Following an unprecedented study on the religious lives of American teens, Professor Christian Smith came to this conclusion:
We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that it is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition,
but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism… The language and therefore experience, of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, Eucharist, and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at the very least, to be supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward.
It is not so much that Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.
Christian Smith “Soul Searching: the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers.”
“Calling us to do great things for God is part of the hype that constantly burns out millions of professing Christians. Telling us about the great things God has accomplished–and, more than that, actually delivering his achievement to sinners–is the real mission of the church… Radical discipleship means bringing to the world–including Christians–the wonderful, surprising, and offensive news of the gospel. Nothing we have done, are doing, or can do is radical. It is the same old story of human striving.”
Michael Horton “Christless Christianity”
Photo taken from Christianity Today’s Article “Here Come the Radicals“
“America’s problem isn’t too much religion, or too little of it. It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place… a growing number are inventing their own version of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke their egos and indulge or even celebrate their worst impulses. These faiths speak from many pulpits–conservative and liberal, political and pop-cultural, traditional religious and fashionably ‘spiritual’– and many of their preachers call themselves Christian or claim a Christian warrant. But they are increasingly offering distortions of traditional Christianity, not the real thing.”
Just a little note of clarification: when Douthat argues for traditional theology/Christianity he’s speaking of a orthodox/confessional/historical/theologically robust one that drinks from the waters of its 2,000 year history.
Ross Douthat “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics“
“In consumerist spirituality, the new stuff on offer is mostly new experiences, ‘transformative‘ experiences that you’re supposed to get if you don’t want to miss out on something special in your spiritual life… Which means… that if you’ve never had the experience they’re selling, they’ll do their best to make you wonder what’s wrong with you… You’ll be told that without you’re just an ordinary, plain Christian, lacking the extraordinary power and blessing that God wants you to have in your life… Whereas what we have, if we are nothing but ordinary Christians, is greater than all the experiences in the world. We have Christ himself… Everything else is inessential.” Continue reading
An interesting post from one of my old Trinity classmates:
“What people need to hear from religion is an accurate diagnosis of their condition: unable to find the power within themselves to help themselves. Wanted Religion can’t offer a profound solution because it refuses to diagnose a profound disease. Needed Religion recognizes our plight and can offer a weighty cure: a savior who substitutes himself for us.”
Check out the rest over at Liberate.
“I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups.
Christless Christianity. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A little shallow, sometimes distracted, even a little human-centered rather than Christ-centered from time to time, but Christless? Let me be a little more precise about what I am assuming to be the regular diet in many churches across America today: ‘do more, try harder…’ Continue reading
Last weekend I had one of those fantastic moments when you find an almost brand new book from your Amazon wishlist at a second hand bookstore. The book was “Bad Religion” by New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat. In this work the author seeks to tell the story of where Christianity is in America and how it got there. After a week I’m about half-way through so I’ll have more to write later, but for now I just want to share some of my highlights so far. Continue reading