Thanks to the various people who emailed me the link to a very provocative post by fellow blogger Michael Spencer who blogs at Internet Monk.
You can read the version of Spencer's blog post most people have read here. In fairness to Mr. Spencer, he wrote a more expansive post on his blog, the Christian Science Monitor version was a bit edited, but not so much that it changed the gist of his thoughts.
I suggest reading his post as I will take several posts of my own to interact with what he has written.
Spencer starts his article very provocatively-
"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."
This is a provocative introductory statement because such a wide range of Christians think of themselves as evangelical. If you are a bible believing Protestant Christian, you probably think of yourself as "evangelical" so a post like Spencer's garners an immediate response. He's saying there will be a "major" collapse of evangelical Christianity which effects me and my church, many will think. Within the past 24 hours I have received 8 emails from close friends linking to Spencer's article so he has struck a widespread chord for sure.
Defining "evangelical Christianity" is very difficult. Almost two years ago I wrote on my growing dislike for the label "evangelical" because of how meaningless it has become. The historic meaning behind the label "evangelical" is one who believes faith in Christ is the only way of salvation and the bible is the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God. In the present day "evangelical" means less about a creed and more about a cause, a valid point Spencer makes and sites as one of the main reasons there will be a downfall in evangelical Christianity. Please read my post on "Liking the Term 'Evangelical' less and less" as it might give some perspective to the "evangelical" label Spencer uses.
Personally, I am a Reformed Christian, meaning the main tenets defining my beliefs are the "Solas" of the Reformation:
Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone
Solus Christus - Christ Alone
Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
Sola Fide - Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone
I believe these five points generally capture Apostolic/Biblical Christianity. My denomination considers itself "Reformed and Evangelical", but this refers to the older definition of "evangelical" I note above. Frankly, I think it is time for the PCA to drop the label "evangelical" because it is too confusing, something evidenced by Spencer's thought-provoking post.
Spencer's use of "evangelical" refers to a vast landscape of "Christians" who are identified as much with a brand of social conservatism as they are with their supposed belief in the Bible as God's Word. R.C. Sproul Jr. has been credited with making this observation- An evangelical is a fundamentalist that wants the respect of modernists, and sells his soul to get it. Spencer says 25-25% of Americans claim to be evangelical. He thinks "evangelical Christianity" is on the verge of a major collapse and makes a good case that it will.
My first point of analysis is this- the evangelical Christianity Spencer speaks of is not equal with Apostolic/Biblical Christianity. Evangelicalism, even when it was easier to define, is too vague to be the label a Christian should be comfortable with. I'd much prefer the term "Reformed Christian" to describe who I am, so I'm not unduly alarmed by Spencer's predictions for "evangelical Christianity". I simply do not think genuine Reformed Christianity will suffer the same fate as American Evangelical Christianity, but I am dismayed with how seemingly large "evangelical Christianity" is, if it is on the verge of collapse.
But to be clear, Spencer is not saying that apostolic/biblical Christianity will collapse but rather "evangelical Christianity" in the West will collapse in the next 10 years.
Lots more to day in the next few days....