>The Death Knell of Evangelicalism?

Posted: 11/03/2009 in Uncategorized

>One of my former monastery brothers posted this interesting article on Facebook today. The article describes the coming break-down of evangelicalism, which follows the break down of old-school protestantism. The author cites several reasons, but sees a new “religious vacuum” and a coming anti-Christian mentality in the near future.

I don’t know what to think of the article as a whole, but there a few things in it I would like to affirm:

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.

I have said it before, and I say it here: I question the entire office of youth ministry. This doesn’t mean that I think that all youth ministries fail, or that I mean to deride the good work that many of my friends do. What I mean to say is that the assumption that teens need a teenage Christianity instead of just plain Christianity is something I no longer assume.

Admittedly, I am very subjective in this judgment. Personally, my faith today has almost nothing to do with my faith before I was 20. This isn’t just that outgrew it, but I have actually repudiated most of it. Were it not for my time at Azusa Pacific, I am pretty sure I would not be any kind of Christian now.

In any case, (as the article states) the current generation of Christians is already monumentally ignorant.

Moving on.

[if evangelicalism implodes] Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the “conversion” of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

I myself pondered a return to the RCC and my best friend converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years ago. Neither of us are incredibly rare. These older churches have things that evangelicalism simply doesn’t have -history, stability, ability to resist evanescent cultural trends, clarity of doctrine, strong educational tradition etc etc. People are already attracted to these groups, especially the “Christian Hipsters.” Numerous books have been written on this subject already.

So there are my two comments worth about two pennies. What do you think? Will Evangelicalism go the way of the dinosaur? What happens if it does?

  1. Q says:

    >No way. Denominationalism is in decline; more and more Christians are identifying themselves as non-denominational. We were having this conversation over lunch at La Crescenta, and the prediction we made is that mainline denominational (aka non-evangelical) churches are going to disappear within the next 50 years. If that’s really the case, there is no way evangelicalism will die. I think it’s face will change significantly as more people from our generation and younger begin to have more influence.As much as the RCC and EO churches grow, there are still plenty of people who are disappointed by many aspects of those churches, particularly since the pope has taken the church on a hard-right turn. The face of evangelicalism will change significantly, but no way it disappears.

  2. Dane says:

    >Hopefully, I am not considered one of those “Christian Hipsters.” You already know my answer, as I’m the EO convert. The evangelical church or ‘denominations’ won’t necessarily go away, I just believe that they will become increasingly more pale and empty analogs of modern self help American culture. I believe that any weight that they have once carried, any sense of changeless absolutes, will vanish (if it hasn’t already) and they will collapse under the burden of their self-refuting relativism.

  3. >I think this is an overreaction. I agree that there is in evangelicalism a shallowness, which seems to be underlying your criticism. However I think there are signs of interest in historic Christian traditions and practices, from spiritual disciplines to Reformation theology. I happen to like some of the Emergents, but there are more traditional folks with similar ideas.Furthermore, I think there continues to be in the US, plenty of market for shallow but glitzy Christianity. I think reports of the death of evangelicalism are thus overreaction.They’re overreaction to the first signs of the evangelical churches are subject to the same forces that have caused the “mainline” churches to lose members. Evangelicals had been convinced that their innate superiority had made them immune to this. But historically, the US often had fairly a fairly low percentage of active church members. Indeed the post-WW II period was somewhat of an anomaly. Christianity isn’t dead because we’re returning to a period where lots of the population is unchurched. It does present us with challenges, however. And by us I mean both the mainline (of which I’m part) and evangelicals.

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