by Jeff Gissing | @jeffgissing
We are living in a post-Christendom era–a time in which the influence of the Christian church has become significantly diminished. Post-Christendom is not post-Christian. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is as powerful as it ever was, but it’s transformative work will take place despite resistance rather than with the support of society.
Opinions differ on where we are in the process of decline, but most agree that the age of a “Christian America” has come and gone. To the extent that America is Christian that Christian faith is increasingly more akin to moral therapeutic deism described by sociologist Christian Smith.
I recently read two articles that are worthy of your time:
- On The Telegraph blog Tim Stanley argues: “…It’s perfectly possible to be a Christian within a society that regulates or proscribes religious practices. The Christians in classical Rome or the Catholics in communist Poland proved that.” However, removing the influence of Christianity from a culture creates an undesirable alternative: “A society that has no moral point of reference beyond the reason of the individual (and who, in their right mind, would trust that?), or the ever shifting law of the land, is bound towards selfishness and tyranny.”
- Timothy Tennent of Asbury Theological Seminary notes that we have a huge opportunity afforded by this post-Christendom period. That is the chance to recover a robust Christianity “finally set free from the domesticating influence of Christendom.” We’re not there yet. Tennent describes our depressing current reality: “We have retreated so far from biblical Christianity you can almost hear the Christian oxygen being sucked out of the culture at every turn. The church has become one of the most vacuous spaces of all.”
It’s an exciting and alarming time to be a Christian, especially a Christian in ministry leadership. While I do not know what the future holds, I know the God who holds the future.
4 Replies to “Embracing our post-Christendom future”
The Lord bless you my friend and greetings from Wales. Interesting post!. As you say its a shame but its also and opportunity. As i see it, an opportunity for the real gospel to be seen as in the book of acts in both doctrine and power. Of course this means we re-define our fundamental beliefs of both God and salvation in order to obey the apostles doctrine and that will take both humility and repentance. Then we can demostrate the “faith once delivered” instead of todays multifaith, every christain faith that has invaded the church and brought us to this very point.
Thanks for allowing me to add to your fine blog and I look forward to reading more of your post’s soon
The Lord bless you
Paul – thanks for commenting! I too find myself returning to Acts again and again to navigate ministry in our current reality. Incidentally, I’ve been to Wales numerous times over the years and think it is one of the most beautiful places ever.
Ok, so here is the thesis:
The influence of the church is diminishing, and this results in some kind of post-christendom culture.
I buy that.
But I am pretty sure this will be, on balance, more bad than good, for the church, not just for the larger culture. I guess I am not sure why a church with less cultural prominence will be any less vacuous. The process of decline of the mainline denominations has not inspired me to think that a loss of cultural prominence leads to revival of orthodoxy. If anything, a post-Christendom renewal, if it happens, will probably be based on the total failure of much of what we call institutional Christianity. I have a hard time imagining how that would work out without it being a horrible tragedy.
Steve – Good comments. You’re right, there is much tragedy along with promise.