the decline of the revival

The Decline of the Revival:

“The history of Christianity, as surveys such as Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years amply demonstrate, is a chronicle of often-violent theological disputes, schisms, reformations, and reformulations of even basic theological tenets. The notion of orthodoxy, often invoked by people of faith seeking to block new theological or cultural developments, has always been a fluid concept. Christians in the fourth century couldn’t agree on the divinity of Jesus. A thousand years later they fought wars over the basic definition of Christian salvation.”

“Dickerson, whose op-eds have appeared in USA TodayThe New York Times, and elsewhere, does not hesitate to lay blame where he thinks it belongs. He condemns evangelicals’ foray into national politics as an unqualified disaster: it divided churches, won scant political gains, and earned Christians a hard-to-shake reputation as hypocritical, hard-hearted bigots. He is withering about megachurch pastors’ embrace of corporate-style growth strategies, which he asserts squandered their moral authority and deprived worshippers of essential pastoral care and faith formation. It’s no surprise, he writes, that Christians are abandoning such a shallow, divisive faith: “Somewhere along the way, our focus on programs and techniques, dollars, ministry size, and perhaps even powerful worship distracted us from the basics. […] [W]e have failed to take care of Christ’s sheep. Now we are losing them.”

“To persuade his audience of complacent pastors that evangelicals are now viewed with hostility by much of mainstream America, Dickerson zeros in on what he calls a rapidly growing “pro-homosexual and anti-Christian reactionism” in American culture. As evidence of this backlash he cites a variety of news stories about Christians arrested or otherwise disciplined for reading Bibles in public, praying at gay pride events, proselytizing to Muslims, and expressing their faith in public schools. What’s surprising about this litany of events (apart from the fact that Dickerson attributes them to the “planned and pained schemes” of Satan) is that nearly all of them are derived from highly partisan conservative news sources… , which a journalist of Dickerson’s caliber ordinarily wouldn’t regard as authoritative.”

“Conservatives are similarly boxed in — and increasingly regarded as hypocritical, polls show — on sexual and economic issues. I’m a religion reporter, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve interviewed conservative pastors who inform me of the Bible’s inflexible position on homosexuality even as their own churches violate explicit biblical prohibitions against divorce by employing divorced clergy or offering ministries to help couples get through their own divorces. Mark Driscoll denounces America’s recent embrace of same-sex relationships as evidence of the nation’s departure from biblical values. But, apart from a coy acknowledgment that “the Bible is far more direct on prohibitions against homosexuality than it is on polygamy,” Driscoll conspicuously ignores the fact that Scripture, with its numerous prominent figures with multiple wives and its alternating endorsements of virginity, chastity, and traditional marriage, is in no way univocal on the issue of sexuality. Driscoll is similarly silent about the fact that evangelicals have been among the most enthusiastic political supporters of economic policies that are in part to blame for the litany of social dysfunction he cites in his book.”

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