it motivating me more to embolden the evangelical church with their strengths rather than abandon ship into hiererchical structures that need (and may be headed toward) their own Crash and reassessment period.
Many new church plants fail. The economic environment in evangelicalism is going to doom a bunch of them.
I agree that there are many serious Christian young adults. No where close to a number significant enough to help what I am predicting, however. Statistically, we know that upwards of half of them will abandon the faith anyway. But those that stay with it will make a very positive contribution. Of course, I think the RCC and EO will draw off some of them as well.
Interesting Read. I do take issue with #2 “Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.” There is a lot going on with this next generation of Christians that contradicts this statement. As a pastor and a bible college professor I can tell you there are a lot of strong young Christians who are ready to take up the gauntlet and they are well-steeped in theology and not about to make the same mistakes as identifying Christ with a certain political movement.
I do wish to hear more from you about this: “I believe most of these new churches will fail, and the ones that do survive will not be able to continue evangelicalism at anything resembling its current influence.”
Now no one is pretending that Evangelicalism will have the same cultural impact as in the 20th century, that is obvious in today’s culture and every Christian leader assumes the decline will continue. However, I don’t see how that equates with these new churches failing. There are a lot of orthodox post-liberal evangelical churches that don’t fit the stereotype of emergent churches i see bandied about on blogs and surely the answer is to give them hope, strengthen them, and show them a way to infiltrate the culture and help as many as possible find Christ.
The Mormon religion is not the same as the historic Christian faith. Their doctrines of God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, etc. don’t square up with the doctrines of the Bible, the early Ecumenical Councils, the Roman Catholic magisterium, or the Reformation. It is just an error spreading in the end times.
Wow, no one has mentioned the elephant in the room. No one! Has anyone here (of those expressing disallusionment and seeking authenticity) even entertained the possibility that the church that is blossoming and bringing forth more and more good fruit, the church that the EC assumes must have found some way to cheat the law of the harvest, might actually have something authentically Christian to offer?
The group to which I refer is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – the Mormons.
Well, most of you made good points.
I feel a strange parallel between what happened in the Catholic Church circa 1979. Then it was Catholics who felt the Church was the Democratic Party at prayer (see Andrew Greeley) and were very appreciative of Evangelicalism.
Too bad the end of the discussion turned to politics and government though. Thirty years ago, my take on Evangelicalism was small group bible studies and a traditional four hymn Sunday service in a neighborhood congregation. Mega churches weren’t that common. My experts were Lewis, Packer, and Stott (O yes – and Cardinal Newman, a former Anglican Evangelical)
Now all this has changed, Churches have gotten bigger and bigger. Willow Creek is now its own denomination. Christian radio is now talk shows or DJs instead of preaching.
Evangelicalism tried to be relevant but got so big and so entertainment minded, it encouraged passivity in its members.
Perhaps a more Catholic or at least Reformed Catholic approach could revive the Church. I love my Evangelical brethren but hope they would stop being so scattered under competing shepards
The coming Evangelical Collapse within two generations Response.
Dont underestimate how much God loves and disoplines his people,and brings them to the fullness of his intensions even when they compromise the truth of his word.I dont believe that we will see two generations before the Lord will return,when you consider how long a generation is as interpreted by the scriptures.Compare Genesis 15v16 and Acts 7v6. Four generations are 400 years and therefore a generation is 100 years. Jesus in Matt 24 spoke of the Jewish nation from its rebirth til his coming as a generation or an age.If you take that literally as i do,then we have fourty odd years to go before he returns since the birth of that nation.Gods intention is that all belivers enter into the spiritual reality of Passover (salvation) pentecost (Baptism in the Holy Spirit) and Tabernacles(Holiness of mind and life)My prediction is that the feast of tabernacles will begin to be understood and embraced by the new breed of believers both jewish and gentiles in the next ten years
Don’t forget that that another reason it will die is simply that with the rise of technology we can through intense study see where the bible is just plain inaccurate. Finding out that certain parts of the bible are not authentic will certainly have an adverse effect on those claiming that the bible is the inerrant word of God. Frankly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened faster.
The â€œGreatest Generationâ€ gave of themselves and their finances, and their unworthy children do not even come near their levels.
Hey, I see this trope a lot and it’s bunk. If I recall correctly it was the Greatest Generation that started the whole culturkampf to begin with. They gave us the immoral Social Insecurity first, then backed that up with Griwold vs. Connecticut, followed quickly by no-fault divorce. Finally, they topped it off with Roe v. Wade.
These are often cited as the opening salvos of the current culture war. Sorry, misty-eyed nostalgics. The truth is that every generation has its shameful episodes, and the greatest gifts of the greatest generation were followed up by some of the most poisoned fruit to bloom in the United States’ history.
Yes, I too wish folks were more than “rhetorically pro-life.” Still, that’s better than being among those who are pro-wages of sin, whether merely supporting death rhetorically or in some more active way.
The term â€˜pro-lifeâ€™ appears to confuse the blog’s author and several of the commenters here. Simply remember that as it is used colloquially today, â€˜pro-lifeâ€™ is a contraction of â€˜pro-innocent lifeâ€™. Deliberately induced abortion â€” the name of which is contracted to merely â€˜abortionâ€™ in common speech today â€” is an attack on innocent life. Imposing the death penalty upon conviction for murder after a fair trial is not the taking of innocent life, therefore the death penalty is not a contradiction of what is commonly meant by the term â€˜pro-lifeâ€™. Quite arguably, a proper understanding of what defending innocent life involves may well require one to advocate the death penalty for those who kill by exclusively targeting the innocent.
You might consider me one of those who will be part of your opposition in the future (intolerant of Christians….at least fundamental ones). I am a liberal Christian and attend church on a fairly regular basis. I am educated (post graduate degree) but find myself taking rediculous positions as soon as I learn of someone’s fundamentalism ie changing support for an NFL team upon learning that the quarterback is an evangelical “Christian”. This is irrational but I guess a result of years and years of fundamentalists telling me how wrong I am on all the cultural issues. Since I have never had any respect from that side I guess its not surprising that I now give none in return.
As alisdair mcintyre said 20 years ago in ‘beyond virtue’ the barbarians have already stormed the gates. What we need now is a, doubtless very different. St. Benedict.
Biblical references support this. Revelations chapters 17 & 18 speak of false religion as Babylon the Great. In particular she falls because of her involvement with the kings of the earth (politics).
She has failed the people having them look to men instead of God to to bring peace and comfort to the earth as Jesus told us to pray for in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come; they will be done on *earth*…”
Isaiah 9:6,7 speaks of this kingdom/government in the hands of Jesus that will bring worldwide peace. (Kingdom and government mean same thing).
The fall and destruction of Babylon the Great will be sudden,swift and irreversible. Soon.
I have seldom read a more elegant overview of what I have perceived as a Christian over the past decade r so. I will read on, but want to add that the modern mega church upholds a fundamentalism that is misguided, as it reduces spiritual nature of man to something very simplistic, and not able to provide answers to an increasingly complex human condition.
I totally agree with the author of this post. I was particularly struck by this quote:
“I hope someone is going to start preparing for what is going to be an evangelical dark age.”
So … if this is coming, how do we prepare?
You’re spot on with what’s wrong and likely to happen. Have you read DH Williams “Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism”? I started there and then realised he didn’t go far enough. After teaching church history at a large Evangelical bible College for years, I discovered that the original evangelical church is really 2000 years old, but us modern Protestant evangelicals are so distracted by protest against catholicism that we miss the obvious connections with the original/Orthodox church. Which is why so any evangelicals in USA, UK and here in Oz are going back to the original evangelical church. maybe there’s hope after all?
Well there are about 150 people here thinking pretty hard about stuff… hot dialogue,plenty of patience and tolerance going on. There’s hope in that.
Vatican 2 laid down the precept that the holy spirit is actually moving in other religions. That info does not seem to have reached the pews. Imagine 6 billion odd christian folks deciding it was ok to love the Buddhist next door… and horror of horrors find they taught him/her how to really see the christian faith from an eastern perspective instead of our stultifying
western hegemony. I liked the word duality earlier… this is the sin behind all sins really. I can waste the earth because its not me… those moslems are going to hell because they are not me.ALL THINGS HAVE THEIR BEING IN CHRIST. I think we are not secular enough. Either God breathes life into everything or nothing. It takes some bravery to open up to others. It is a lot safer to have a club which one belongs to that helps you say”I’m one of the few and all the rest are chaff.”
Once you broaden the circle out to eternity there is God who embraces ALL, loves ALL, breathes life into ALL. Evangelicalism is a form and beyond all forms is THE REALITY. I reckon thats what we need.
What this article talks about is exactly what Reggie McNeal talks about in “The Present Future”, which begins, “The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money, and energy of previous generations from a previous world order.”
I think the rabbit hole goes much deeper than we have already seen.
Evaneglicals are not good at talking to post-moderns, who are skeptical of anyone to thinks they know the absolute truth absolutely. Evangelicals (and I consider myself one) would drive seculars away a lot less quickly if they lightened up on the insistence that they know exactly the right answer to every issue (and that everything is their way or the highway). However, learning to engage the culture differently will require a different epistemology, pneumatology, and soteriology. Given how many evangelicals shout “Heretic!” the moment anyone tries doing anything different, there’s going to be a lot more pain before all these new “ologies” rise up form the ashes.
I agree with one poster. I believe the decline is already well underway – and I believe it is what God has orchestrated.
There are many going around saying they are part of the Church and they are not.
We’ve lost our way. The way to change what is happening is to see lives transformed by the Gospel of the Kingdom, not by engaging in culture battles. Transform lives and watch what God does in society.
I do not believe the Lord will leave himself without a remnant. I do believe something will emerge. I believe it will be more Christlike, full of life, and probably a lot leaner and more mobile and more fluid – while maintaining the integrity of the Faith.
I am convinced God is at work and the church is not dead, but in many ways it has been hijacked and God is going to get his church back.
A lot to digest.
However, I think Chris E has it right,”…However, I would argue that to the extent that the decline reflects reality, the decline has already happened. You say you see a future of Moralistic-Therapeutic-Deism, but that is exactly where the American church is now.”
“But many people I know who make your type of comment do want to basically â€œblow it upâ€. Well except for the parts they like. :)”
You’re right. Take Montana for example. It has the most militias and anti-government types in it and yet it also recieves the most welfare money and most of the jobs there are ….government jobs. 🙂
But that’s part of my point. The same laws that we like now, because we’re in charge, are the same ones that can be used against us if someone else desires. Hence one of the reasons I’m leary of giving the government power in areas of personal conscience.
“they donâ€™t want the government stealing their money”
â€œI think our government in the US is very deeply flawed at many levels. But blowing it up doesnâ€™t seem to be a rations response to the problems.â€
“I donâ€™t recall saying, here at least, that we should scrap the whole thing. I am against the expansion of it into areas where hisorically it either has no business being or that ended up with people getting murdered by the millions.”
You’re right you didn’t say blow it up. But many people I know who make your type of comment do want to basically “blow it up”. Well except for the parts they like. 🙂
dlormand: excellent points!
Yes..tolerance,gay marriage and the ecumenical church of Oprah are paving their way right through our living rooms and that Genies not ever going back in the bottle.
“I believe the church, pastors, etc. are called to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not try to morally improve society. The Gospel and the community it creates, and the believers it equips, are the political response we are to make.”
I agree with this point. If churches (pastors, leaders, _parents_) would disciple the believers (“disciple” includes but does not equal “educate”), things like political engagement and evangelism would take care of themselves.
The church has failed to influence culture by emphasizing political alignment.
The church has failed to win the next generation by emphasizing evangelism (the “duty” of all believers to “witness” and “share their faith” (when most of them have little to none) because Jesus said “Make disciples of all nations” – wait, He said “disciples”, not “converts”…)
If evangelicalism fails, it will be because we never understood DISCIPLESHIP.
Internetelias, my opinion on public schools has to do with the uneducated legions of public school grads occupying the university classroom I am responsible for teaching.
If that’s treason, I’ll buy you the rope to hang me with.
but then you could mistakenly convict the witnesses…..it never ends and the only logical conclusion based on your arguement is never convict anyone. After all life in prison in error is not much more just than execution….so we should just have no criminal courts at all because an error might be made.
“Rare mistakes may be madeâ€¦but that is not a valid enough reason to through out secular justice.”
Lots of people disagree. One innocent isn’t worth it to me. Maybe if we are going to have the death penalty we need to go back to the OT requirements before someone could be executed…Witnesses required, and if they lie, they get the penalty themselves…
I don’t understand….When I read the Bible it seems to make a very clear distinction between the murder of innocent children and the execution by the State of convicted criminals. I don’t see a hypocrisy here in the Bible or in rational thought. These things are just different. Rare mistakes may be made…but that is not a valid enough reason to through out secular justice. The Bible states clearly that governments are given the sword to protect its citizens, by judicial punishment and through defense by armies.
The Bible is also clear in way too many places on homosexuality. This is not an eisegesis like mixed marriage. There is just is no basis for your assertion.
I didn’t say we are not wicked, because we are. I’m saying that the statement “human nature is inherently evil” is wrong. Human nature is good, but corrupted. There is a very important distinction there.
“Iâ€™d be much more suspicious of small government Libertarian leanings as being a fruit of the Fall”
Libertarian governments have never slaughtered millions of their people. Big socialist governments have. In fact every time socialism has been tried as the exclusive philosophy MILLIONS of people get killed by their own governments.National SOCIALIST Germany, USSR, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia…there are fifty some examples. The only possible exception is one of the Norse countries but even there the suicide rate is the highest in the industrialized world.
God’s form of government is a monarchy, with Him as the King.
“I think our government in the US is very deeply flawed at many levels. But blowing it up doesnâ€™t seem to be a rations response to the problems.”
I don’t recall saying, here at least, that we should scrap the whole thing. I am against the expansion of it into areas where hisorically it either has no business being or that ended up with people getting murdered by the millions. Any government big enough and intrusive enough to regulate what you look at in your home or who you have sex with in your bedroom is also big enough to close churches, ban the Bible and make us all wear yellow crosses.
And Sam Urfer,
You quote a verse about BEFORE the Fall to demonstrate that AFTER the Fall we’re not wicked?
Here you go: 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
John 3:19 (ESV)
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jer 17:9 (KJV)
and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Eph 2:3 (ESV)
I could go on, but you get the point. The entire history of mankind shows a corruption beyond some superficial imparted debt. The Bible confirms this.
“…â€œrhetorically pro-lifeâ€â€“yup. Being anti-abortion but pro-death penalty (even when our justice system is so obviously flawed) and pro-pre-emptive war isnâ€™t a hypocrisy that Christians can get away with any more…”
Amen to that. I’ve always been confused by Christians I’ve talked to who were hopping mad over abortion and Terri Schiavo – yet had no problem at all with dropping bombs on Iraqis, Palestians, and Afhganis in the war on terror.
I agree with the sentiments expressed in this thread. I agree that the future of American Christianity lies in Roman Catholicism, Pentecostalism, and Orthodoxy; mainline Protestantism will all but disappear, and Evangelicalism will decline precipitously.
I also believe that where the latter two continue to exist, they will do so only among ethnic minorities and immigrants.
“evangelicals and conservative gave BILLIONS of dollars last year to charity. The fact that they donâ€™t want the government stealing their money doesnâ€™t make them greedy.”
The problem I have WITH THE PEOPLE I PERSONALLY KNOW (I don’t know you) who expouse this position is they like the police and fire departments, the roads, the air traffic control system (flawed as it is), street lights, traffic lights, sidewalks, Social Security for retirement, trash collection, garbage dumps, banks that can’t fail and they loose their savings, mortgage deductions, etc… In many cases they want the government to make them better. They rarely are willing to discuss how to replace these systems in a pure libertarian/objectivist system.
Basically they want the government to quit “stealing” their money but keep delivering the services they like. Of course a big part of this is many of them tend to feel that everyone would give up the same things. NOT.
I think our government in the US is very deeply flawed at many levels. But blowing it up doesn’t seem to be a rations response to the problems.
“rhetorically pro-life”–yup. Being anti-abortion but pro-death penalty (even when our justice system is so obviously flawed) and pro-pre-emptive war isn’t a hypocrisy that Christians can get away with any more. It is just too obvious that these issues are about supporting the Republicans, not about living in the imitation of Christ.
And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think that accepting homosexuals for who they are and how God made them poses any threat whatsoever to Christianity. Jesus, of course, said zippo about homosexuality, so it obviously wasn’t one of his big hang-ups. As the culture as a whole becomes more enlightened on this matter Christian churches will be forced to either adapt or be increasingly marginalized. Once upon a time there was plenty of religious opposition to integration and inter-racial marriages too and plenty of people claiming that it was “un-biblical” to support either. Of course, few would defend those positions now, just like in the (near?) future not many will oppose equal rights for homosexuals.
Michael: Thanks for the offer. To be fair, I’ll pay for dinner in 15 if you’re right.
Unless Jesus returns first. Then we’re both wrong; but He’s buying.
“By virtually every way you can read the Bible man is inherently evil.”
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:26, 31)
“How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man’. By this ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ – a state and not an act.
Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 404 and 405)
Now, certainly “Total Depravity” is a reading of the Scriptures, but not one that is held to by a majority of Christians, currently or historically.
I’d be much more suspicious of small government Libertarian leanings as being a fruit of the Fall than the belief that some social functions (education, health care, policing, fire protection, etc.) are the province of the State, and that the State has a right to tax people to keep society running.
That is not what I am saying about believers. Believrs should be good and active citizens.
I believe the church, pastors, etc. are called to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not try to morally improve society. The Gospel and the community it creates, and the beleivers it equips, are the political response we are to make.
Pardon if I offended you, my question was sincere, I am looking for an answer. I DID NOT say that You said any of those things. I asked for clarification on what you meant.Neither did I mention any political party nor did I say anything about America being a Christian nation. I am simply asking an honest question about your view of the role of the individual Christian, the local church pastor, the local church and the denomination when it comes to moral issues in the public square.
It seems that you are saying Believers should abandon anything political. But I am not sure if that is what you are saying.
You make a very good point….It does seem biblical that all man-made institutions tend to corruption and evil. Even those leaders used by God in the OT who were not part of Israel’s theocracy. Look at the leaders of Assyria, etc that God put in place and used…not to mention the Roman emperors. I am NOT advocating we set up a theocracy..it would be a man made “theocracy” and would be just as bad if not more. God also made it clear what our response was to be…render unto Caeser…
We need to remember that we are far more likely to be outnumbered in the world than be in the majority. We can’t legislate christian morals….we have to evangelize and convert and learn to live as pilgrims in a foreign land (this also sounds vaguely familiar….)
“The idea that government is inherently evil is not scriptural; it is political.”
It is entirely scriptural. Government is the rule of a man or men. By virtually every way you can read the Bible man is inherently evil. Why do we assume that an individual is wicked by nature but figure 100 individuals together is righteous?
There is a reason for the saying “Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely.”
Cars aren’t in the Bible either, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an Isuzu in my driveway.
>…a) We Christians should avoid politics altogether, not vote, serve in government, or speak out about moral issues that are clearly touching on both doctrines of the Bible and political issues? b) We should speak out, vote and serve in the liberal side instead of the conservative? c)Individual Christians can speak out and serve as long as they are not in the ministry?
I didn’t say any of these things. Any of them. You won’t get a conversation out of me serving up a plate full of things I didn’t say and points of view I don’t hold.
The church of Jesus is about the Gospel, not political parties or some idea that America is a Christian nation. I believe exactly what I see in the New Testament that Paul believd about the church of his day in the Roman Empire.
This post isn’t on my views on the culture war. Use the IM search function and you will find plenty.
On your first point I have some serious questions because I have read so many of my Reformed brothers writing and saying the same thing.When you say that Evangelicals have identified with the culture wars and the conservative political movement, and that that is a bad thing, what do you mean? a) We Christians should avoid politics altogether, not vote, serve in government, or speak out about moral issues that are clearly touching on both doctrines of the Bible and political issues? b) We should speak out, vote and serve in the liberal side instead of the conservative? c)Individual Christians can speak out and serve as long as they are not in the ministry? Please, I am really confused on this and I do hear it a lot.What role does the individual Christian, the pastor, the local church and the denomination play in the critical issues of morals and social policy? It seems that you and all the other Reformed guys want us to completely abandon the public square. That is hardly the stance of Francis Schaeffer or Abraham Kuyper, or even Calvin and Luther.
Sincerely (and sinnerly) yours,
The ECUSA can defrock Gene Robinson and apologize for the hurt its done. That’s what the Gospel looks like in this situation.
Do you really see Jesus (talking to an openly gay rabbi in 1st Century Israel denying what the Bible states about homosexuality being sinful) and saying “Good job, keep it up!! I don’t know what I was thinking when I inspired that!??
Jesus loved the sinners he met….he didn’t deny that there was sin.
Most of us have a problem with “Bishop” Robinson because he is unrepentant and denies what the Bible teaches explicitly. Its not personal and its not hatred. If he were repentant and was trying to “sin no more” that would be one thing…but boasting in it and glorifying? The end result can be seen in his “Prayer to the Unknown God” he gave at the Inaguration. He is something…but I don’t think it is Christian. Which is ok, he’s just a candidate for hearing the Gospel, like so many. But a Bishop of the Church……?
Chris … my point exactly
The gospel is less about What Jesus Would Do, and more about What Has Jesus Done.
“wonâ€™t let it be about the Gospel.”
Help me understand what you think Gospel would “look like” through the lens of this issue? In other words WWJD?
I personally pray that ECUSA (which by the way is TEC not ECUSA) can remain in the conversation and find a way to remain in full communion. That is my prayer.
I think that the name of christianity is being, and will continue to be significantly tarnished. The reality of christianity, however, I only see as being polished. We will have less church buildings, but stronger congregations with more discipleship. There will be less programs, but more real mercy shown.
Already I am feeling these effects in my own church. We talk much less of an evangelical game, and give more to help people make their mortgages. We hold community events around christmas instead of cantatas that only attract the faithful. There is still a deep culture effect of evangelicalism, but the more in flies in the face of Biblical priority, the farther it drives my congregation away. There is more self reflection, preaching against false religiosity, more discipleship, and less culture war and science bashing.
(On the other hand, I’m in part of the burned out section of New York. We may just be ahead on the timeline!)
Because the ECUSA won’t let it be about the Gospel. THey have steered a course directly to Gene Robinson and said that is the price of being the Anglican communion. Tell that to historic, worldwide Anglicanism.
The gay marriage/gay ordination position forces the issue of division. Any church that insists on it should stop talking about unity. There CAN’T be unity by radically deconstructing Genesis 1-2.
“If the ECUSA was not so liberal on social issues I think a great number of evangelicals would put aside some peripherals for an oppurtunity to tie in to that tradition.”
Why is it that our journey of faith in the 21st century always seem to be divided over what is perceived as “liberal” or “conservative.”
Why is there no room for the Gospel? The “Good News” that God-incarnate, Jesus Christ took on flesh and showed us the way of the cross, which is love that involves sacrifice; the giving of oneself. We would do much better if we loved one another as Christ loved us and try to find a middle way. The polarized divisions of liberal and conservative doesn’t seem to have any room for the Gospel.
Peter and Paul were divided over the issue of allowing Gentile Christians to fully enter into the community without being circumcised. But it was good for them and the Holy Spirit that they would allow it. There was room made for the Gospel regarding a social issue even then.
So social justice issues have to be discerned in the light of the Gospel. Gospel … GOOD News … God incarnate as one of us … walking with us in this journey … loving us so much that he died at our hands, and was raised, thus overcoming the worst of the human condition; death.
That’s great, Paul. I only recently happened on this blog myself. Being raised in an evangelical church, I had no faith and swore I’d never enter a church, until in my 40s when I discovered there were theologies based on love and grace rather than fear and damnation.
This is in response to what Bill said, “The â€œGreatest Generationâ€ gave of themselves and their finances, and their unworthy children do not even come near their levels.”
Bill, these “unworthy children” as you call them are products of “The Greatest Generation.” They may have given their time, finances and themselves to the church but failed to develop a lasting faith in their children. The children are simply reacting to what they see as a dead, ineffective, polarizing “religious group”.
I do find it fascinating how Christians only started to do that after Constantine wedded the Church to the Empire.
I think that hits at the root of it, DaveD. I don’t consider taxes to be stealing, I consider them to be sharing. My government steals nothing from me. It all belongs to God, for one thing, and for another, I wouldn’t have made nearly as much money without the set of laws and regulations our government puts in place.
For example, I would happily pay more taxes to finance a universal health care system. Not only is it more consistent with the teachings of Jesus, it also would be more financially efficient to not pay insurance companies one dollar out of every three I spend.
The idea that government is inherently evil is not scriptural; it is political.
@DaveD: “…No. Jesus, nor Paul, nor Peter, nor any of them ever said â€œOver throw Caesar and force the people to not worship pagan gods. Use the sword to convert them. Donâ€™t worry about loving them, or telling them about Jesus, other than to scream â€œACCEPT HIM!!! My version of Him, not the other versions.â€ Under threat of jail or death make them quit sinning externally, because thatâ€™ll change their heart.â€…”
I do find it fascinating how Christians only started to do that after Constantine wedded the Church to the Empire.
1) I hope you’re wrong.
2) I’ve read each of the numbered arguments carefully, and realize that you are probably not. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that I wish you were wrong. I find this statement particularly telling “…massive majorities of evangelicals canâ€™t articulate the Gospel…”
3) I believe, like was the case with Israel in the Old Testament, that there will always be a remnant of the faithful. It’s scary to think that within my lifetime I could be a part of it. I believe that would indicate the eminent return of Jesus, but what might we have to live through first? The comfort zone Chrsitians have lived in at the close of the 20th century makes us woefully unprepared to live in a 1st century style anti-Christian environment.
To whoever was talking to me about what I said about Muslims: I didnâ€™t say anything about Muslims. You are talking about someone else.
it was me, and I was mainly referring to one of headless unicorn guy’s posts, while also trying to draw your attention to his post.
Hope we’re OK. 🙂
No way. The name will change, but the song remains the same.
I stumbled across this article and found it incredibly interesting. I’m not someone who has any faith – I don’t believe in god and I have never been part of any religion. As someone from the other side, so to speak, I found what you’re saying very perceptive and accurate. I have friends who are evangelical and, as they struggle to maintain a friendship despite our differences (as I do too), it’s issues such as those you mention (anti-gay, pro-life etc) that constantly separate us.
Anyway, a truly stimulating blog post that I really enjoyed reading, many thanks,
That, combined with staking out the YEC/Literal 6 Day Creation Hermenuetic as a hill to die on lost many young people who were crying out for authentic Christianity. — Chad Winters
It lost me, that’s for sure. Another reason I swam back across the Tiber.
We pitted Special Revelation against General Revelation and lost wonderful avenues to approach nonbelievers. — Chad Winters
My Church (RCC)’s take on Special Revelation is it is not binding outside of the individual that had the Special Revelation. And it has to be an authentic Special Revelation (there’s a Church court that specializes in evaluating Special Revelation claims and visions); a lot of heresies and flake groups (Baysiders, anyone?) started out as somebody claiming a Special Revelation.
It was only 100 or so years ago that astronomers were fighting against accepting the Big Bang evidence because it fit too well with Genesis and the creation of the Universe. But then we couldnâ€™t accept it because it happened more than 6000 years ago. — Chad Winters
6013 years ago, actually…
I have experienced one YahooGroup (God’s Creatures, 2000-2002) melting down to extinction in a never-ending Creation vs Evolution flamewar. (Like Fred Phelps, except with Evolution instead of Homosexuality as the psychotic break trigger.) And two other lists I’m on now are showing signs they might take the same route; one list made a comment about inviting in the same YEC-Uber-Alles net jerk who killed the GC list, and I promptly exploded. (The list digest hasn’t cycled back, so I don’t know if I’ve been kicked off or not.)
And in my perusals of Christian attempts at SF (even quality attempts at it), I keep running into tacked-on digs against Evolution — usually some future-setting tangent, not germane to the story, how Evolution Has Been Completely Totally Proven False in that future. (The most memorable was the one where Absolute Proof of Young Earth Creationism was discovered encoded on the human genome.) I can only compare it to the Soviet-era Russian SF future-setting trope that Now We Have Achieved Perfect Communism.
And Joe R shows the other side of it.
Joe, evangelicals and conservative gave BILLIONS of dollars last year to charity. The fact that they don’t want the government stealing their money doesn’t make them greedy. At least two studies show that conservatives are dramatically more giving than liberals. Take our President and VP, worth millions of dollars between the two of them, gave less than $10k (if I remember correctly) last year.
WE are supposed to take care of the poor and hungry and naked..not pay more taxes to fund a beruacracy and only a tiny percentage actually gets to the people.
A prevailing worldview that seeks to be coherent without reference to religion.
Secularization should be a rather obvious fact of life in the last two centuries at least. It’s endemic to American identity, but we’re seeing an acceleration of secularization towards outright hostility toward religion in the public square. I think we’re about two generations away from the attitude toward religion we see in the New Atheists becoming standard fare. It’s already there among influential segments of society and is highly identified with the civic vision of the progressives currently in the cultural ascendency.
The orthodox faith I have in mind is 1) the creedal heritage of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds and 2) the common core of the Confessional heritage of the major historic denominational traditions.
“Do you mean one generation of Bread and Circuses, then the halal slaughter knife?”
Yes. And the return of the sex slave trade, the general erosion of rights and rampant atheism that they have now.
And Joe Blackmon proves my point about the American Church becoming a political entity.
“Romans tells us that the governing authorities are instituted by God.”
True. Nero was put on his throne by God for God’s purposes…which included persecuting the church apparently.
“Therefore, they are responsible to not govern in a way that contridicts the Bible.”
No. Jesus, nor Paul, nor Peter, nor any of them ever said “Over throw Caesar and force the people to not worship pagan gods. Use the sword to convert them. Don’t worry about loving them, or telling them about Jesus, other than to scream “ACCEPT HIM!!! My version of Him, not the other versions.” Under threat of jail or death make them quit sinning externally, because that’ll change their heart.”
It’s a pharisaical idea and it’s a genuinely dangerous one. If we follow your idea, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc. would be, at best, second class citizens because their faith is not what the Bible, as revealed in the OT AND NT, teaches. What if they don’t like that and start getting pushy about their rights? Do we kill them to make sure there’s no “sin in the camp” or simply put them in prison camps? Christianity was never meant to be a governing principle. Every time it has been in charge the state of the faith suffers. Every time it gets persecuted the faith THRIVES.
“People donâ€™t define morality. God doesâ€“in the Bible.”
True. Morality and Legality are two different things. Except for Israel in the OT, which was, as Paul points out, a shadow of things to come; a natural demonstration to reflect the spiritual kingdom. If Jesus said “He who is without sin cast the first stone” don’t you think he’d also mean, “He who is without sin be the first to throw her in prison”?
â€œJesusâ€™ example of the poor widow women could be used to demonstrate other wise.â€ Yes, a liberl would probably use just that sort of interpretation. Of course, the context of that passage clearly demonstrates that what youâ€™re claiming has absolutely nothing to do with anything resembling what that passage actually means. She wasnâ€™t giving to the poor-she was giving to God.”
She was giving in the temple. The funds were to go to the upkeep of the priesthood and to the poor. But that’s not the point of the story. The story is TO GIVE, even when you don’t have much to give. Give even if it hurts.(Matt 5:41-42) It was NOT about giving to the church in your tithe. If you’re a Christian, you’re giving to God if you drop it in the offering or if you give it to the homeless guy you try to avoid on your way to work.
If its the government’s job to stop porn because it’s Biblical then it is also the government’s job to make sure you give your share to the poor and needy. Either it enforces Biblical Morality or it doesn’t.
The simple fact of the matter is it’s easier to make it (porn, homosexuality, drinking etc) illegal than it is to actually pour yourself out to those people like Jesus did to and for us. That’s why it’s easier to get donations for a charity then it is volunteers.
Hi Imonk … try this one.
You wrote: â€œEvangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.â€
3. What is orthodox evangelical Christian faith? What is this secular onslaught to which you refer?
One thing: All Christians are commanded to be evangelical, but that term has come to define conservative Christians.
And that, I think, is a symptom of what is being described here.
When evangelicals became a totally owned and operated part of the Republican party, they were writing their own demise.
Our government policies, with the total support of traditional evangelicals, are not written to help the “least of these.” No, we tell the “least of these” that it’s their own fault, and to get out of our way while we make some more money.
We would not be at war in Iraq without the aid and consent of evangelicals.
We would have better and more compassionate health care if evangelicals did not oppose it.
How any Christian can oppose abortion but champion the death penalty is beyond me, but evangelicals do it easily.
When evangelicals decided that Jesus was a Republican, and that greed was the best way to run a society, it was only a matter of time before God began to cut them down.
Eric C: Too many questions. I just don’t have time to give that kind of detailed answers. Could we go one at a time please.
To whoever was talking to me about what I said about Muslims: I didn’t say anything about Muslims. You are talking about someone else.
iMonk – a very interesting post, I look forward to your next posts. I have to agree that you have to be partly correct, because as the Flatrocker pointed out the breadth of what is defined as evangelical is extremely broad, and some, such as the wealth and prosperity evangelicals are based on such a false theology they were doomed from the start.
Your post reminds me of essays in the 70s & 80s about how capitalism was going to collapse in the face of communism. I think the flaw in your prediction may be based on the same fallacy, that our post-modern culture is going to continue to be stable and strong. I don’t think that’s true. I think post-modernism has a very weak foundation and is on the verge of its own collapse.
But I do agree that, as I’ve heard apologists argue, we Americans have tried to christianize our politics, but the result has been to politisize our churches. That’s not healthy, but I think we can retreat from that without having a collapse of evangelicalism.
If we truly believe that the Holy Spirit is active in the Body of Christ today, then what happens next will certainly have to rely on Her guidance.
“…so scientifically implausible that famous scientists like Watson and Crick had to come up with space aliens as the resaon life began on Earth.”
Yeah, along with Legalism and Prosperity Gospel, I’d lump Gross Mischaracterizations of Science in the heap of stuff which is getting in the way of what the church is supposed to be doing.
to experience resurrection there must be death.
“a collapse that will…fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.”
Do you mean all of the West, including us over here in Europe (yes the entire continent from me here in Ireland over to Vlad in Russia, God help us all) and the people in Australia/New Zealand/the Pacific, or just North America (excluding Canada)? 🙂
Outside of Northern Ireland, I don’t know anything of the strength of Evangelicalism in Ireland. I know even less about it in mainland Europe. I do imagine the scene over here is very different to that in America. I can see that an Evangelical collapse is going to have vast effects in the U.S.A.
What happens next? That’s a little scary, isn’t it? If the choice is going to be moribund mainline denominations, a vast mushy middle of ‘spiritual but not religious’ wandering about all over the place and the convinced few huddling in little house groups of the ‘Genuine Christian Heirs of the Primitive Church – all 8 of us’ type, I don’t much fancy it. What is the alternative, though?
I have a few questions for you that may help me to understand your blog entry. Iâ€™m not saying that I disagree with you, Iâ€™m just trying to understand.
You wrote:â€œI believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.â€
1. Your assertion does not clearly define the group of Christians you are writing about (evangelicals). Can you explain YOUR definition of evangelicals? I believe that a broader understanding may be out there of what evangelical means, especially in mainline denominations. The tradition of the church in which I am affiliated, embraces what I perceive to be, a different definition for evangelical and orthodoxy than you use here.
You wrote: “This collapse will cause the end of thousands of ministries. The high profile of Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Hundreds of thousands of students, pastors, religious workers, missionaries and persons employed by ministries and churches will be unemployed or employed elsewhere. Christian schools will go into rapid decline. Visible, active evangelical ministries will be reduced to a small percentage of their current size and effort.”
2. Your assertion gives me the impression that it would be easy to replace the word “dominant” with the word “only” when we say: evangelicals are the dominant/only movement that is passing on the faith and is the dominant/only group that will stem the tide of hostility toward religion. It sounds like you are saying that there will be a (predicted) collapse of the church which will happen because of this perceived collapse of evangelicals (not defined). Church membership and church attendance nationally and in Western Europe is in decline and has been for several decades. There are some cultural influences that have a major impact on that statistic, but I am not sure that it is solely because of â€œculture in tension with religion and vice versa.â€ What about the Emerging Church movement and what about its impact on even traditional denominations? Nonetheless, I strongly believe that many churches have to take on part of the responsibility of WHY we struggle in the culture to communicate the gospel (by the way, communicate is not just proclaiming … it is proclaiming so that one can be heard and understood and transformed). To see another perspective on the tension of culture and faith, â€œChrist and Cultureâ€ by Niehbur is absolutely a must read and it addresses some of the culture issues.
2b. So here is the question: Looking at the history of the church over the past 2000 years, were there groups that emerged in the life of the church that eventually passed out of the limelight? If so, the question we might ask is, why did that group decline? Then we might also ask, how did the church continue when that group passed on? How did the church change? What was happening in culture when that took place? Look at the Reformation for instance and ask what was taking place in societies then and a few years before?
You wrote: “Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.”
3. What is orthodox evangelical Christian faith? What is this secular onslaught to which you refer?
You are right. You aren’t the only ones. We are young and about to be first time parents. I quake at the thought of trying to find a church to raise our kids in. IMonk’s predictions don’t give me much hope that I ever will (not that I was really looking for an evangelical church anyways.) Give me the Gospel, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and a healthy dose of evangelism (not evangelicalism). I know there are churches that get it (I’d go to ICCEC if there was one nearby), but sadly, here in a rural southern town, it’s hard to find a middle ground church with substance and sound doctrine between the ones IMonk is talking about and whatever is at the other end of the spectrum.
@ headless unicorn guy (and imonk, too): Gross over-generalization of all Muslims and of Islam as a whole. That’s one of the many “Us vs. Them” adversarial things I was alluding to in my replies above.
I used to be an ESL tutor with Arab Muslim girls and women, and got to know many others (Arab, Iranian, African, Middle Eastern, Central Asian etc.) Muslims via both work and just living in my neighborhood. Extremist movements are a very real concern, but to be honest… the majority of the world’s Muslim population is not involved in those kinds of beliefs/activities. (Though God knows, the US media has been painting a very un-nuanced picture of Islam and of Muslims, too… and much of the so-called “Christian” press/media has been among the most viciously prejudiced “sources” out there.)
Sorry for the threadjack; I did feel it was important to point out the post in question…
Here is a link to a postcard I received in the mail from a local EV Free church plant. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day I suppose. 😉 If this is evangelicalism I welcome its demise. http://vintagearmoire.blogspot.com/
Ironically, probably the best church here in town in terms of solid doctrinal preaching, is an EV Free. (NOT the church-planter here)
Hunches of this sort are part of the reason our church community is beginning to look seriously at bi-vocational ministry as a norm. The structures have to support the life and mission of the church, and if those structures are too heavily reliant on loads of cash from well-to-do Christians, the church will have an awfully hard time doing what it’s supposed to do when this “apocalypse” happens.
Chad, I completely agree with you, particularly on the science issues and creation. My wife is a chemist, and I am a biologist after many years of fruitless arguments, or just remaining quiet in Church or Sunday school when these issues came up, we finally left.
Yes, I’ve had similar experiences. Don’t want to waste space here telling stories, but the outlines and themes are strikingly similar.
One more thing that’s being taught a lot but isn’t really the gospel is what I’d call therapeutic Christianity, which isn’t all bad, but is pretty stunted and doesn’t promote growth or depth much.
Great post Mr. Spencer!!
Many of the comments have been great as well. I agree with several commenters that replacing the Gospel with politics and legislated morality was a near-fatal mistake for evangelicalism. That, combined with staking out the YEC/Literal 6 Day Creation Hermenuetic as a hill to die on lost many young people who were crying out for authentic Christianity.
We pitted Special Revelation against General Revelation and lost wonderful avenues to approach nonbelievers. It was only 100 or so years ago that astronomers were fighting against accepting the Big Bang evidence because it fit too well with Genesis and the creation of the Universe. But then we couldn’t accept it because it happened more than 6000 years ago. We also ignored the evidence for the fine tuning and design of the universe and the total lack of scientific explanation of the development of life from non-life (so scientifically implausible that famous scientists like Watson and Crick had to come up with space aliens as the resaon life began on Earth. So many battles we could have won instead of staking out indefensible positions……
1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism.
Agreed that this has been a deadly marriage. Several of my friends and I have left mainstream evangelical churches lately and it all began with this … feeling like there was one narrow, highly uniform, all encompassing world view that was demanded by a basic faithfulness to the gospel and that this world view
2) Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.
I’m not convinced yet whether or not there has been a failure of evangelical Christians to pass on our faith in an orthodox form or whether the form that Evangelicals adopted from the beginning might not have been ‘unorthodox’ in itself, in some senses, at least. In the latter reading, the vestiges of historic orthodoxy in mainstream evangelicalism were simply lingering remnants of the mainline Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or Lutheran influences.
4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism.
This is one reason my own school, though orthodox and in many ways ‘evangelical’ though composed mostly of mainline parents and students, is resistant to using the term “Christian school” to describe ourselves.
The very term connotes a school that fails in the way you describe — which is sad.
7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before.
This economic take is very interesting.
@John: “They know the gospel and they love God and their fellow human beings, but they are emphatically unimpressed with most of what they experience in the churches weâ€™ve been to. And mostly I agree with them.”
Heh, John, you see it in your kids? I see it in my friends and in my roommate.
My roommate is a deeply intellectual, very well-read guy who could theologize most Christians I’ve met in my life under the table; since I’ve moved in with him it’s clear he’s given an immense amount of thought into what he believes in…yet, he doesn’t want to go to church anymore because he find it for the most part empty and meaningless.
My friends who live a few floors above me are coming to the same place along a different path. One girl used to be the Poster Child for the Wretched Urgency syndrome IM talked about so eloquently before, and suffered a total collapse during her undergrad which left her almost robbed of her Christianity. Her sister wound up pretty much the same way my roommate did.
And every time I ask myself why I go to our VCF meetings on campus and discover the reason: the group leaders have decided to try to grow the group by putting more effort on focusing on evangelizing to the university (I wonder if this sounds familiar to you). Others in the group are of the intense everything-or-nothing Culture War variety – I went to a birthday party of one of my friends in the group and was floored by a 30 min. rant from one guy there on how Vancouver, and my home city of Toronto were depraved, perverted craven cities full of evil, sin and vice, all because of those evil, evil, eeevil homosexuals – still others love to boast about their denominations by picking on others.
It’s tiring, it’s disheartening, and it’s depressing. I can only speak for myself when I say that Secular Culture isn’t giving me a problem with my Christianity – it’s what I see in Evangelicalism that’s making me question and doubt my faith.
The sad thing is; the “‘Merican Christian Doctrine” is creating years of consternation for my friends in Africa. 80% of their efforts are now focused on repairing the destruction caused by Hinn,his ilk and the “Chicken in every pot” ethos, rather than carrying out the Great Commission. As opposed to Making a great commission.
“Nor is it commanded anywhere in the NT for government to ban certain types of sex or sexually explicit images yet we encourage that whole heartedly. Yet when the government want to get its hand in our wallet we get sqeemish. Itâ€™s hypocrisy. Either government is a force to make people act â€œmorallyâ€ or itâ€™s not.”
Romans tells us that the governing authorities are instituted by God. Therefore, they are responsible to not govern in a way that contridicts the Bible. People don’t define morality. God does–in the Bible.
“Jesusâ€™ example of the poor widow women could be used to demonstrate other wise.” Yes, a liberl would probably use just that sort of interpretation. Of course, the context of that passage clearly demonstrates that what you’re claiming has absolutely nothing to do with anything resembling what that passage actually means. She wasn’t giving to the poor-she was giving to God.
Hey Michael, I’ll take your post and raise you one: I think the evangelical collapse is already happening, right now. My children fit close to the profile of some of the youth you reference. They know the gospel and they love God and their fellow human beings, but they are emphatically unimpressed with most of what they experience in the churches we’ve been to. And mostly I agree with them. The best teaching they’ve gottn is from us as parents. The evangelical churches we’ve been in have taught them next to nothing about the gospel; on at least one occasion they asked not to go back to SS because the other kids were so creepy and the lessons had no substance.
Why is this happening? In short, because precious few evangelicals in the pews or in leadership are telling the story of the gospel, the good news. And even fewer are living it, really living it, in community and in sacrificial ways. We’re not hearing of God’s marvelous and relentless love and pursuit of our salvation in Scripture, all pointing to the zenith of the story in the life, death and ressurection of Jesus, and we’re certainly not hearing how that’s relevant to us (I’m not sure why; after all, it’s really not that difficult to do, and the story is deeply compelling). Here are some of the things we’re hearing instead, with the text of scripture bent to conform to them, instead of visa versa:
Culture War issues
Moralism, and more moralism
Topical issues of the day
How we’re oppressed by some Other
Fundraising, mostly for more buildings
Paranoia (don’t read Harry Potter; war on Christmas, etc.)
We’re trying to find a church where our kids will be challenged and engaged. I’d consider us thoughtful and committed followers of Jesus, but it’s a wasteland out there. We’ve almost given up. I have a feeling we aren’t the only ones.
I agree that the state of the American Church is dire. We can look at â€œChristianâ€ Europe to see our future.
Do you mean the future Islamic Republic of Eurabia?
Do you mean one generation of Bread and Circuses, then the halal slaughter knife?
This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.
The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions weâ€™ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.
No, their response will be to get out the white robes and start climbing on their rooftops with their End Time Prophecy charts and copies of Left Behind, reading the hostile environment as The Great Apostasy and Great Tribulation and keeping themselves Pure to pass the litmus test for the Great Fire Escape. And they will never learn otherwise. “REJOICE FOR THY REDEMPTION DRAWETH NIGH! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! RAPTURE! RAPTURE! RAPTURE! RAPTURE!”
Thank you, John Nelson Darby. And you too, Scofield the Scoundrel.
Does anybody here believe that the Evangelical church is doing fine on it’s own, or is stronger than ever?
imonk had a positive experience with public schools, but that was when they all drew on shovels with burnt wood. In Kentucky that might not have been long ago. Goals 2000 came out of Arkansas, a state that makes Kentucky look like the ivory tower of education. Our new President is a politician from Chicago. Please take a minute to look at Illinois literacy and drop out rates. What ever they were trying to do there failed horribly. If we do not do something with the education of young Christians we will end up in a new Dark Ages, no one will be trained enough to study doctrine, they will all be easily lead by ear ticklers.
Many of us believe reading the Bible is central to the Faith. Many people coming out of public school have never read a whole book, many are functionally illiterate. We are in trouble.
Tag on my last post: I was involved in a YWAM-happy, “strategic level spiritual warfare”-happy church for a number of years. Now, I honestly don’t consider this “theology” to be Christian – it’s dualistic, and puts all the blame for bad things and actions on the devil, as if we humans didn’t have *any* real choices to make.
This stuff is entirely off the “Christian” map – as is the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” I personally believe that churches that have gone these routes (and others similar to them) are *not* Christian anymore – that they’re practicing syncretistic religions that have elements lifted from Christianity, but have moved outside the very large “ballpark” of the Gospel.
Simply put, we’re not acting like Jesus. We’re triangulating “places of power” and using our own spells and incantations to (we think) defeat the devil; we’re preaching and living as if God can be manipulated if we pray in the “right way,” and – re. social issues – we’re claiming to be Christ-like while actually despising those who are “not like us.”
Parallels to the Pharisees and Saducees aren’t hard to fine.
Like one of your Aussie commenters, I think that what you’re saying *isn’t* about following Christ, and is about the “culture wars” and negativity that so many in Christian circles bring into engagement with others who are (to include myself in this side) “not like us” and are perceived as lacking.
The church is supposed to be *in* the world, after all – like Jesus. We’ve created out own equivalents of gated communities that keep everyone “not like us” out. It’s the exclusivity – and outright hostility – toward people who think/believe differently (very much including fellow Christians) that’s the problem.
If we keep maligning those who disagree with “us” (whoever “they” are) and have an adversarial “Us vs. Them” stance, of course things will fall apart. Of course people who aren’t card-carrying members of the gated community will be hostile and unwilling to pay us any mind.
Because we are not acting like Jesus, we’re acting like a bunch of people binding unbearably heavy burdens on the shoulders of those who come to our churches. is it any wonder that they get crushed by the weight?!
As an aspiring teacher, the NEA is NOT the friend of any Christian or even of true education. I’m knee deep in the classes now, people espousing the idea of abandoning teaching kids readin’ ‘ritin and ‘rithmetic in favor of social engineering. They have pushed for these ideas for decades. “Johnny Can’t Read” came out 50 years ago and the literacy rate has gone DOWN since then. In some areas of the country up to 70% of kids never finish High School and yet the NEA, or it’s sycophants like the Dept. of Ed., keeps creating new techniques and theories that simply reinforce FAILED theories and techniques (sight reading, anyone?) or cry that they need more money. How can you in any way say that this is “poison rhetoric”?
John Dewey, one of the founders of this modern movement, was a devout fan of Communist Russia and was upfront about his desire to remake our society in THAT image. Who should be tried for treason? Those who want our kids to learn to read or those who want to use the public education system to undermine American values and “remake” it??
If the quality of the education keeps going down and the cost keeps going up, why should we defend that system? Meanwhile, Christian schools ARE managing to teach kids to read, write and balance their checkbooks, usually for less per student than the public schools are spending, which here is about $15k per kid per year.
I don’t think government funds should be in private schools because it gives the government, who has already failed with their schools, the ability to coerce cirriculuum decisions by threatening to with hold funds.
Fearsome Comrad:I think you might be wrong about Christian schools. The destruction that is about to be visited on our school system will make the collapse of evangelicalism, if it occurs, look like the Spanish-American War compared to WWI.
The politicians and their followers who spew poison rhetoric against the nations public schools in order to break apart NEA so as to get vouchers for private Christian schools such as Liberty College….should be tried for treason for the damage done to the unity of American families, communities, congregations, and national politics. They should be condemned to write “I will not deceive the trusting rural evangelical masses”……..until each REPENTS! These men are the same who are responsible for ‘the sky is falling’ mentality that sends droves of Bible Belt Christians to the polls to vote Republican in order to SAVE the world from abortion, homosexuality, and public education. The result of this nationwide plan to destroy public schools, NEA, unionized labor, and trust among peoples…is just what IMONK is describing….the crumbling of the established church that is now become part of the problem….and not the solution. Take heart….The Bride of Christ is alive and well!
If that’s what it takes to get back to the core of the Gospel, then bring it on. We here in the West have been spoiled for quite awhile. We follow our own idea of God many times, one who wants our country to be Christian rather than the people who live in it. We believe that God is on our side rather than us following Him. And God wants us to be healthy and wealthy rather than suffer for His kingdom. We want what’s in it for us, how God can make our lives more comfortable, and how we can make everyone else live the moral lives we want them to. We don’t change people; God does.
Jesus isn’t in the business of supporting dead churches. He’s in the business of calling his people out of Egypt and out of Babylon. The long experiment of the Evangelical church in America to play social and political games has put it squarely in the bed of the world, and flesh & spirit do not mingle – leading it to be in the place you describe.
God’s building His kingdom, and it’s not a rebuilt kingdom of mankind, it’s a new creation.
Interesting post, Michael, and sounds pretty accurate. And I suppose that, like any dysfunctional family, we’ve got to face the realities before we can begin the healing process. Some good discussion going on here.
I can’t help but feel that our initial reaction is to “plug the holes in the dam” and try to fix what’s wrong. The impression that I’m left with is that it’s all very politically and sociologically based rather than bringing it back to the individual. Kinda reminds me of “washing the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean also.” How is God having an impact on each of us as individuals and then, in turn, as a group, etc?
I suppose there’s a certain amount of trust involved that God has things in hand and that perhaps some trimming needs to be done as far as traditions, etc. Pruning is a good thing, no?
“Matthew 16:18 (â€¦I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) is interesting.
Gates are a defensive weapon. It seems that God views the Church as the offense against Satan and his gates down in Hell.”
Thank you for pointing this out, JB. For some reason, “gates of hell” had not really registered with me before and so it gave me a slightly different perspective.
Evangelical collapse? Maybe…
An interesting note in TIME magazine (the highest source of reality as we know it, right?) pointed out a different possible future: a New Evangelicalism.
It observes this twofold effect:
More leaders like Warren are joining others like Campolo in championing what were previously thought of as liberal causes.
The other is the effect of the economy will force the church to drastically restructure the way it does ministry. People are going to be looking to the church for help. Many churches will have to shift their priorities to meet these needs and restructure the handling of their resources.
Time magazine seems to only see a change of face for evangelicalism. Can this change of face help to prevent it’s seemingly inevitable collapse?
Who knows. My conclusion? Perhaps we are about to see possibly an “evangelical reformation” or even, heck, a “revival”, but what comes out on the other side may come out looking so shockingly different from what it looks like now that it will hardly be recognizable. And the prosperity gospel for sure will not be able to survive.
Maybe this is just God’s way of weeding that out?
Excuse me if I am in error, but I have been led to believe that there is a virtual explosion of conversions to Anglican Christianity in unlikely parts of the world such as Africa and South America. How does this fit into your prediction, or does it?
I don’t have an anticipatory answer, I’m genuinely curious.
For my part, I don’t know if I believe all of your prediction, but I do think that a big change is coming, and a lot of the real nonsense in American Christianity is going to be swept away. Which is not necessarily a welcome thing in the short run, because I could easily see it being replaced with a general agnosticism rather than any other more genuine article.
There is a season for everything. The Puritans had a season, left a legacy, now they are gone. I feel the Non-denoms I have read about and those I work with have a BETTER doctrine than some old line evangelicals. They have their hearts right, not just their creed. There seems to be a tendency to worship in deed as well as word.
There are so many faults to find with the
Evangelical machine, will we really morn its passing? I think that depends on what replaces it.
For millions of people in the U.S. Evangelical religion is all ready a failure. They have left, been kicked out, been left down.
I would rather preach to 10 people who care about being Christian than 100 who go through the motions. If there are less of us after the coming storm, but we are more real and more dedicated, it may in fact be a victory.
JB….Christ ‘blew the doors of hell.’ It’s a done deal! ‘The battle is the Lord’s.’ But He just can’t seem to get through to us ….that we are powerless. It’s Him against Satan……done deal. We as followers of Christ simply yield our bodies as an earthly dwelling for this loving Warrior and Redeemer. In Revelations…..at the Second Coming of Christ…..Satan’s rule ENDS. He is bound….taken prisoner..by the Forces of God. The Bridegroom fellowships for a thousand years, or for however long God has determined for the Marriage supper of the Lamb with His Bride. At the end of that time, Satan is loosed from his prison. He and his army of fallen angels rush out like mad dogs to gather the vile armies of the world, Gog and Magog, to KILL GOD AND HIS SAINTS. The sight of such a foolish scene is almost funny. God just sits there and waits for them all to gather together…and FIRE COMES DOWN FROM HEAVEN AND TOTALLY CONSUMES (DEVOURS) THEM! NOT MUCH WARFARE TO THAT.
AS I SAID, IT’S A DONE DEAL. All that’s left, is for we as individuals..to choose which General we are in service to.
How much of evangelicalism has really collapsed already, leaving a shell and only the appearance of vibrancy? I think that the death of evangelicalism is well underway.
Some benefits? Some of the current idols of evangelicalism will be shown up as the bankrupt substitutes for the real gospel that they are. This lesson won’t come cheap for those disillusioned, cynical souls who abandon Christianity wholesale because of them.
Of course, the death of evangelicalism will not mean the death of Christianity. But it will signal a bleak time for serious Christians none-the-less, much as our present situation is bleak.
“â€taking care of the poorâ€ is nowhere in scripture commanded as giving government handouts”
Nor is it commanded anywhere in the NT for government to ban certain types of sex or sexually explicit images yet we encourage that whole heartedly. Yet when the government want to get its hand in our wallet we get sqeemish. It’s hypocrisy. Either government is a force to make people act “morally” or it’s not.
“nor are we commanded to give to the poor at the expense of providing for our children.”
Jesus’ example of the poor widow women could be used to demonstrate other wise. So, if you’re right, then the poor don’t have to bother with helping other poor people because that might be taking something away from their own?
Don’t mistake my point. I am not advocating for socialism. I am however advocating that the Church needs to do more to love their neighbors and help the poor and a whole lot less complaining about the word “frickin'” on a billboard (it happened in Pa. A preacher got offended over a “Tasty Frickin’ Chicken” sign.) or trying to make looking at naked women a criminal offense.
Hope springs eternal. Maybe Evangelicalism will be reborn fresh (perhaps through someone like yourself) once it’s current form has passed away. I believe the lukewarm will fall away making the Church appear smaller but that what is left will be stronger in faith thereby giving better witness and eventually leading to rebuilding. All of which might take many years.
Quite a downswing coming off the optimism of “near universalism”.
“We believe itâ€™s governments job to force people to be â€œmoralâ€ when it comes to sex and drugs but we squeal like scarred piglets when someone suggests the government should force us to be â€œmoralâ€ in taking care of the poor.”
The difference—“taking care of the poor” is nowhere in scripture commanded as giving government handouts nor are we commanded to give to the poor at the expense of providing for our children. In fact, the book of Proverbs is replete with descriptions of people who are poor because they are lazy and don’t want to work. While not all people who are poor are lazy there are plenty of people who fall into that catagory.
I might also add, that Evangelicalism needs to make sure it is presenting something that is actually true. If I’m to, believe for example, that the moon is made of cheese then I’m less likely to join your church. The reason being that it can be proved the moon is not made of cheese. And YES I realise that the Evangelical church is NOT teaching that the moon is made out of cheese. What I am advocating is coherency.
I think you might be wrong about Christian schools. The destruction that is about to be visited on our school system will make the collapse of evangelicalism, if it occurs, look like the Spanish-American War compared to WWI.
Because of that, schools that are known for actually teaching children how to read and giving them some basic skills are going to flourish. I think that evangelical schools will have an opportunity to thrive there. That’s assuming they’re still teaching times tables and phonics charts, as well as failing students who fail. If they’ve bought into the philosophy that’s destroyed our public education system, then yeah, they’re done.
Great entry and a lot of truth. I am afraid that two things are going to happen.
1. If scholarship and reasoned sound biblical preaching continues to decline as it is in my denom (SBC) then we are going to lack the ability to defend our positions/tenents from scripture. This inablility to adequately define and answer questions for many people will force them towards a place where all the answers are given for you. Namely I’m thinking of Roman Catholicism.
2. If our worship practices continue to revolve around the experiential sp? then we will lose folks out the other end of the spectrum which will be to pentecostalism.
The sturdy, sound, reasoned Protestant/evangelical denom. will decline if they do not address those two things.
People crave authority. And when we stop speaking with the authority of the word, folks will gravitate to the place that claims to have all authority. Namely the RC church.
I’ve seen it already with several close friends.
I am encouraged by the AMiA churches. The middle path as it is called may see a great resurgence thru it’s efforts. If the ECUSA was not so liberal on social issues I think a great number of evangelicals would put aside some peripherals for an oppurtunity to tie in to that tradition.
God can only tolerate the sins of evangelicalism for so long. But God loves redemption, and we must have hope that what will emerge will be far greater and deeper than the shallow pools of its former self.
To ChrisE and Rick,
There may have been a point that I’d agree with you about persecution in America. I readily admit that currently American Christians count not opening every day in prayer at the public school as persecution. I have noticed a trend over the last 10 years, however.
While we have been successful is passing laws/enforcing laws that make people ACT like we want, the culture itself has been slipping away from us. We saw the success the left had by using laws and courts to “change” people and we tried the same route to fight back. Our power lies in Who we serve not the barrel of a gun or of legislation.
We have made the “church” in America a political entity. Worse, we’ve made it an unwelcoming political entity. We would never put up with a pro-welfare state guy in most of our churches. We believe it’s governments job to force people to be “moral” when it comes to sex and drugs but we squeal like scarred piglets when someone suggests the government should force us to be “moral” in taking care of the poor.
May I suggest watching “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State” and “Goebbels: The Man behind Hitler”. Every time you hear a reference to the Jews, insert “Christian” in the statement. See if you haven’t heard a lot of them recently…and by people in power.
So, to summarize, we have abandoned our calling in favor of political power (see Pat Robertson’s endorsement of McCain) yet rail against those who are trying to do our job but aren’t Christian or, to be honest, Republican. On top of that, man loves darkness rather than light and so hates Christianity pretty heatedly anyway. Persecution, real persecution, is deeply intertwined with the church. Funny thing is, where there is persecution trying to wipe the church out is where the Body of Christ is the strongest. In fact, the centuries of no persecution in the West is the reason for the weak state of the church here.
Isn’t “culture war” what liberals call standing up for the truths of the bible?
Some parts will suffer. However, other parts will grow because they are already grounded. Others will grow because they learned to adjust without abandoning orthodoxy.
Some denominations may be in trouble, but various networks are thriving- especially those that encourage an orthodox base.
Finally, the information age makes ideas and cooperation amongst grounded churches much easier to obtain, compared to church struggles in years/centuries past. They are able to encourage and learn from each other at light speed.
Two words: I agree!!!!!!
Until churches remember that
salvation belongs to the LORD
and live and act with that as
their basis, they will continue
to seek salvation in civil
government, public education,
and tweaking the legal system.
chris E makes a good point – “This need not necessarily be a portent of persecution – unless by persecution you mean the sort of thing the average European Christian puts up with already (which for some americans will feel like persecution”
It is interesting to see exactly what comfortable christians in a christian dominant culture will claim as persecution. . .
I tend to disagree, I think the end result is slightly more nuanced.
Firstly, to go back to old research by Peter Berger and others, whilst in the past it was thought that as people modernised they also became less religious, this relation is now not thought to be true. Previously, America was seen as the outlier, now it’s thought to be secular Europe. At any rate, there is no evidence that people’s appetite for a ‘spiritual’ component to life is lessening, in fact Europe itself is not as ‘secular’ as it once was.
Turning to the evangelical church in America, I can see a decline that in some way mirrors what you describe. However, I would argue that to the extent that the decline reflects reality, the decline has already happened. You say you see a future of Moralistic-Therapeutic-Deism, but that is exactly where the American church is now.
In some ways, North America and Europe are converging again. Both are filled with people who class themselves as spiritual, who see the mainline christian churches as irrelevant at best. Both have the seeds of a new Christian movement – in the shape of various new doctrinally heavy groupings who see their own countries as mission fields. This need not necessarily be a portent of persecution – unless by persecution you mean the sort of thing the average European Christian puts up with already (which for some americans will feel like persecution).
It only remains for some parts of the American Church to realise that their long experiment of transforming culture politically has failed.
I don’t see why any of this should fill us with fear, trepidation or regret. Christianity has always had periods of expansion followed by re-trenchment. Through it all, Christ has preserved his Church.
“And I know the 6% Calvinists and … think they can beat the problem, but they canâ€™t.”
You’d think a true Calvinist would assume this is just they way the plan is supposed to work. Or so it seems from some of what I’ve seen come out of some of the Calvinists I know.
“The â€œGreatest Generationâ€ gave of themselves and their finances, and their unworthy children do not even come near their levels.”
This is an opinion I’ve voice elsewhere on in non church related discussions.
The “greatest” made a huge mistake. Most of them tried to hide hardship from their kids. Most of them grew up without chores, work, hardship, or any without any expectation that they might have to work hard for the life of their parents. And their parents did it on purpose. It ruined a lot of kids of the 50s and 60s. And, yes, I’m a part of that generation of spoiled brats. Not fully but more than I should have been.
If like is handed to you as a given and “I’m owed” does the message of the cross have any meaning?
First word is the key to a lot of this. They support but can’t say why. Other than “it’s wrong”.
I would spend some time looking at what is happening to the church in the already post evangelical world. As noted by some commenters above, in places such as the UK, NZ and Germany christianity is re-missionising the urban west. The USA is simply 20 years behind the rest of us 😉
I am not so sure about the demise of Evangelicalism. For a few reasons.
The interesting things about the incredible growth of Evangelicalism in the 2/3rds world is that it is having a spill over effect into Western countries, with some of the largest churches and ministries in Europe, Australasia and the United States being planted by Evangelicals from Brazil, Korea, China and Africa. A lot of this is happening off the radar of a lot of mainstream evangelicals.
Secondly the United States tends to be slightly behind other Western countries in terms of the march towards secularism. The suprising thing is that in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, for the last 20 years experts have been predicting the continued decline of evangelicalism. The interesting thing is that there has been in some cases a small amount of growth or plateauing, whilst this is not evidence of a huge turn around the old girl still has life in her yet.
The other interesting thing is that a number of indicators are showing that whilst Gen Xrs have an aversion to much of the culture of evangelicalism, that Gen Y’s seem to be re-embracing evangelicalism in a way that many could not have predicted ten years ago.
The death bell is rung for Evangelicalism every hundred years or so, but Evangelicalism has an uncanny ability to reinvent itself and come back albiet in a new form. So I doubt that we will see it die in our or our children’s lifetimes.
Michael, I can see what you’re saying in respect to America, though, never having been there, I’m not really qualified to comment. 🙂 Not sure however, if the situation in Australia is quite the same:
… Only a minority of evangelicals here are really into the whole culture war thing. Lots of churches aren’t even interested, and the people who do get het up have generally been reading American books/listening to American speakers!
… Here the mainline denominations are strongly evangelical, at least here in Sydney. This is, after all, the home town of “2 ways to live”, and in most conservative churches we cut our teeth on it. I would be surprised if the vast majority of sayAnglicans and presbyterians in Sydney couldn’t enunciate the gospel very clearly.
… Evangelicals don’t have much political influence here, and haven’t in my lifetime. With the exception of a few mega-pentecostals (such as Hillsong) most churches don’t have much money, and never have had. We’ve got a lot less to lose.
Which isn’t to say the church in Australia doesn’t have huge issues (but they’re my hobbyhorses, and a completely different topic) but the landscape isn’t quite the same, at least from my armchair.
Very interesting topic and I am looking forward to reading part II.
Like virtually everyone else, I agree with most of you assessment when it comes to â€œEvangelical Christianity.â€ However (and maybe not different from you) I agree with the optimism of David and JB. Maybe it is my Post-mil leaning (not dogma) that things are on a course of getting better. Shedding Evangelicalism will create some unpleasant upheaval, at least for some, however I have a great hope that better things are coming from the ashes.
Rather than simply disappearing, I think there will be a great fragmentation. The Church has always been chameleon-like to its surrounding culture, for better and worse.
For example, one fragment (and Iâ€™m beginning to see where I live already) is this unholy marriage between the mystery of God and the mysticism of the pantheistic new agers. For example is a lady that I had a conversation with at a Christmas party. She is a youth pastor at a large charismatic church and she was telling me that â€œGod has led herâ€ to start an energy manipulative alternative medical clinic. Then she went on to talk about energy vertexes and â€œenergy vectorsâ€ in peopleâ€™s bodies being in disharmony and the â€œHoly Spirit shows her how to realign that energy for healing.â€
I also agree with your assessment that the Evangelical church has lost its youth. I think this has happened by depending on entertainment and guilt manipulation rather than teaching them how to think Christianly, and live honestly. A great, inside, example of this is illustrated (no pun intended) in the graphic novel â€œBlanketâ€ by Craig Thompson.
Gloomly, but possible.
I would add:
Increased persecution will also strengthen the evangelical “end times” obsession, which will further separate evangelicals from orthodoxy and contribute to their “fringe” status.
As a woman who grew up in the evangelical church I see exactly what you are saying. This is why I have been flirting with Catholcism as of late. I see the RC church as unchanging amid reckless thought and unapologetic in the midst of great preassure to conform. I also like your line that we have produced young people who know “nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it” Ouch!
Matthew 16:18 (…I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) is interesting.
Gates are a defensive weapon. It seems that God views the Church as the offense against Satan and his gates down in Hell. WE are the ones running full speed ahead over the ridge and down the hill with our battering rams of truth and love, mercy and grace, and ultimately, hope. What is Satan protecting with his gates? Folks that God will get (e.g. “not prevail against”)
With or without “Evangelicalism” (as it exists today), God wins in the end by using his Church to blow the doors off Hell. Whether that is the godless culture or individual believers that got snared early, I have no idea. Bottom line: God wins. Satan loses.
(On a side note, maybe God is letting us slip so that we will want heaven more. Maybe he’s just helping us figure out which end is up…)
At the risk of getting into part 2 and 3 (can’t wait btw)…
Part of this collapse may be due to the attempt by evangelicals to define themselves as a sort of monolithic “super-delegation.” If the “d” word sounds a little uncomfortable to the “non-denominationals” how many times are statistics proudly stated that Evangelicals represent the largest Christian grouping in the land (even larger than…gasp…the RC’s)?
At issue is when a group allows itself to be defined by a wide range of interpretive diversity, any real sense of identity and cohesiveness is illusionary. McArthur, Graham, Warren, Hagee, Swaggert, Roberts, and Osteen (to name a few) would all confidently place themselves in the Evangelical fold. Quite the breadth of Evangelical theology don’t ya think?
For far too long this has been seen as just mere branches of the same tree – I mean look at all those smilin’ faces in the pews, what’s not to like?
Maybe in reality it’s time for some pruning and maybe that’s ok. Let’s just pray we don’t chop the tree down in the process.
far be it from me to disagree with you. but what is it really that you are saying? honestly, not much that should be a surprise for us.
evangelicalism does not equal “teh awesomes” in the evolution of christianity. why would ebs and flows be a surprise to us? isn’t this the message of the emerging church for the past 10 or so years? that evangelical christianity can not and will not answer the needs of the coming decades?
i would put less emphasis on the ending of something and more emphasis on the continuing of something so much stonger and older.
and i fully agree with the assessment.
Isn’t there an interpretation of the Bible that say this very thing? Not only will evangelical Christianity have a great “falling away” but so will the Church Universal?
I agree that the state of the American Church is dire. We can look at “Christian” Europe to see our future. Simply fighting against gay marriage and abortion, which I think we still need to do, isn’t going to save us. As Mark Driscoll put it, the American church is losing it’s influence over culture and politics and is having to be drug out kicking and screaming.
The question then becomes why have we lost our influence? Easy enough. Remember all those pictures of soup lines from the Great Depression? I bet you always thought those were government run lines. They weren’t. They were churches. Yet, since then we have turned over “feed the hungry, clothe the naked”, etc. to the government. Sure, there are some homeless shelters and soup kitchens but for the most part we have abdicated a third to half of our purpose on earth to those who HATE our mission.
Another third to a half of our job is to SPREAD THE GOSPEL. Not the “relevant” and attractional gospel where having dinner with someone is the same as telling them about Jesus but actually TELLING THEM ABOUT JESUS. Even when the 2% of us who share our faith do it, it is almost always in the context of Vending Machine Jesus who came to give you stuff, fix your problems and share His Super Secret Plan For Your Life. Escaping the judgement to come almost never comes into play.
One of the great “bashes” of the Mainstream denominations is that their practiced faith became just a religion…just people going through the motions in church and looking just like the world outside of church. In the last 15 years, certainly the last 10 it’s clear that these ills have taken over in churches and denominations (including “non denominational churches) that sprung up as a counter culture to the first group which sprang up ro reform the groups before that etc.
I disagree with the idea that nothing can be done about this..unless of course, it IS the great “falling away”. Will mega churches be around? Most of them probably not. A few might survive in the multi-campus format. Teaching other people, especially kids, the core tennants of the faith and sound theology will inevitably create future leaders who have sound theology.
And, hopefully, actually lives it out.
I’m sorry, the filter must have trimmed the first bit of my post as it was in HTML tags.
It was directed to Bob Myers for this bit:
“The â€œGreatest Generationâ€ gave of themselves and their finances, and their unworthy children do not even come near their levels.”
Imonk: Wisdom is from God. You’re post is very insightful. ‘Work while it is day, the night cometh when no man can work. God is tugging at the hearts of His children to ‘make ready a people prepared for eternity.’
Daniel the 2nd chapter shows a very clear prophetic picture of the deterioration of worldly government from Babylon until the Second Coming. And as government goes…so goes the established church. The ‘image of a man’ degenerates from head of gold, breasts and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and his feet…part iron and part clay. A stone, cut out without hands, struck the feet of part iron and part clay. Then the iron, clay, brass, silver, and gold became as chaff of the threshing floor…and the wind blew them away. No place was found for them anymore.
In this scripture alone, I know governments will never be Godly, in America…or in any other country on earth. I take comfort in my total, nothing wavering, belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. I know it came through men…but it is from God. I find such comfort in it because it gives me total confidence in the future…for me, my children, and their children. As Christians..we are to encourage each other…so much more as we see the day approaching. We are to ‘fear not’ because He absolutely will ‘never leave us nor forsake us.’
The post talks about how the evangelical church has failed its youth. It talks about how the great machine has failed to produce anyone with an enduring faith. It talks about thee inability to pass on meaningful faith.
And you have the gall to look at them and be arrogantly judgmental because they aren’t giving their money to support the church that failed them?
Who is unworthy in this picture?
“It’s difficult for someone to see the truth when their salary depends on them not seeing it.”
Fr. Ernesto the growth of Orthodoxy is a blessing to this world. Not only that but the growth of Eastern Christianity is a blessing.
As a Catholic, I know we dont see eye to eye on a few things and we often talk past each other and sometimes, too often realy, we question each others motives. However the precious “other lung” of the Church has for too long suffered and its gift to Christendom has too long been in darkness.
This writing has been on the wall for awhile now,and not many have had the courage to man up and call it for what it is. Thanks
Our calling as Christians in this age may be to bear witness in a dying age – our fathers have been here before. I think it is a Benedict moment, we need to head out, move together to the same physical places and preserve the traditions and heritage of the church in our new Dark Age.
Fr. Ernesto: See Part 2 and 3 for more info. Oh wait…I haven’t written them yet 🙂
Might I suggest that only certain types of Christianity will suffer while others might be strengthened? Among us Orthodox, one jurisdiction has remained all too tied to its ethnic roots. It is increasingly suffering problems of growth, youth leaving, etc. But, our other jurisdictions are growing. [Note: our system of government is different enough that I will not try to explain jurisdictions.]
My jurisdiction has quadrupled since the mid-1980’s. Close to 70% of our priests are non-ethnic (in other words, typical Americans). We have had so many vocations that our Metropolitan has actually had to slow the process down because we are not starting enough new churches fast enough to ordain all who wish to be ordained. In other jurisdictions, there is growth in monastics and social outreach (see my blog post of 27 January). So, one of our jurisdictions is in trouble, while the others are growing.
Could it be that only certain types of evangelicalism will suffer, while others might yet prosper? Or are you saying that evangelicalism itself is in serious trouble?
If you are saying that evangelicalism itself is in serious trouble because of the coming cultural shift, then this could be a partial explanation as to why we seem to be experiencing growth. During the early Middle Ages in the West, it was a more monastic Christianity that preserved the faith until a new day could dawn. Remember that our oldest extant New Testament manuscripts were found in monasteries.
During the Turkocracia in the East, it was, again, a more monastic Christianity that preserved the faith. Sometimes, monastics can be like the wooly moth who is fabled to grow a longer coat before a particularly bad winter. Oddly enough, the growth of Eastern Christianity in the USA may be a partial confirmation and a herald of tougher times to come. For, Eastern Christianity has much experience, from the Turkocracia through the Soviet Union, in surviving in adverse environments and safely passing on the faith.
Please note that in this post I am not arguing as to which Christianity is better. I am simply saying that, historically, what we are experiencing in growth may actually be a confirmation of your thesis.
Meet me at the non-denom in 15 years, and see how much of the Nicene Creed is left. Therapeutic Moral Deism will have completely vanquished more than half of the churches whose stated agenda is growth.
There is simply no way- none- that evangelicalism can produce the leaders to avert this. And I know the 6% Calvinists and rooms full of Charismatic revivalists think they can beat the problem, but they can’t. Evangelicalism is going to run out of orthodox core, run out of leaders and run out of young people who haven’t gone over to the culture as God.
See you in 15. I’ll buy dinner if you’re right.
If I may dissentâ€¦
I agree evangelicalism has all the problems you list. I also agree that a whole lot of young people are ditching the church, mainly because both the church and their parents haven’t adequately discipled them, so they don’t recognize its value.
But I disagree that this collapse you speak of is going to extend any further than certain evangelical denominations. (Even though mine will probably be one of them, at its current rate of decline.)
Where I see the young people goingâ€”and their parents followingâ€”is into non-denominational, unaffiliated churches “free” to develop their own doctrines and determine their own directions; and while a whole lot of them are sliding towards heresy, a whole lot of them are sliding towards the very same evangelicalism that you believe will be passing away.
It won’t be denominational in nature. It won’t be monolithic in its political values. Affiliations will be deliberately looseâ€”sorta reflecting the values of our cafeteria-Christian culture. Without strong affiliations, the money won’t be concentrated in a few ministries anymoreâ€”which is good; money corrupts, and winds up being spent on institution-building instead of Kingdom-building.
It’ll receive greater input from missionaries. The churches that we Westerners have planted in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia are already bearing fruit and returning to evangelize us back to Jesus. In a “politically-correct” culture that values diversity, for some reason it’s harder to argue with a foreigner who preaches the Gospel than it is to argue with a native. The Holy Spirit is already using that to His advantage.
Evangelicalism is evolving, and hopefully this evolution will take away a lot of its problems. Even so, it’ll still be evangelicalismâ€”despite what people try to relabel it in order to sell books and magazines.
The following post of Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby is a little more than a year old but may be an indicator that the Canadian situation may differ a bit from what is going on in the U.S. (and he does have actual data to back it up)- maybe the collapse will be not quite as dramatic and accelerated as with the Southern neighbor:
Brilliant. Bloody brilliant. You have put words to an ongoing but as-yet-expressed awareness in my spirit.
A request: Are there any bibliographical references you could provide that support your prophetic hypothesis?
I look forward with much anticipation to your succeeding posts.
Sincerely and with much gratitude,
Without disagreeing with your premises, I’d like to add one variable that I believe will completely change your conclusion.
Premise: The world is entering Great Depression 2.0.
Conclusion: People are going to be returning to “First Things” in numbers not seen since the last GD.
In spite of how screwed-up evangelicalism has become, forces external to the church are going to drive people INTO the church for answers. The “Blab It & Grab It” crowd are gonna be exposed for the charlatans they are, but those who offer a “Sweet By & By” kind of religion are going to see growth in their numbers.
The days of wine & roses are over. People will be looking not for answers, but for comfort in an impossible situation.
My 2cents as the resident economist.
Might I suggest a great book by pastor Timothy Keller entitled, The Prodigal God, where he deals with the very things you just wrote about.
It ought to make those of us who work with young people weep. I’ve given my whole life to that work, and there have been some wonderful victories, but oh so much….so much NOTHING. As I type this, I’ve just been informed that 3 of my former students are in jail this very evening. Lord, have mercy. And see us through.
I’m Catholic and teach religion at a Catholic high school where we expend enormous time and resources trying to pass on the faith to our kids in an orthodox form that can really take root…and we’re in no better shape. What you say about evangelicalism could with only a few minor adaptations be applied to Catholicism.
It’s moralistic therapeutic deism taking full bloom. And it doesn’t seem that’s there much that any of us can do about it.
Today in my classes we discussed what the story of the Prodigal Son can tell us about sin, and in all my sections the students were astute enough to point out that the younger son felt no reluctance or regret while he had the resources to party hard. It was only after the money ran out – and he fell flat – that he returned to the Father. It remains to be seen if secularism will fall flat or not, but until (or unless) it does, there just doesn’t seem to be any way to reach the younger sons.
I also agree with this assessment and have read similar thoughts from all over. Do you guys think it will be a similar thing as happened in China when the traditional missionaries were kicked out and the culture completely revolutionized, only to see the massive growth of the church? It’s ironic that the leaving missionaries felt sorry for China and God. The gospel wins everywhere it’s sent. We just don’t always know what victory is supposed to look like.
This post gave me chills….and not the good kind. A depressing future scenario indeed.
I am reminded of Isaiah 60.
-1- Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you
-2- For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lord will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you.
-3- Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance.
The Lord has never depended on the Church. In fact, quite the opposite. The evangelical movement has either completely forgotten this notion, or never really knew it. I am certainly no prophet, either, but I think your post could be very accurate.
Luke rights in Acts 14:22 that Paul and Barnabas had returned to the Church in Lystra, Iconium and to Antioch “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Interesting that it states that they were ENCOURAGING them by saying that in order to enter the kingdom of God they must enter through many tribulations.
The evangelical Church knows very little of tribulation (me included). I think that through various trials and tribulations we will finally have to depend on God for our very lives.
One of the most important lessons for every believer to learn is not to waste his or her trials. Each trial is an opportunity to enter the kingdom. We ought to give more value to His dealings with us, individually and corporately, even moreso than how we value earthly goods. What a revolution that would be if were to complete change our view of kingdom wealth versus temporal riches.
Just like Esua, the evangelical church has traded away its birthright for some bread and lentil stew.
Yes, I still remember the Reinhard Bonnke crusades in many parts of Africa in the early 80’s and was terrified by the theological shallowness and misleading hopes presented by these types of “ministries”. At the same time I must also admit that some of the most inspiring evangelicals I have personally met, have come from Nigeria, South Korea, India and China.
Agreed Josh, and my scenario is for the West, but the prosperity cancer is deeply affecting Africa. And its our fault.
Well, we’re about to innovate ourselves to the point that people are looking at each other in church and asking “Now what are we doing here? Is there a movie?”
Granted. At the same time I’m hopeful that a dynamic core of those who have already lived through persecution and who have an authentic commitment and zeal to spread the Gospel at whatever cost, may actually provide the example and inspiration for those coming dark times in our corner of the world as well. Hasn’t the church always been at its best during times of least political power and greatest suffering?
As a government employee I have come to respect the private sector for its innovation, adaptability, and emphasis on the bottom line. As a Catholic I have come to respect evangelicalism for some of those same reasons. I hope you are wrong. It seems that the real question comes back to what exact is the bottom line.
Pretty bleak, though it all very well indeed come to pass. I’m waiting for parts two and three to find out where you see this all heading. Jesus said that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Evangelicalism as we know it may indeed fade away which then begs the question, “What then the church of Jesus Christ?” I await your further commentary on this subject.
Yes, abortion is bad. So are so many other evils in society. However, Paul did not condemn society at large, but he did charge Christians to strive to live “good” lives. He was only interested in preaching the gospel. If Christians in the western world concentrated on that, then the churches would be fulfilling their mandate. We cannot expect the non-Christian world to accept Christian morality by force. If imonk’s scenario is correct, then eventually perhaps “Christian” will mean what it is supposed to mean. Will there be faith left on the earth is a question asked when Jesus returns. The answer unfortunately may be–very little.
I’ve been moved reading J. Gresham Machen’s writings lately. He was almost a lone voice of intelligent gospel orthodoxy in the 1920’s when historic evangelicalism was collapsing around him.
He was humbly and heroically determined to be faithful in the hope that one day there would be a revival of Bible-believing Christianity.
Cultural weakness can be a wonderful gift to the Church if it purifies her of her dependence on the flesh and conforms her to Christ.
I used to be optimistic on those fronts, but missionaries who have been there and many others have convinced that the exported problems of evangelicalism- especially the Prosperity Gospel and poor teaching- are polluting these evangelical advances.
It’s indeed a very likely scenario for Western evangelicalism for the very reasons you indicated. What your future outlook doesn’t take into account though is the role of evangelicalism (of a different kind and calibre I would argue) in developing countries and particularly in Africa and Asia. I think we generally have to rethink our role and importance in the worldwide body of Christ and take into account how we may be impacted by Christians from those countries in the future as well.
I can tell you as one who has been pastoring 20 years, that number 7 is definitely correct. The “Greatest Generation” gave of themselves and their finances, and their unworthy children do not even come near their levels.
I would also predict that the PCA, unless is straightens out it’s internecine warfare, and constant bickering, will shrink faster than
I’ve been having similar thoughts about Evangelicalism lately. Watching many Christian’s response to this last election cycle, I got the sense that way too many Christians are anchored to the “empire” of America. Instead of being a people “not of this world,” Christians have taken up sides in the secular debates of the day and spend more time arguing about non-essentials than cultivating disciples of Jesus.