Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Analysis 0f Michael Spencer's "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" (Part 2)

Michael Spencer boldly predicts the collapse of "evangelical Christianity" in the next 10 years in his recently sited blog post. He suggests that over 1/4 of Americans call themselves evangelical, so we're talking about a major collapse with wide ranging implications to American culture. I suggest that defining "evangelical" is difficult at best. I further surmise that many who once thought of themselves as evangelical, no longer do, but have in no way become liberal (mainline), Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Agnostic either. For me, I am finding "Reformed" or "Reformation" to be the most accurate label for what I believe, indeed for who I am.

With that preface in mind, I move to the next two statements of Spencer I wish to analyze. First, Spencer says-

"This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good."

An "anti-Christian" chapter in American History has already begun. Modern U.S. government has widely taken on a strange interpretation and application of Separation of Church and State, one that none of the framers of the U.S. Constitution would have adhered to, even those who were in no sense Christian. Various Federal and State judiciaries have discriminated against Christianity, most visibly with cases banning the public display of the Ten Commandments and Nativity scenes near public buildings. Every year courts at various levels hear lawsuits against the use of "In God We Trust" on our national coinage and the use of "One nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. State run (Public) schools have been factories of anti-Christian sentiment for years promoting the religion of Darwinism and the "ethics" of humanism. Many public schools have recently achieved new heights of discrimination with the re-writing of history books that outright skew heavily attested historical events, particulary ones that show Christianity in a postive light or other religions in a bad light.

Add to these "anti-Christian" agents the mass media. Who would argue about the media's love affair with anything that attacks Christianity? We are well advanced in to the so-called "anti-Christian" chapter Spencer says is yet to come. It will get worse. Spencer is right about that.

Second, Spencer says-

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

To the degree these various individuals and ministries are not grounded in the apostolic, biblical Christian faith, they will indeed "quit", "end", or be "reduced". Some will be eliminated. Good riddance to such a form of Christianity. Apostolic, biblical Christianity is never threatened by the whims of a changing culture because it is stayed upon eternal truth. It seems that much of American Evangelicalism has become so given to pragmatism, so starved to be seen as relevant, so focused on pet causes instead of committed to sound biblical doctrine and practice that it deserves to become extinct.

I appreciate this statement by Spencer as he closes his introductory thesis statement-

I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

So far I generally agree with Spencer. Next he gives his reasons for why evangelicalism will decline. I will take the next several posts to analyze what he puts forth.


Wayne said...

Two things that come to mind that I think will very likely hurt Christian ministries across the board:

1) Economic realities. It is very likely that the loss of per capita wealth experience in the present will be long in recovery (and we might possibly not see a full recovery of that wealth in our lifetime.) This will affect all ministries that depend upon the giving of its members or supporters.

2) The Giving Generation. Tom Brokaw was right to call that generation who survived WWII the "Greatest Generation." What goes largely unstated is the fact that they were also perhaps the greatest giving generation. The loss of this generation will be missed (is being missed). My generation (baby-boom) and those that followed cannot compare to the level of sacrificial giving we saw in these people.

Rick Calohan said...

Defining terms depends on the person, going back to what you define as an Evangelical in your post last year, “Don't get me wrong, if "evangelical" is defined as one who believes faith in Christ is the only way of salvation and the bible is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, then I am an evangelical.” I would agree. However, Evangelical is not the only word that is often mislabeled or defined.

Earlier this week the big headline came from the USA Today article “Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds” by Cathy Lynn Grossman,

Here is an article that is based on a survey that attempts to pigeonhole people into various groups.

Now if I was asked in this survey what I am I based on their definitions: I would say I have no religion because it depends on what the word ‘is’ is.

First of a couple of things Christianity is not a religion it is a faith. All religions have a list of do’s and don’ts but as Dr. Kennedy use to say Christianity can be described in one word, “Done” as in Christ work was sufficient the work was Done completed by Christ Alone.

Second when I joined the Army, although I was a Christian, I was informed do not give a denomination if you are Protestant, just simply say Protestant for your dog tags. Now even though I grew up in the liberal mainline PCUSA, I was not going to lump myself in with a bunch of no offense to the following groups: dunking Baptist, singing how great I am Methodist, and speaking in tongues Pentecostals. So I in a Protestantesque way I said “No Preference.” Well, I was not Catholic, I was not Protestant by their terms, I was not Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu. Just I could not put on my original dog tags, Reform, or Presbyterian. Yes, I know that makes me Protestant but not by the U.S. Army, there is a Catholic service, and a Protestant service and other services are offered off post. I did go occasionally Protestant Services because after all that was suppose to be the non-denominational service that oddly was always lead by a non-Reform Southern Baptist or Pentecostal Chaplain of some sort preacher explaining God has given you a mission to march out for His Army. Now, I know there are many fine PCA Chaplains are in the military, just wished I would have met you guys back then.

So even in this survey by the USA Today, you have Catholic, OK, but why do Baptist get there own separate category, are they not Protestant? OK no religion as explained Christianity is not a religion by my definition. Christian, generic what your Christ has no label? Mainline Protestant ok for all the PCUSA, UMC, ELCA, AME, yada, yada yada yadas you know the ones that advertise in the Saturday Faithless section of the Kansas City Star. Pentecostal/Charismatic hello are Pentecostals now embracing their Catholic version of Pentecostalism. Protestant denominations ok PCUSA is a Protestant denomination, but at the same time so is the EPC so are the Baptist. Mormon/LDS ok sorry Romney supporters Not Christian. New movements such as Wiccan, other religions, I guess if you float after a stone is placed on your stomach while on your back in a trough full of water you’re a witch, if not and you sink and drown you must be that other religions. Jewish, by blood or by faith or both? Eastern religions, a polite way to say Buddhist/Hindu. Muslim, no division there so I guess we solved the problem in Iraq according to this survey.

More importantly and what set me off about this article is the following disclaimer or Note. Catholic" includes Roman, Greek and Eastern Rite Catholics. Christian generic includes non-denominational, unspecified Christian and Protestant, evangelical/born-again. Protestant denominations includes Churches of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventist.

So yeah, if you allow to media to define the terms of what an Evangelical Christian is, you can count me out!

Salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the Scripture alone to the Glory of God alone! Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria!

Frontier Forest said...

My devotional thoughts for the day, taken from “The Book of Extreme Martyrs” published by the “Voice of the Martyrs.” “What we do for the Lord is not just a job---it’s a mission. A mission is never about a single person’s responsibilities. It is singly focused on Christ and His kingdom work. Therefore, one who may be at the helm of God’s continued work in a particular area of Christendom may leave, but HIS mission will never die! God’s work is never left undone. It goes on forever to its divine completion. Those who are willing to undergo persecution for their faith teach us the true meaning of His mission. They recognize that there are only two things that last for all eternity---God’s work and human souls. When we are willing to invest our lives in His mission, for whatever the cost, we are involved in a mission with eternal significance.”
My thoughts, He is in absolute sovereign control! As believers, we must pray for our leaders, continue His mission, but personally prepare our own household for His judgment that will come.