Friday, March 13, 2009

‘Old News’, but not to me—“The Coming Evangelical Collapse”

While meandering in cyberspace earlier today, I came across an interesting article (“The coming evangelical collapse”) by Michael Spencer (The InternetMonk) at the Christian Science Monitor website. To help pique some interest, I am going to quote the first paragraph of the online article:

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.”

Certainly a frightening scenario from the pen of “The InternetMonk”. This particular article is but a synopsis of a more in depth series by Michael Spencer.

Off to read more of Michael’s prognostications…


Grace and peace,

David

3 comments:

Voice in the Desert said...

David,

"•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions."

Seriously, did you really, truly believe that when you build your house on sand, that it would survive the times?

In just 500 years, Protestantism has morphed into several and mutated forms.

Comparatively, Catholicism in 2,000 years, in spite of all the tribulations caused by evil men both inside and outside the Church, it has yet withstood even the worst of times.

While detractors may tire of "The Gates of Hell will never prevail" line, there is no doubt whatsoever the Truth of it as concerns the Church.

Just remember that.

And Remember that well.

Chris said...

Voice in the Desert,

The article's prognostication of the evangelical collapse is apparently not based on statistical analysis, but rather on the author's sense of things. He is a prophet in the age-old tradition of the Puritan jeremiad: proclaiming doom and gloom in order to call the community to repentance. The author is also very Amerocentric, focusing on evangelicalism's plight in the secularizing North and West rather than its comparatively explosive growth on the global scene.

It should also be noted that the recent implosion of the American Catholic Church in its traditional New England stronghold has been nothing short of disastrous; even with Catholic immigration from Mexico at an all time high, the Catholic Church has registered a per capita decline nationwide since 1990.

According to a 2008 survey, the hardest-hit US religious groups in the last couple decades have been mainline Protestants and Baptists. Most other evangelical groups are holding steady, while the non-religious category has experienced extraordinary growth and the number of Americans who don't know or care enough about religion to even answer the question has also substantially increased.

In my opinion, what we're seeing is the result of some poorly-chosen battles. Studies of secularization suggest that religion flourishes when it makes stringent ethical demands and when it is associated with patriotism and national identity, but that it fails when it is perceived as allied with a repressive establishment. For decades evangelicals have been trying to assert themselves in the political sphere with a program that is widely perceived as anti-gay, anti-feminist, and anti-science. These features of its program were a strength as long as they were popularly perceived as fairly clear-cut ethical issues with respect to which evangelicalism simply went above and beyond the norm. But they are increasingly obstacles to adherence as science, tolerance, and modernity become important parts of American identity, and evangelicalism is increasingly perceived as part of an immoral old guard. Meanwhile, liberal groups that have eliminated these obstacles have nevertheless crashed and burned because they are in contradiction of their biblical basis and have failed to offer any stringent ethical or epistemic demands to replace those that have been excised. However rusted and barnacled an anchor may be, to cut it is the set the ship adrift.

I suspect that Christianity will have to fail entirely in the United States and quietly redefine itself with alternative epistemic and ethical bases before it can make any kind of comeback-- if such a comeback is even possible. New spectres of anomie-- violence, racism, war, or government corruption, perhaps-- may have to arise before any such comeback can occur; Christianity will have to define itself against the anomie and provide real relief and structure in a time of crisis before its credibility is sufficiently restored.

Best,

-Chris

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Chris, the Catholic Church in Asia and Africa is growing by leaps and bounds and while the Catholic Church in the US is undergoing its share of problems, it is due to pressure being put on the establishment by the laity to get back to basics and to get to being the Catholic Church as in substance rather than just form. Parishes with more traditional priests and liturgies and orders that brought back their habits and follow their rule are growing.

The one thing that separates the Catholic Church over the last 2000 years from the rest is the fact that more you stomp on it, beat it up, and try to kill it, the more beautiful comes back and blooms in adversity, sort of like an old rose bush.

At the end of the day, folks will be faced with the choice of being Catholic or being nothing at all.

God bless!