George Barna posted today the results of his latest research regarding the state of Christianity in America. He titled his findings “Christianity Is No Longer Americans’ Default Faith” – summarizing his findings that “half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.” Here are some of the insights Barna draws from the research:
- “The Christian faith is less of a life perspective that challenges the supremacy of individualism as it is a faith being defined through individualism.
- … Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs… Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.
- In the past, when most people determined their theological and moral points of view, the alternatives from which they chose were exclusively of Christian options… Today, Americans are more likely to pit a variety of non-Christian options against various Christian-based views. This has resulted in an abundance of unique worldviews based on personal combinations of theology drawn from a smattering of world religions…
- Faith, of whatever variety, is increasingly viral rather than pedagogical. With people spending less time reading the Bible, and becoming less engaged in activities that deepen their biblical literacy, faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching.”
Barna’s survey results are no surprise but serve to underline our present reality that we need to be living in this culture as missionaries – not pharisees.
Christendom has been waining in the west for several decades but the church has been slow to see it – and even slower to process the implications. One exception to that is Malcolm Muggeridge who gave a series of popular lectures on the subject at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) in 1978 (published in 1980 in a book titled The End of Christendom). Muggeridge’s perspective was that Christendom is not compatible with Christianity and, as such, the end of Christendom will allow for the church to triumph. He saw the twentieth century as a parallel to what St. Augustine encountered when faced with the collapse of Rome: the inevitable transience of historical civilizations in contrast to which the eternity that comes to light through Christianity shines out all the more clearly, as he envisions anew Augustine’s distinction between the ephemeral City of Man and the everlasting City of God.