Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back to Basics

I heard last week that something called "The New Calvinism" made Time Magazine's list of 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now, and while blogging has taken a back seat in the last few weeks, I simply have to comment on this. Apparently, Reformed Theology is making enough of a comeback to rank in the top 3 of world-changing ideology. The article is very interesting, and confirms some trends that others have noticed in the last few years. The more mainline protestant churches (United Methodist, Presbyterian USA, etc.) are shrinking, while more and more young people are flocking to the more orthodox traditions.

The New York Times recently published an article about the uptick in attendance at churches because of the recession. They also note a study which found that between 1968 and 2004, attendance at "evangelical churches" increased as much as 50%, while mainline churches continued their decline, albeit more slowly, during times of economic recession.

It's no surprise to me at all, especially given the events of the last 12 months. As we Americans (and consequently the rest of the world) are forced out of the comfortably insulated prosperity that we've enjoyed for so long, more and more of us are searching for something real. It's easy to go to a church that simply tells you what you want to hear, or listen to a pastor that offers self-help psychology week after week, as long as life outside of church is just peachy. But let someone experience the threat of losing their job/home/retirement, and life here on earth just doesn't cut it anymore. All of a sudden, we want to be reassured that this life isn't what it's all about.

It also becomes more important (at least in our little minds) to be sure in our faith once the here and now can't satisfy us completely. Of course, this phenomenon will only reinforce the already prevalent mentality among so many who think Christians to be weak-minded simpletons who use religion and faith as a crutch to deal with life's problems. The simple truth is that all of us continue to struggle with worry and despair over these things, we just have a better, though still very limited perspective of what it all means. We have the assurance that all things work together for good, for those who are part of God's family.

I'm encouraged that more young folks are turning to the reformed tradition - I count myself among that group - as it shows a hunger for truth, and a desire to get back to the foundational tenets of Christianity. So much of evangelicalism these days is all about trying to relate to society on their terms. We have to sugar-coat our theology to get the hip, postmodern (whatever that means) generation to pay attention. Well, frankly I'm not much for putting God, or the Gospel, in a box. The Bible is pretty clear on the power of the Gospel - all by itself, without any help from us. That's one of the benefits of good theology: an accurate understanding of how the Bible says God works.

I hope that more and more churches will notice this trend of believers demanding more from their religious leadership, and focus more on ensuring their members get sound teaching and understanding about what they believe and why.

No comments: