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Here the InternetMonk blog posts that started this whole thing.
In addition, Todd Wilken of Issues Etc., has done an interview with the author of "The Coming Evangelical Collapse", Michael Spencer. Give it a listen!
Wow! Here is some "glass-is-half-full" positive news about American Evangelicalism from Michael Spencer, columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, he says:
"We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West."
"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."
Ah, there's nothing like callin'em as you see'em!
Now, According to Spencer, here's why (many reasons I agree with, by the way):
"1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism."
"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."
"3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile."
"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."
"5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching."
"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."
Now, according to Spencer, what will be left?
"•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success."
"•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions."
"•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal."
"•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision."
"•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear."
"•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism."
"•Evangelicalism needs a "rescue mission" from the world Christian community."
"•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war."
This partly jives with an (AFP) report regarding the rise of secularism, and other reports regarding declining Church membership across the board.
The basic gist of the (AFP) press report states that:
"Secularism is gaining ground in the United States, eating away at the percentage of Americans who identify with the Protestant Christianity of the founding fathers, a poll published Monday showed."
"The percentage of Americans who adhered to no particular religion jumped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent last year, the third American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) conducted over 10 months last year by pollsters from Trinity College in Connecticut, showed."
"When the survey was conducted in 2001, 14.1 percent of respondents said they were not religious."
Now, if what these reports are stating is indeed fact, then things will definitely be a-changin' in the religious and political landscape as we know it. However, for now, I want to go back to Spencer's reasons why and expectations of things to come.
First he says, "Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism."
When he states the term "Evangelicals" I will suppose that he's referring to everything under the umbrella of "American-style Evangelicalism".
Oddly enough, much of the "culture war" phenomena was started by the family values oriented LDS Church. Only since the late sixties, following the social and political upheaval of the times did the fundamentalists jump on board and try to "take back culture", as if they had owned it at one time or another, or that it's theirs by right or something. Now we have organizations like Focus on the Family, and Campus Crusades for Christ, etc., who follow more of a "deeds not creeds" mentality, which believes nothing more than civil righteousness as God pleasing acts. That's when you hear guys such as Hagee, or Robertson, et. al, claim that when any calamity which befalls the United States is a just punishment from God because of the immoral republic. These guys are classic theologians of glory, God rewards good behavior and punishes evil behavior, therefore when anything bad happens to the nation, it's because of the immorality of its people. Yet, these guys fail to see that everything, even the good things man does is nothing but evil. and for a better explanation on this point see thesis 6, and proof from the Heidelberg disputation.
As for the political element of it all, it is frankly disturbing. It is right for everyone outside the fray of Evangelicalism to look with a jaundiced eye at the gland-hand, Christian, political action committee lobbyists who cozy up with politicians in hopes of affecting some legislation favorable to their side. One hasn't seen such coziness between Church and State since the 15th century, and heaven forbid you tell a fundamentalist that he resembles the papacy, for he's sure to respond, "but I don't pray to Mary or the Saints, or go to confession, or believe the Pope is infallible", as if this "style-over-substance" were the only thing that separates us from Rome.
Later he says, "[w]e Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught."
I'll assume, once again, that when he speaks of "orthodox" that he's speaking of Churches rooted in Biblical doctrine and the Word of God. If this is the case, then I must say that I agree with him. The discipline, or lack thereof, regarding American Churches in passing on their faith, correctly mind you, in favor of the "happy-clappy" style of worship and personal devotion, has showed itself highly inferior to secularist intellectuals, especially when a young Christian is faced with it on their college campus.
Regarding what Spencer is anticipating for the Evangelicalism to come, he said, "[e]xpect [it] to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches...."
Oh no, not more of this! I suppose though if people are going to reject the Gospel and sound Biblical doctrine, not that the current American Evangelical Churches necessarily teach such things, but the masses will still need an idol of "Christian-Lite", you know, heavy on pop-psychology and lite on doctrine, to get them through. I just wish this won't be the case, but I'll suppose we'll see.
Later he says, "[t]wo of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions."
Well, this is already an occurring phenomenon. Please see my article here, and response to that article here where I wrote about, and then communicated with a Fr. Hackney who converted from the LCMS to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Also, another more notable case is that of Christian Apologist Francis Beckwith, who converted from (I'm not exactly sure what Church body he was originally affiliated with, but it was something akin to American Evangelicalism, I think, but please don't quote me on that) to Roman Catholicism.
So, I guess if people grow disgusted by "content-less", "un-historic" Christianity then it would make some sense for someone to gravitate towards something with a tremendous weight of history and meaningful tradition.
All-in-all no one knows what the future holds, and as for me, I'm with Luther (in more ways than just this one) when he says, and I paraphrase, "if someone knew beyond the shadow of a doubt the world were to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today." So, in regard to crumbling Church movements, where crumblings have actually happened, and rumors of crumblings are supposed to happen, we, that is Confessional Orthodox Lutherans must preach the Gospel to lost and broken souls today.
(But then again maybe there's something to all this, perhaps this is what Dave Wilkerson was talking about on his blog. But then again, maybe not.)