Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Implosion of Liberal Christianity

a helpful caution on becoming laissez-faire about doctrine:

"When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.

When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church."

- the entire LA Times opinion piece

update: i'm not endorsing every single word of the article and would have phrased some things differently, but I affirm her larger point that we need to take care to pay attention to doctrine.

ht: andrew jackson


WES ELLIS said...

Very interesting. In fact this is my one fear for the emerging church movement. We've made it personal, yes, and we've realized that there are more important things than doctrine. but what if we go to far and leave doctrine behind us completely?

Mike Todd said...

As someone who doesn't get up on Sunday morning and go to church, and who's faith community calls itself the whatever, I'd object to the lumping together the notion of doctrine and Christ's divinity... for starters.

Stephen said...

wes, yes, it's a balance thing. we can overreact to the fact (imo) that doctrine in many circles have been overemphasized.

todd, i was thinking that "not going to church" perhaps shouldn't be our biggest concern!

i didn't quite get your christ's divinity - doctrine comment. can you parse that out a bit more?

Mike Todd said...

Sure, that wasn't well thought out.

When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher...

What I was trying to say is it's possible to say "whatever" to a whole lot of doctrine and still regard Jesus as divine. Listing them off like that seems like you want them to appear as equal statements. Just one of my pet peeves.

Stephen said...

i see your point. i think she's claiming that the churches of which she speaks - or at least some of them - do all of those things. it is my understanding that there are mainline church authorities that do deny christ's divinity.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia states that "doctrine" is "a code of beliefs", "a body of teachings". Everyone holds to some kind of doctrine, even those who hold to a doctrine of being anti-doctrine.
Although some have gone to the extreme on promoting secondary doctrines, and many have lost sight of praxis, but we must not lose sight of the importance of essential doctrines (1 Tim 4:16, Titus 1:9 & 2:1).