A new study by The American Religious Identification Survey (PDF) is reporting an even greater decline of Christianity in the US and a marked increase of those with no religious preference at all. This is so saddening and should cause all believers every where in this country to stop and pray for their salvation and consider the cost of following Christ. A time seems to be fast approaching when there will be an uptick in persecution in various ways. If it’s not outright violence, then it will certainly be social exclusion, legal slaps, financial distress, or good old fashioned slandering.
The trend we are seeing, however, should not be that big of an alarm, as it has been going on for a while and has exploded over the past several years. Other studies have come up with virtually the same findings. It will likely continue to head in its current direction based on the methods and teachings of much of evangelicalism now (which are very quickly resembling the principles of 19th and 20th century liberals in trying to win modernists; now evangelicals are trying to win postmodernists with the same techniques).
Some people are just now catching wind of these rather daunting statistics and trying to find solutions. The author in the quote below, Bruce Feiler, seems to be one such person. What I wanted to hone in on was this FOXNews commentators’ solution to the problem in his article entitled Where Have All the Christians Gone?:
“The rise of disaffection is so powerful that different denominations [need] to band together to find a shared language of God that can move beyond the fading divisions of the past and begin moving toward a partnership of different-but-equal traditions. Or risk becoming Europe, where religion is fast becoming an afterthought.”
What this commentator doesn’t understand is that is exactly the cause of the problem. Just like government intervention and bailouts and the further cheapening of loan rates in the economy by the Fed are exacerbating (or at least prolonging) our economic woes, so also the solution he’s calling for above, doing the very thing that created this problem to fix the problem, will virtually gut what remains of Christianity in America if implemented.
Just look at mainline denominations now in the US, let alone Europe. These denominations have virtually zero Gospel taught in their messages, they teach pure moralism in most cases, and in some cases are essentially atheistic Christian monuments to a heritage in our past that is now fading into the sunset. They have all adopted some form of postmodern moralism that says, “I’m okay, you’re okay. Let’s just get along.” Further adopting that message and staying uncommitted to the hard teachings of Scripture will actually have the opposite effect.
Folding to the cultures’ philosophical underpinnings within the context of the church, that “different” denominations should be embraced, no matter how vile, Satanic or anti-Biblical their theology is, is exactly the cause of the problem we face. The reason is that what results is a version of Christianity that is completely irrelevant to the world in terms of true spirituality that changes people from the inside out by God’s Spirit through the Gospel.
Many denominations, even within evangelicalism, have abandoned a strong commitment to solid, orthodox doctrine, and particularly, a solid commitment to the Biblical Gospel and it is resulting in a quick descent in our numbers. Even in many evangelical churches where a doctrinal statement exists that contains the Gospel and other core orthodox teachings, congregations have little to no knowledge of what those teachings are and many times these teachings are sidelined by preachers and “missional/seeker” marketers for entertainment, shallow teaching, or mission statements that contain virtually no Biblical content whatsoever.
So what is the solution to this monumental problem we face? Well, it’s not folding on principles and doctrine in order to accommodate what are essentially heretics in the visible church who have abandoned the Gospel. No, rather the solution is strengthening those convictions in our circles by returning to the Word of God as the sole foundation upon which we stand for all matters of life and faith and sticking to it as the absolute truth, no matter how unpopular and whatever the cost. The solution to this problem is properly preaching, teaching and living the Gospel of God’s grace in communities. It is the only way.
The void left in the wake of abandoning the truth of God in Scripture for the philosophies of man are evident in the statistics cited in the ARIS survey. Once you make church about man-made moralism and various popular cultural ideologies, it is not long before you have no true believers left. And then, once the world sees no supernatural life transformation taking place, they move on to something else that is more exciting than just hearing, “Do more, do better,” every Sunday. Just look at Europe. Churches have been turned into clubs and tattoo parlors now.
But of this much we can be hopefully sure of: despite whatever appears to be happening with the visible church in America, God is growing His church and creating a people for Himself through the blood of Christ. What I believe we’re actually seeing in these statistics is the burning off of the dross in our churches, that is, people who never believed to begin with that are leaving. That is so disheartening and sad to think about, but Scripture is not unfamiliar with such a thing. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19) It is times like this that the invisible church, that is, those who are truly His, become a lot more evident.
May God have mercy on us in the Gospel, knowing that He is and will still save people in this nation.