December 15, 2019

My Prediction: The Coming Evangelical Collapse (1)

mysticguyI’m not a Prophet or a Prophet’s Son. I can’t see the future. I’m usually wrong. I’m known for over-reacting. I have no statistics. You probably shouldn’t read this. The “Gracious God” post depressed me.

Part 1: The Coming Evangelical Collapse, and Why It Is Going to Happen
Part 2: What Will Be Left When Evangelicalism Collapses?
Part 3: Is This A Good Thing?

My Prediction

I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”

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.

The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.

Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”

This collapse will cause the end of thousands of ministries. The high profile of Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Hundreds of thousands of students, pastors, religious workers, missionaries and persons employed by ministries and churches will be unemployed or employed elsewhere. [ ]. Visible, active evangelical ministries will be reduced to a small percentage of their current size and effort.

Nothing will reanimate evangelicalism to its previous levels of size and influence. The end of evangelicalism as we know it is close; far closer than most of us will admit.

My prediction has nothing to do with a loss of eschatological optimism. Far from it. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But I am not optimistic about evangelicalism, and I do not believe any of the apparently lively forms of evangelicalism today are going to be the answer. In fact, one dimension of this collapse, as I will deal with in the next post, is the bizarre scenario of what will remain when evangelicals have gone into decline.

I fully expect that my children, before they are 40, will see evangelicalism at far less than half its current size and rapidly declining. They will see a very, very different culture as far as evangelicalism is concerned.

I hope someone is going to start preparing for what is going to be an evangelical dark age.

Why Is This Going To Happen?

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors. I believe most of these new churches will fail, and the ones that do survive will not be able to continue evangelicalism at anything resembling its current influence. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

Our numbers, our churches and our influence are going to dramatically decrease in the next 10-15 years. And they will be replaced by an evangelical landscape that will be chaotic and largely irrelevant.

4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself. I believe Christian schools always have a mission in our culture, but I am skeptical that they can produce any sort of effect that will make any difference. Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.

There are many outstanding schools and outstanding graduates, but as I have said before, these are going to be the exceptions that won’t alter the coming reality. Christian schools are going to suffer greatly in this collapse.

5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement. The inevitable confrontation between cultural secularism and the religious 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, that much of that work will not be done. Look for evangelical ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a vital reality. At the core of this collapse will be the inability to pass on, to our children, a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before. The passing of the denominationally loyal, very generous “greatest generation” and the arrival of the Boomers as the backbone of evangelicalism will signal a major shift in evangelical finances, and that shift will continue into a steep drop and the inevitable results for schools, churches, missions, ministries and salaries.

Next: What Will Be Left?

Comments

  1. Marie Peters says

    Biblical references support this. Revelations chapters 17 & 18 speak of false religion as Babylon the Great. In particular she falls because of her involvement with the kings of the earth (politics).

    She has failed the people having them look to men instead of God to to bring peace and comfort to the earth as Jesus told us to pray for in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come; they will be done on *earth*…”

    Isaiah 9:6,7 speaks of this kingdom/government in the hands of Jesus that will bring worldwide peace. (Kingdom and government mean same thing).

    The fall and destruction of Babylon the Great will be sudden,swift and irreversible. Soon.

  2. As alisdair mcintyre said 20 years ago in ‘beyond virtue’ the barbarians have already stormed the gates. What we need now is a, doubtless very different. St. Benedict.

  3. You might consider me one of those who will be part of your opposition in the future (intolerant of Christians….at least fundamental ones). I am a liberal Christian and attend church on a fairly regular basis. I am educated (post graduate degree) but find myself taking rediculous positions as soon as I learn of someone’s fundamentalism ie changing support for an NFL team upon learning that the quarterback is an evangelical “Christian”. This is irrational but I guess a result of years and years of fundamentalists telling me how wrong I am on all the cultural issues. Since I have never had any respect from that side I guess its not surprising that I now give none in return.

  4. Micha Elyi says

    Yes, I too wish folks were more than “rhetorically pro-life.” Still, that’s better than being among those who are pro-wages of sin, whether merely supporting death rhetorically or in some more active way.

    The term ‘pro-life’ appears to confuse the blog’s author and several of the commenters here. Simply remember that as it is used colloquially today, ‘pro-life’ is a contraction of ‘pro-innocent life’. Deliberately induced abortion — the name of which is contracted to merely ‘abortion’ in common speech today — is an attack on innocent life. Imposing the death penalty upon conviction for murder after a fair trial is not the taking of innocent life, therefore the death penalty is not a contradiction of what is commonly meant by the term ‘pro-life’. Quite arguably, a proper understanding of what defending innocent life involves may well require one to advocate the death penalty for those who kill by exclusively targeting the innocent.

  5. tom cuddihy says

    The “Greatest Generation” gave of themselves and their finances, and their unworthy children do not even come near their levels.

    Hey, I see this trope a lot and it’s bunk. If I recall correctly it was the Greatest Generation that started the whole culturkampf to begin with. They gave us the immoral Social Insecurity first, then backed that up with Griwold vs. Connecticut, followed quickly by no-fault divorce. Finally, they topped it off with Roe v. Wade.

    These are often cited as the opening salvos of the current culture war. Sorry, misty-eyed nostalgics. The truth is that every generation has its shameful episodes, and the greatest gifts of the greatest generation were followed up by some of the most poisoned fruit to bloom in the United States’ history.

  6. Don’t forget that that another reason it will die is simply that with the rise of technology we can through intense study see where the bible is just plain inaccurate. Finding out that certain parts of the bible are not authentic will certainly have an adverse effect on those claiming that the bible is the inerrant word of God. Frankly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened faster.

  7. The coming Evangelical Collapse within two generations Response.
    Dont underestimate how much God loves and disoplines his people,and brings them to the fullness of his intensions even when they compromise the truth of his word.I dont believe that we will see two generations before the Lord will return,when you consider how long a generation is as interpreted by the scriptures.Compare Genesis 15v16 and Acts 7v6. Four generations are 400 years and therefore a generation is 100 years. Jesus in Matt 24 spoke of the Jewish nation from its rebirth til his coming as a generation or an age.If you take that literally as i do,then we have fourty odd years to go before he returns since the birth of that nation.Gods intention is that all belivers enter into the spiritual reality of Passover (salvation) pentecost (Baptism in the Holy Spirit) and Tabernacles(Holiness of mind and life)My prediction is that the feast of tabernacles will begin to be understood and embraced by the new breed of believers both jewish and gentiles in the next ten years

  8. Bob (the anglophile) Roman Catholic says

    Well, most of you made good points.

    I feel a strange parallel between what happened in the Catholic Church circa 1979. Then it was Catholics who felt the Church was the Democratic Party at prayer (see Andrew Greeley) and were very appreciative of Evangelicalism.

    Too bad the end of the discussion turned to politics and government though. Thirty years ago, my take on Evangelicalism was small group bible studies and a traditional four hymn Sunday service in a neighborhood congregation. Mega churches weren’t that common. My experts were Lewis, Packer, and Stott (O yes – and Cardinal Newman, a former Anglican Evangelical)

    Now all this has changed, Churches have gotten bigger and bigger. Willow Creek is now its own denomination. Christian radio is now talk shows or DJs instead of preaching.

    Evangelicalism tried to be relevant but got so big and so entertainment minded, it encouraged passivity in its members.

    Perhaps a more Catholic or at least Reformed Catholic approach could revive the Church. I love my Evangelical brethren but hope they would stop being so scattered under competing shepards

  9. Wow, no one has mentioned the elephant in the room. No one! Has anyone here (of those expressing disallusionment and seeking authenticity) even entertained the possibility that the church that is blossoming and bringing forth more and more good fruit, the church that the EC assumes must have found some way to cheat the law of the harvest, might actually have something authentically Christian to offer?

    The group to which I refer is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – the Mormons.

  10. Bob (the anglophile) Roman Catholic says

    The Mormon religion is not the same as the historic Christian faith. Their doctrines of God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, etc. don’t square up with the doctrines of the Bible, the early Ecumenical Councils, the Roman Catholic magisterium, or the Reformation. It is just an error spreading in the end times.

  11. Interesting Read. I do take issue with #2 “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.” There is a lot going on with this next generation of Christians that contradicts this statement. As a pastor and a bible college professor I can tell you there are a lot of strong young Christians who are ready to take up the gauntlet and they are well-steeped in theology and not about to make the same mistakes as identifying Christ with a certain political movement.

    I do wish to hear more from you about this: “I believe most of these new churches will fail, and the ones that do survive will not be able to continue evangelicalism at anything resembling its current influence.”

    Now no one is pretending that Evangelicalism will have the same cultural impact as in the 20th century, that is obvious in today’s culture and every Christian leader assumes the decline will continue. However, I don’t see how that equates with these new churches failing. There are a lot of orthodox post-liberal evangelical churches that don’t fit the stereotype of emergent churches i see bandied about on blogs and surely the answer is to give them hope, strengthen them, and show them a way to infiltrate the culture and help as many as possible find Christ.

  12. Many new church plants fail. The economic environment in evangelicalism is going to doom a bunch of them.

    I agree that there are many serious Christian young adults. No where close to a number significant enough to help what I am predicting, however. Statistically, we know that upwards of half of them will abandon the faith anyway. But those that stay with it will make a very positive contribution. Of course, I think the RCC and EO will draw off some of them as well.

  13. Thanks for your reply iMonk!

    I pray that more church plants can make it as far as we have (8 years and counting) and will be a new face that will make a positive contribution as you stated.

    I think if the RCC and EO could ever settle their differences it might lure some of us over and lend credence to their argument about evangelicalism not contributing to the Spirit of Unity. Until that happens though I can’t see the majority turning that route. Largely because Believer Baptism is one of the most effective ordinances in ensuring the faith continues to the next generation in a way that isn’t simply cultural. This strength of the evangelical movement causes me to wonder why it would fall any futher than RCC or EO on an economic basis.

    Surely, the result of a severe downturn in income would be the reconfiguration and conjoining of existing evangelical churches rather than an outright defection.

    Personally, I am rather attracted to both the RCC and EO and have spent much of my graduate studies in Church history and the Fathers. However, I find it motivating me more to embolden the evangelical church with their strengths rather than abandon ship into hiererchical structures that need (and may be headed toward) their own Crash and reassessment period.

  14. I do not agree with the assessment about Evangelicalism. I think it is a massive economic and social force and will be going strong for the foreseeable future. The content of the faith may be diluted along the way. And this is being argued by numerous practical theologians who love the church–Marva Dawn, Euguene Pederson, Craig Gay. Or a more conservative voice like Don Bloesch. Or a fine theologian like Colin Gunton. Also, numerous younger Evangelicals are working on phd studies in applied theology. All that to say, an influential renewal process is emerging.
    I think Cyr’s interest in the church fathers is another fine example of an evangelical who yearns for depth and nuance in his faith and is pursuing it. He is certainly not alone. In my circles i meet numerous young people who are thinking and striving towards better forms of faith. They are reading and stretching themselves in practice.
    Ironically, it is the passivity of the mega-church movement that is inspiring the scholarship and social action from many of its adherents.

  15. This sounds like a good scenario to me. Rather than being antagonistic toward the remaining evangelical Christians, I think and hope that the nonreligious majority (or significant minority) will treat them as a quaint holdover from earlier days just as we all do now for the Amish.

  16. Here's to World Health! says

    I hope you’re right.

    As my friend Rose’s Catholic in-laws used to say: “Your mouth to God’s ear!”

  17. Jan Petrovsky says

    Mr. Spencer,

    You have internalized the criticisms of your enemies. To say that the identification of evangelicals with conservative causes was a mistake is exactly what the liberals want you to say. How can trying to realize the gospel’s values for all of society be a mistake? How can protecting the most innocent among us–the unborn–be a mistake?

    There is no graver evil that is presently legal in these United States than the evil of abortion. If you don’t oppose its legality then you are bringing guilt on yourself and your nation.

    I am a former evangelical that has converted to Roman Catholicism. I hold no animus against evangelicals. Most of the best people I have known in my life have been evangelicals. Not only have you internalized your enemy’s criticisms of evangelicals, but you have seemingly imbibed some of their hatred for them. Be warned: their hatred is unsparing and will not be mitigated toward one like yourself just because you have parroted their hatred.

    You have nevertheless made some valid and interesting observations about future trends.

    There is no opposition between the gospel and fighting for gospel values in politics. In fact, the former demands the latter.

    As for the lack of gospel knowledge you and your various commentators decry, I would like to see each of you express in writing his version of the gospel. I would wager that not two or three of you could agree together on what the term ‘gospel’ means. How can young people be expected to understand the gospel when the word refers to something that, among evangelicals, is becoming ever less coherent?

    Jan

  18. I agree totally with Jan Petrovsky. Take a look at Hosea 6 and see if we have not become as the Priests of Gilead, “murderers by consent.” The reluctance of the Church to speak consistently on the important issues of our time could well be the cause of the great “falling away.” Jesus told us to be salt and light. To the faltering culture around us it probably appears that the salt has indeed lost its savour. GO JAN!

  19. KEN DEMSTER says

    You make many good and solid points. I believe that besides what you wrote, the Institutional Church will collapse or morph into something we will hardly recognise because she has strayed further and further from true and solid New Testament teaching, and even further from our Jewish (Biblical Old Testament) roots. I have visited a lot of churches and believe that most of them eat up most of their energy and resources feeding the “establishment” (themselves). Many/most churches are not speaking to the real human needs right in the shadow of their buildings.

    I especially like your point about the institutional church abandoning the faith for a cause, and often that cause is conservative politics. The True Faith is much bigger than the United States and any other government on earth. It transcends borders, cultures, and every other human boundary. We are citizens of Heaven first, and our country second. A warning to Christians: the jews in Germany in 1939 were some of the most productive, patriotic and hard-working people in Deutschland. But that didn’t help them a bit when Der Fuhrer’s goons came to take them to the gas chambers. When/if the political climate in the US turns against True Christianity, all of our flag waving won’t save us, either.

  20. Was “Evangelicalism” God’s ultimate goal? (or the Protestant goal of reforming Catholicism? Wonder what post-apostolic pre-Constantinian christianity was all about?)

    Evangelicals have been pounding away at “go into all the world” for so long that the honest self-criticism is gone which asks what it is that they are they now taking with them?

    1. The disciples/apostles were to “teach others to observe whatsoever things that Jesus had commanded them to do.”

    So what did Jesus command them to do? What were they taught?

    There was a huge focus on the kingdom of God. It was the basis for repentance. The kingdom and the good news were fused together as “the gospel of the kingdom.” It was not something future but rather present.

    2. The Body of Christ or Bride is the focus for the groom.

    Evangelicals replace the Groom’s focus on His Bride (the New Jerusalem) with one of two groups of unbelievers: 1. Ethnic Israel or 2. The Unevangelized.

    In order to fulfill the so called “Great Commission” those things that Jesus commanded must first be taught in the church… never mind out there.

    Also, let’s get back to a biblical structure of church as laid out in 1 Cor 13 and Eph. 4. No point in talking about sola scriptura and then squeeze it into a pyramid shaped unbiblical construct with one man on the top (and not a team where no one is above the other but each one uses his or her gifts in the church as the Lord enables).

    p.s. If Evangelicals really believed in a “Great Tribulation” persecution of Christendom then why do they not decentralize the church and enable the members of the body in their gifting and bring them each into maturity and not engage them in this Sunday morning spectator sport?

    The Kingdom (Baselia) of God is wherever God reigns. Forget the world. Start in the church.

    admueller@hotmail.com

  21. As an outsider, one problem I can observe is that when people think of Roman Catholicism, they think of the pope. When they think of evangelical Protestantism, they think of…yep, all those fine gentlemen on television. I guess you evangelicals must approve of this, because politicians find it advantageous to keep being seen with them in public, and even solicit their political opinions and support. Anyway, I’ve never heard of an evangelical church complaining about TV evangelists. (Possibly some have, and the media has ignored this.)

    Another issue is multi-generationalism. In general, a church or religion that consists mostly of converts, is likely to be in big trouble the moment it’s no longer “cool.” One solution is to have another revival (nice work if you can manage it). The charismatics are most likely to manage this. Another is to fold back into a wider mainstream (like Methodism). A few have managed to emerge from the crunch with a small but multi-generational following (like Adventism). But the U.S. religious landscape is littered with the husks of religions that used to be new and dandy, but are now geriatric. (Christian Science, which published your piece, is a perfect example–Mark Twain wrote an alarmist essay predicting that at then-present growth rates, they’d take over the USA in the 20th century.)

    On a personal note, I dislike evangelical Christianity for a number of reasons (political, cultural, aesthetic), and fervently hope that your prognosis is correct. I realize that there are fine people in every religion–even Scientology, I suppose–but I must confess that it would give me great satisfaction to see the proverbial door hitting your metaphoric backsides on your way out of the mainstream.

  22. I hesitate to comment because a sizeable number in these postings aren’t even “born again” – at least by their continued associations with the portion of so called “christendom” that virtually never “rightly divides the Scripture. One would think that by now “christendom” would have Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the shed blood of God the Son on Calvary’s Cross and His subsequent death, burial and resurrection. . . down by now. But NO . . . the vast majority of so called “christendom” believes and teaches a Salvation by works! [See Eph. 2:8-10 for reference] Therefore, by Scriptural definition those who believe and teach that . . aren’t even “born again” into the Family of God.

    One Fr. posted that Rome perserved the “faith” during the Middle Ages. When I was growning up it was still called the “Dark Ages” and Rome did everything in her power to keep everyone in the Dark while martyring millions of people who would NOT bow the knee to her misinterpretive “revelations” and her corrupt papal pronouncements.

    It is frightening to us . . the coming demise of “evangelicalism”, but most of them do not believe that any Bible is the inspired Word of God. They merely give “lip service to IT, like that crowd did in Jesus day when they gave “lip service” to Him. The “broadway” of any culture or religious movement has always led to destruction. “Everybody talkin’ ’bout Heaven, ain’ta goin’ there, as the old and wise Negro preacher said. Jesus doesn’t need any help. He said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – no man . . . cometh unto the Father but by me!”

    Maybe it is time for the “wheat and tares” to be separated. It will not be a pleasant process, but it certainly will be a necessary one. cp. Eph. 5:26-27!

    LB

  23. Jan Petrovsky says

    Mr. Bartlett,

    This is a debate I have had many times. But since you take your authority entirely from the Bible, you ought to read more closely what the Bible says. In fact you ought to read more closely your own references, since Ephesians nowhere says faith ALONE, nor does it anywhere say grace ALONE.

    St James, on the other hand, says quite clearly that “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being ALONE.” James 2:17. And he concludes, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and NOT BY FAITH ONLY.” James 2:24.

    What then do we make of those passages in the New Testament which disparage works in contrast to the faith? Well it’s quite simple. Look at the context to determine what kind of works are being discussed. This is amply clear in Romans and Galatians, where St Paul specifies that he contrasts faith not to good deeds, but to works OF THE LAW: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28.

    That St Paul means the Old Testament law in this context is made clear by the fact that he illustrates his point by telling us that Abraham was not justified by the act of circumcision, a ceremony of the old law that was outward and of the flesh, and not of the heart.

    In Galatians he says the same thing, most clearly I believe in this passage:

    “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
    Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” Galatians 4:9-10

    What days and months and times and years is he talking about? Those ordained in the Old Testament of course. At the end of the book he once again condemns circumcision as a ‘work’ which does not edify us in Christ: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” Galatians 5:1-2.

    But in no wise, and in no place, does the New Testament do anything else than encourage us to do good works–meaning, not ceremonial works, but works of charity, prayer, and fasting.

    In the selfsame passages in which we are warned against putting confidence in the works of the law, we are admonished to pursue works of love and holiness. You have failed to make this proper, biblical distinction.

    Perhaps most starkly the book of Hebrews admonishes us that willful sin comes at the price of our salvation. I observe that many envangelicals have made an idol of their faith to the extent of thinking that even if they sin willfully that they will be saved.

    That is damnable heresy.

    Jan

  24. I’m from the opposing camp, as you’d probably define me. I’m an atheist and a secular humanist (with a sprinkle of Buddhist thought). If you will accept a critique from an outside perspective, I will give you my two cents for whatever it is worth.

    While I have a basic understanding of evangelical eschatology, I personally wouldn’t paint the picture so grimly. There will always be people who more or less think alike. The idea that somehow secular humanists, like myself, would advocate the persecution of anyone is disappointing. Freedom of religion is a right that all should enjoy. Where, the proverbial “we” get into spats is when any religion tries to legislate itself into the public square. While some of the founding fathers and a majority of the populace is Christian of some variety or another, the Constitution was written by Deists and others who, though they had a religious identity, didn’t feel the need/want to propagate tenets of their faith through government. The problem is (again, this is how I see it) many evangelicals seem to deny it. Evangelicals have appeared to me to be a group who oppose things: gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia etc… I don’t know what evangelicals are for. When evangelical leaders, such as Ted Haggard, decry that gay marriage takes away from “the sanctity of marriage” it rings hollow for obvious reasons. While I understand that the “sola scriptura” stance prevents the acceptance of evolution, or that homosexuals are born gay, I find that evangelicals have taken issues to be more important than people. These issues are points of division, but where is the common ground. Evangelicals have taken a road that it’s better to decry homosexuals instead of helping the poor, which I distinctly remember was included in the teachings of Jesus (If I recall, this teaching was a biggie). You and I would be uncomfortable allies in such endeavors, but allies nonetheless. If evangelism is to succeed, it needs to be clearly for something rather than just oppose the culture (I assume evangelicals consider themselves as counter-culture).

  25. Jan Petrovsky says

    Mr. Cordova,

    Secular humanists and the governments that they have devised have persecuted Christians on every continent except perhaps Australia and Antarctica since 1789. Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Cuba–need I go on? The forces of progress, as they are called, consider Christianity to be incompatible with human happiness. In claiming the right to the exercise of religious faith, you are an exception to this rule. I congratulate you.

    Our deist founders believed that God rules the universe through His providence, that His laws are both physical and moral, that violation of the moral law brings His judgement on a nation or an individual, and that there will be an afterlife in which God will repay the good and punish the wicked in conformity with the moral law. All these things they held to be obvious by the exercise of right reason without any need to make recourse to revelation. (In this they simply followed Kant.) Additionally they all had an admiration for Jesus as the single greatest exemplar of morals and as the greatest of moral teachers. (Additionally some thought Him Divine, as all Christians do.) Quite often these deists prayed, regularly and devotedly, to this God.

    To the founders, issues like gay marriage would have been a no-brainer. The homosexual act is an obvious violation of God’s law, since God’s intent for sex is clearly manifested through the law of nature: sex exists in order to create offspring; therefore any act which intentionally violates God’s intention is by nature a condemnable perversion when committed by rational man.

    Euthanasia is simply self-murder with an accomplice. Again, a no-brainer. Abortion, being the murder of the most innocent, is simply one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and when done under color of law, makes all of society guilty of shedding innocent blood.

    The attempt by secular humanists to co-opt the founders to their socially unnatural views is farcical.

    It is not Christians but secular humanists like yourself who have conquered the imagination of our cultural elites and media, and who have as a result of this act of convincing others of the rightness of their views, made their views to appear to be what should be the rational and default position of the law–or the basis of the law. In acting against these historical innovations which are passed off as normal and natural, the same people who convinced Americans that the secular humanist position is right have cast the evangelicals and traditional Catholics as being in the role of opposers.

    Well certainly if one invades your country you are right to oppose them. Likewise if one usurps your moral patrimony and attempts to change the law in order to make this usurpation legal, permanent, and backed by the force of the state, you are also right to oppose them even to death.

    Christians above all are to love God and then others. But loving others means saving those that can be saved by telling them the truth whether or not this truth is popular or palatable in light of their sexual tendencies or sexual practices. It is not love to tell a hellbound sinner that he’s ok. He’s not. If he dies at that moment, he will spend an eternity in hell. Our loving Jesus and His forerunner the Baptist did not begin their ministries with a word of love, but with the admonishment to repent. Indeed it is this admonishment which is the very act of love, because without it the sinner cannot be saved.

    Your misinterpretation of admonishment for hate is hardly of recent vintage. Tacitus thought the persecution of Christians in Nero’s time to be just because ‘of their hatred for all men.’ Christ prophesied that if they have hated the Master, how much more will they hate the disciple? Love is often misunderstood to be hatred. (If you ever have children, perhaps you will understand this better.) It seems to me to be the particular unfortunate fault of evangelicals that when they are accused of hate by those that they have loved, that they actually believe their accusers instead of remaining confident in, and faithful to, their convictions.

    (May the Lord repay Jerry Falwell for his courage and faith in the face of constant persecution of many kinds. I fear we will not soon see another of his like, nor of Dr. D James Kennedy, nor Paul Weyrich, nor Fr Neuhaus. These past few years, and deaths, have been terrible.)

    Jan

  26. I enter my comments here with gratitude, humility, and a small amount of fear. I am no longer a Christian, and fear you will discount my experience. And yet, I am so excited that someone has seen my position so clearly, I feel compelled to share and hope my comments may be of value to you, and perhaps towards building a more Christlike Christianity.

    My experience was perfectly described when you wrote “At the core of this collapse will be the inability to pass on, to our children, a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith” and further “Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.”

    During my years at a Christian college in the bible belt I lived with a philosophy major, a seminarian and an ascetic. After college I began attending a spectrum of churches, trying out various denominations before ultimately abandoning the church all together.

    I am this ex-christian you describe. My experience in Christian education, in church and in fellowship was that everyone around me was attending church for the wrong reasons. I did not experience anyone acting out of true conviction nor espousing a faith that I felt I could support. Instead, I felt that at worst those around me were afraid of being bad, afraid of uncertainty, or of defying cultural norms, and at best I think they felt emotionally appeased by their involvement.

    You describe my departure perfectly: “Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.””

    I do not mean disrespect by writing this, but as you say, I have become increasingly opposed to Christianity. In my experience of Christianity now I experience almost nothing of Christ’s teachings, but am regularly exposed to Christian sentiment that is anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-environment and worse, ignorant, reactive, judgmental and wrapped in a fundamentalist victim mentality. Just as you say I see Christianity as opposed to the common good and hostile towards it.

    I do not believe that it has to be this way. It seems insane that it is this way. The church is a place of love and understanding and acceptance and intentionality and responsibility, and yet I experience it as being contrary these ideals. When I look to the church or Christians or media the “response of evangelicals to this …[is] a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s.”

    Your article is the first thing I have seen that gives me any hope for the future of Christianity. I hope that you and your readers find ways to address these real problems the church faces, and make a difference in the world. Thank you so much for your commitment to doing so. Sincerely.

  27. Cameron Wells says

    I think a book written by K.P. Yohannan, president of Gospel for Asia, addresses the heart of what is wrong with American evangelicalism and why God may allow it to fail in His global purpose to bless all nations. Affluence and wealth has left American evangelicalism in a pitiable state, but the “failing” of this movement (in worldly success) may just be what will bring this movement much needed revival in the truest and most spiritual sense of the word.

  28. Mr. Cordova,
    Surely you have not read your 1973 manifesto. I seem to recall a sentence, I think in the eighth tenet, that states something about dissenters being “either modified, or eradicated.” That Humanist Manifesto reads like a play-by-play history of the last fifty years of humanist agenda items being ticked off one-by-one, legislated down the throats of the American sheeple. God loves you, Alvaro, and so do I. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begottn Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

  29. Jan: While I see many ills being attributed to secular humanism, I have to say, we’re not that many and not that powerful. I truly hope you are not saying that the days of Mussolini and Franco were the result of secular humanism? While communism in Russia was atheistic, it doesn’t represent me in any way shape or form. This goes for many secular humanists that I know. As for the issues discussed I can only say I disagree and that’s fine (at least for me it is. Has a secular humanists eve said to you that you are not allowed to practice your faith in your own home?

    Art: Here is the full sentence of what you are quoting “The conditions of work, education, devotion, and play should be humanized. Alienating forces should be modified or eradicated and bureaucratic structures should be held to a minimum. People are more important than decalogues, rules, proscriptions, or regulations.” I think the distinction you are missing is that at least the intent of this was to oppose rules and regulations that place themselves above the welfare of people. Now I do understand the evangelical stance is going to place “God’s Law” above people. I disagree with this. While you may have such beliefs and are perfectly entitled to them, the same applies to me or sec. humanists, Buddhists, Catholics, Rastafarians etc… and their corresponding beliefs. I just truly wish we could focus on poverty or the environment instead of splitting hairs with each other. Neither of us are going away and I believe we do have more in common than not.

    FYI: I was raised Catholic and then became “born-again” around the age of 18. After a few months I realized that I simply could not believe in God or Jesus any longer. I have been accused of lying about me being born-again, not having felt the presence of Jesus, not praying enough, not following X, Y and Z, by swaths of Christians of all stripes, but mainly evangelicals which is why I’m chiming in. While I remain open to the possibility of God, I haven’t been convinced of anything yet and I’m not sure I ever will.

  30. I agree with the general idea, but I think that moving out of the media spotlight and cultural prominence could be good for the Evangelical movement as a whole. Right now in the U.S., it seems like evangelical Christianity is the Starbucks of religion…there’s one on every corner and everyone knows who they are, but plenty of people in there couldn’t give you a thoughtful answer as to why they chose it. Getting smaller will mean shrinking down to the people who really thought it through and have that answer, both for others and for themselves, and will make the churches more respectable in a way.

  31. Your “the coming evangelical collapse” piece in Yahoo news was an awesome encouragement to the body of Christ. There are many across North America that recognize we are following a gospel that seems far more political and convent then radical and heart changing. After spending the last election trying to convince Christians that God is not republican or democrat but He is head of His church and all the earth. You spoke it better than we have heard in years. We have read your article to our church and we are in agreement, prophet or not God is definitely letting you see behind the veil of a form of Godliness.

    Thank-you
    Canada

  32. This is the best and clearest examination of the failure of Evangelicalism that I have seen or read.
    Most of these points have been ruminating in my heart and mind,but never quite as clearly articulated.
    I found myself distanced from Evangelicalism for a couple of the reasons cited here. The mixing of Christian Theology with Americanism, Conservatism, secular issues etc.. has made for me a Bastardized Christianity that is absolutely unrecognizable.
    The issues that have driven Evangelicals into political action has been one sign to me that their Theology has failed. It is my unsupported opinion, based on nearly 60 years of observation that when a religion has to resort to politics, armed conflict, passing of laws in order to enforce it’s religious dogma on others, it is a sign that they have lost the compelling arguments that bring a soul to Christ.
    I constantly hear from evangelical broadcasts terms like ”THOSE liberals, THAT ACLU, those Homosexuals, with accusing and derogatory inflections suggesting that our Christian America is going to hell in a hand-basket because of THEM.
    The focus is on PROTECTING our rights reather than the compelling truth of the Gospel.

    Add to this the ‘Prosper theology’ where it’s all about.GOD prospering US..Blessing US..etc…in essence, the focus os somehow on us to BRING about some kind of Christian Garden of Eden for ourselves.

    I hear a barrage of invest in Gold, and pseudo-health info-mercials on the prominent Christian radio stations.

    The taking to task of scientific inquiry that appears to threaten orthodox beliefs and dogma. In essence, trying to maintain that the world is flat and the universe is totally centered around Earth.

    News flash, the study of history will show that in all Science Versus religion debates (all started by the religious communities) Science has NEVER had to cede the argument to religion. Religion has always had to accommodate the scientific discoveries. Whether the fact that the earth revolves around the sun, and yes EVOLUTION, science trumps and continues to trump religion AND science never starts the FIGHT..Religion ALWAYS fires the first shot!
    The loss of evengelicalism will not be a bad thing. God is able to raise up those that will speak for him . He always has as the prophets of various generations, invariably ‘lose their way’ and begin proclaiming some form of mixed and polluted Gospel. Usually it is mixed and polluted with secular ideas that the church ‘appropriates for iteslf’ then re-names so that it appears to be godly.

    The fact that almost to none, great art or literature or Scientific advancement comes out of the Church…nothing..just cheap imitation, watered down so that the Christian’s can let their ‘kids’ have something that appears like the worldly stuff but ‘cleaned up’ so they can feel good about it .

    The results are in..the Christian kids all have some form of worldy imitated entertainment and as the writer here stated..the ESSENtIAL and profound core doctrines are being LOSt.

    The kids have been entertained…but not educated and challenged.

    This will be a good thing and I believe we will see a great revival, perhaps a modern day reformation, a resurgence of ancient orthodox religions or it just may be that ;The time of the Gentiles’ is fullfilled.

    It just may be, that the evangelicals have become the modern day ‘Pharisee’s’ hypocritical, judgemental, controlling, power and money mad..and now, their house will be left desolate..

  33. What do you mean “coming” collapse???? It’s ALREADY HERE. It’s only going to get worse.

    But God will preserve a remnant of the elect as He always has in the past.

    Charlie

  34. Cardinal Newman???? An Evangelical??? You’ve got to be kidding me???? He was an Anglo-Catholic heretic.

  35. Part of the problem is we have left the first love. Another is a hardening of men’s hearts. Quite possibly, these things put into the context of the times in which we live make diminishment of Evangelicalism inevitable and (hopefully) the return of Christ imminent.

  36. Evangelicalism may very well be on a rapid decline. And it should if it is no longer about Jesus, but about countless other things. God promised the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against The Church – he didn’t say that of the countless movements that mankind has gotten behind that are contrary to the gospel.

    Evangelicalism – in many ways, has just been a cheap, rip-off sub-culture, just offering the same things as the rest of culture, but with “Christian” labeling and brands.

    Following Jesus and being The Church is counter-culture and altogether otherworldly. I believe we will see much shaking in The Church, and Lord-willing, all that is not centered in the supremacy of Jesus Christ will pass away. What remains will be a force to be reckoned with.

  37. Unlike so many of the imonk enthusiasts, I am unimpressed. I am in an Evangelical (non-mega)church and although I agree that the culture is about to become more openly and aggressively anti-Christian, nearly everything cited here as a reason for the collapse looks false to me. Starting with the idea that the church has hitched itself to the conservative political movement – I think you have it backwards – “Evangelical Christianity” is what would in the past have been called “Christianity” and it is conservative politicians and voters that have hitched themselves to this more traditional movement in opposition to the liberalism of mailine demominations. As evidence, I would offer black churches, hispanic churches, etc – these are a huge chunk of the Evangelical world, including considerable involvement with the other “parts” of that Evangelical world, but have little or nothing to do with conservative politics.

  38. Alvaro,
    I think the distinction you are missing is that just laws, rules, and regulations are not “above” the welfare of people — they are “for“ the welfare of people. The Christian evangelical stance is now, and has always been, that all truly just laws, rules, and regulations must be based on standards first established and given to mankind by Almighty God, the sovereign creator and judge of the universe. His laws were never intended to be anything other than for the benefit of mankind. God’s just laws and the laws of mankind, which are based on God’s laws, create order where chaos would otherwise reign. The tenets of the Humanist Manifesto are diametrically opposed to God’s order. A perfect example of this is in the sixth tenet — “The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized.” Focus on just the right to abortion. The Preamble to our Constitution gives us litmus tests for just laws. Has Roe vs. Wade insured “domestic Tranquility”, or has it caused a major division in our once united culture?” Can we “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves”, but not to “our posterity”, and still call ourselves free?

    Thank you for sharing some of your background information. I encourage you to remain “open to the possibility of God.” From your words, I perceive that you are a “seeker” of God. Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. God is acutely aware that you are open and seeking. He is not willing for you to perish. I am praying for you now, and claiming Psalm 25:14 specifically to be shown to you.

  39. Christ’s promise “Upon this Rock (of Faith) I will build My Church and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against It” refer to Christ’s awesome descent into Hades to rout Satan and Death as seen in Orthodox Icons of the Resurrection. There He freed Adam and Eve along with the OT saints who foretold His coming (I Pet. 3:18). Also, the Gates are the place of judgments in the OT “at the city gates” the elders of the city heard law suits, etc. (Bk of Ruth). Also refers to the goings and comings of the true Christians who Christ tells us, are His flock who feed in His pastures (partaking of His Holiness in the Eucharist – Bread of Heaven).
    These are thoughts from the Ancient Orthodox Faith which keeps the commentaries of the Apostles and disciples to guide us by the Holy Spirit into understanding His Word to us in Holy Scriptures. Of course, the secularized evangelical churches will fall..nothing left of solid Christianity in their services. Pastors are building their own “kingdoms” to sustain their personal lives and so sell out the Cross of Christ. Persecution will come when large numbers of Americans become true Orthodox Christians (formerly “eastern”); only then, is Satan’s kingdom threatened with Christ’s Kingdom, and the Lord will allow us to be “winnowed” so that the “chaff” will be separated from His wheat – His followers.

  40. Quote from Article “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 ”

    I wonder is there has been any statistics on the number of young Evangelicals who go off to college and abandon their faith convictions due to their inability to dialogue and then defend what they believe? How many pursue involvement in parachurch campus groups such as IVP? Do these groups help in forming/refining their Christian worldview or simply provide a further pigmyizing of their faith?

  41. If this is the future that we see, then what are we going to do to prevent it from happening?

  42. I think that much of what you said could possibly happen, but have a bit more hope for the future of the church. I believe that numbers will be decreasing in churches across America, but this will be good in the sense that being a Christian will hopefully be re-defined as being a follower of Jesus and not merely a believer in a detached God that makes you feel good when you need something (which some have called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” which in a recent study was the major religious disposition of American teens). So, although the numbers will be less in most churches, the prophetic witness to Jesus will be stronger (unless the numbers drop because people don’t see the church as a source of action for justice in the world).

    Second, I agree that many students are not properly aware of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They are not educated in their faith, but even more detrimental is that they haven’t taken ownership of their faith. They must be instructed in the TRUTHS of Jesus and our orthodox roots, but some how we must help them move from instruction to ownership to implementation. Ultimately, students have not taken what they hear in church and partnered that with their experience. Chap Clark and other youth ministry experts have noticed this in a serious way. I want to borrow and adapt some of their observations about why this is happening…

    1. Lack of trusting Godly adults that invest in the lives of students at a deep relational level to journey with them during the adolescent years of faith. This relational mentoring must be holistic and authentic, dealing with all matters of life from an orthodox perspective. I think of the schema (Deuteronomy 6.7, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”) They need to be journeyed with on the road of faith to know that they matter, and don’t want to be lost in a crowd.

    2. Prepackaged answers will not suffice for teens that are at the stage of their cognitive development in which they are individuating. Students must be instructed in truth, but must be given room to wrestle with relevant questions based on our increasingly “post-Christian” environment. This does not mean that we don’t teach the truth, but rather that we present various viewpoints within our tradition so that they can come to intelligent decisions on issues of faith and life. (an example might be the science debates: young earth? Old earth? Theistic evolution?)

    3. Students must be given opportunities to experience the realities of orthodox faith, rather than simply sit in a class and absorb information. Information does not equal transformation for “Millenials” and younger. They must see that their faith actually works in the real world: in both their personal life and for the good of all humanity.

    4. Finally, community is a value that must be fostered. Teens and young adults crave authentic community that validities what they believe about faith. Community gives students (and adults) a common place to wrestle with and implement the realities of orthodoxy.

    Well, these are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I do not quite think that there is doom ahead, but I do think that the landscape of evangelicalism and Christianity as a whole is in the birthing stage of some kind of shift.

  43. Would you please let me know where you get your information, what is the real data behind your assessment, and why you have written such an article

  44. There was a time when “Christendom” went into the dark ages and it was Ireland that was outside the fringe of “the empire” that saved it. Who knows, maybe this so called (corrupted) “Christian Empire” of the West has to collapse so that it can be rescued by a purer version from China or elsewhere?

  45. QUESTION: Why does it say our emails are hidden yet they appear when an internet search is conducted?

  46. I have no idea. I don’t do the tech end of this site. I’ll pass the comment along to those who do. In 8 years, no one has mentioned it before.

  47. This is a very thought-provoking article.

    “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.” <—-I agree. This is a sad, hard, terrible truth.

  48. JB,
    Where can I find the poll that has determined that “massive majorities of evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith?” Are you sure you are believing a truth? Thought provoking articles are sometimes nothing more than thought provoking articles. Could it possibly be that you are believing propaganda? Where has truth been written, that says that evangelicals can have no voice on the important issues of our time, while walking in the faith of Christ? The Apostle, Paul tells Christians to “covet to prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14) What does that mean to you? Are you familiar with the term “whole counsel of God?” What does that mean to you?

  49. I believe you are absolutely correct. In the early 90’s a book was written by the title The coming evangeical crisis. I believe John Mac Authur and M. Horton were two of the contributors. It predicts exactly what you are discussing here in this article. However I do not believe this is something that we should fret. In fact I believe it could be a positive and could trigger the reformation, (not revival) we so desperately need. As for Arts comments above, I would just like to challenge him to begin asking Christians that he may run into from day to day to articulate the gospel. It has been my experience that a very tiny portion can do so. In fact I once heard Christians being interviewed at a Christian conference to do exactly that, and the results were very sad indeed. So sad in fact that R C Sproul said he was driving in his car while listening to it and had to pull over to weep. This is the piont, we as Christians have been so concerned by what we precieve important issues of the times, that we have forgotten to proclaim the gospel. Therefore most all Christians can tell you where we should stand on abortion, gay rights, or pornography. However few are left who can explain the gospel; justification by faith alone in Christ alone to God be the glory alone.