Funeral Dirge

From this blog I came across this article in The Christian Science Monitor regarding Evangelicalism. The writer (Michael Spencer) tells of its coming collapse. Here are the reasons he gives for why he believes a collapse is coming:

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.


2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a 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.


3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.


4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.


5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the 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, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.


6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.


7. The money will dry up.

I didn’t really understand number 5, but I have to admit the others seem, in my mind, very accurate. I have grown up within the Evangelical world and I just see it becoming increasingly irrelevant. It is like background noise to the culture at this point. Everyone knows it’s there, but no one cares for a variety of reasons, some articulated above.

My own thoughts as to why I too believe we are seeing the end of Evangelicalism, as we know it, has to do with the modern/post-modern divide. Evangelicalism, in the US anyway, is a modern variant of Christianity. It is/was tied to the modern narrative. It was evidentialist in its apologetics, believing it could simply point to “facts” and the evidence that demanded a “verdict.” It was capitalist/business/choice, that is to say, market-driven in its evangelism. It was nationalist in its nostalgic view of America as a chosen sacred space as if somehow the coming Kingdom was predicated upon America’s past or current behavior/place in the world.

These ways of thinking about proof, evangelism, and the nation in which one lives were part of a greater narrative or myth, one being the Enlightenment/Adam Smith narrative (evidentialist-capitalist) and the other being a misunderstanding of ecclesiology (thus allowing for another ecclesiology, i.e, nationalism), whereby a land, a people, a state, are allowed to become a more significant, a more real “body” eschatologically, than the Body of Christ-the Church.

The post-modern turn has called all these narratives into question. There is an entire body of work out there now, which has cut the legs out from under these modern narratives. As modernity fades, all those who accepted its main contours as a master-narrative, within which they thought they could fit their sub-narratives, now also find themselves sinking. Evangelicals forgot they were part of a larger narrative than the modern/enlightenment one and in their captivity to modernity, just as those on the Titanic were also captive in a way, they will go down with that ship.

Of course the Church, the mystical body of Christ, that eternally called out people, in space and time, will remain. Rome, America, modern sociological sub-groupings, chia-pets, and snuggies (I love those commercials) have, or will all pass away. The Church will not. That dirge you hear is the Church singing.

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6 Responses to Funeral Dirge

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Frankly, if you cast aside < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidentialism" REL="nofollow"> evidentialism<>, I think you find yourself in an even deeper and darker wilderness.

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  2. frthomas says:

    Burk,The Judeo-Christian Mystical Body of Christ is revelatory at its heart. I am all for letting go of evidentialism and rationalism and consumerism and institutionalism and on and on and on. That is part of what has gotten the Church in its big mess if I understand Darrell correctly (I hope I do)… What is more, I don’t blame many for looking at such a Church and saying “Not for me”. We have, in many ways, adopted the frame of reference of the world and offered nothing more than another version of the world’s decay and futility. Experiencing the beautiful reality of the Mystical Body of Christ is quite another matter. I do not “believe” based on the “best evidence” or theories or “experiements in the value of prayer” and all the rest of the silly approaches to somehow seeking to validate the existence of the Christian faith. I believe and seek to life a life of dynamic believe (faith) because “Someone” broken into my life from outside and has revealed Himself to me. My “deeper than reason knowing” has responded with a wonderful “YES” with the results that follow form such a “YES” — life in abundance.I cannot, nor would I propose to, “prove” the truth of my faith to you. We, the members of the Mystical Body”, invite you to “come and see”. With fear and trembling, I propose, the life of those who call themselves Christians could be an instrument of revelation (that Divine breaking in)… Do I or those who consider themselves members of this Mystical/Revelatory Body fall short of such a calling? To be sure (more often than not perhaps)… But, one of the most revelatory things a Christian can do is recognize when he or she has fallen short of that calling, make whatever amends are appropriate, humbly learn from the “falling short”, and become by that learning a more fitting instrument of revelation.We, in the Mystical Body of Christ, live not by “proof” or “evidence” or “theory” or “experimentation” but by faith with its companions — hope and love.From where I stand, it is not a dark wilderness that surrounds me but the light of a wonderful life of faith, based on a truth that provides meaning and purpose to all other truths (in as much as they are truths) in the whole universe. The light increases as the dirge plays, I contend. The human heart is a sturdy boat that transports the reasoning faculties to the destination they yearn for but cannot approach until the mind rests in the heart. We need, to let go of using the world and its parameters and joyfully be who we are …Fr. Thomas

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  3. Darrell says:

    Burk, I don’t see anything in the link you provide that should lead us to believe we would find ourselves in a worse place than we are now; and, Tom, as usual you have understood me correctly. Thank you for your further insights.

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  4. burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-I see.. so our discussions, and current events, and your journey into the bosom of the apostolic church have left you untethered from reason altogether. It does sound like an altogether fitting ending.

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  5. Darrell says:

    If you mean un-tethered from your arbitrary and faith-based interpretation of “reason” based upon an enlightenment/modern privileging, then yes. And to become un-tethered from such is very reasonable in light of the post-modern turn and the Christian narrative, which reveal that faith and reason and not enemies.I’ve made that clear to you over and over in these discussions and I’m not sure what you mean by “current events,” but rather than attempting to make your points using the very process being critiqued (enlightenment rationalism), why not try addressing the critique?

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  6. Darrell says:

    Whoops, I meant “faith and reason are not enemies…”

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