A fools’ paradise?

A shallow, experiential gospel

Recently a friend of mine sent me a link to a very interesting blog piece titled “My Prediction: The Coming Evangelical Collapse”. 

I’ll share and comment on some of the parts that really stood out to me as I read it:

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.

Millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.  Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”

I think we are already starting to see the echoes of this in Australia with the rapid rise of a rabid form of atheistic fundamentalism that is dismissively critical of Christian activity, and it is now starting to manifest itself in some recent and forthcoming court cases.

Last year a Christian campsite in Victoria lost a high-profile case anti-discrimination court case which ruled the venue had discriminated against a gay advocacy group by denying them accommodation.  In the next couple of months a court case fought on constitutional lines will decide whether government can continue its acclaimed chaplaincy in schools program. 

If this case is lost it will almost certainly have ramifications for a lot of government funding for Judeo-Christian programs – the only real question is where will it end?  What is the future for Christian Schools, Christian aged-care and the significant number of employment providers from the church sector? 

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.

All I intend to say about the above is this.  In the mind of Joe Public, are churches and politicians of a Christian focus, and their associated advocacy groups, known more for their moral stance or their advocacy on social welfare issues? 

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.

A friend of mine once said “When Sunday School theology meets University secularism, truth is the casualty.”   For at least twenty years, many of the growing and successful churches have done so with a shallow, experiential gospel.  Has it however produced people with a reasoned explanation for their faith and an ability to stick with it through robust and at times cynical questioning?

Another book I’ve been reading recently is Bob Scott’s “Saving Zimbabwe” detailing the deaths of some childhood friends of mine in the New Adams Farm massacre.  Here’s some intriguing question the author asks of Christendom as he reflects on this martyrdom of 16 people.

While the American church may be the most prosperous and best-organised, we are no longer the fastest growing.  Those with much less materially are making a great impact spiritually.  Why?  Can you imagine a church growth seminar in the west promoting poverty, persecution and martyrdom as tried and true strategies for church growth?”

Most people’s paradigms only equate something good with God’s will.  Anything that could bring bodily harm or require us to give up something precious, like our freedom, would immediately be cast down as heresy.  [The story of Paul going up to Jerusalem in Acts 22:23-29, 23:11 and 25:11]  should inspire all of us to take a second look at our priorities and recalibrate our paradigms.”

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3 Responses to A fools’ paradise?

  1. Michelle says:

    Sadly, I think I may have to agree with some of the points. I do know that I can make encourage my children to know the gospel, read their Bible and ask God to reveal the truth to them. So that their faith is grounded in the Truth, not in feelings.

  2. MUM SAYS says:

    Father says, Part of David Wilkerson’s prophesy way back in the 1970’s was that Governments would turn on the churches and all the tax benefits that they enjoy now will be taken away from them, and Christians would be persecuted for their beliefs. Rather what I am reading in my Revelation 7 studies too!
    Very interesting and challenging reading Andrew!

  3. Pingback: Mental challenge for the young « Teh's Tales, Ian's Yarns

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