Has the Church a Future?

Has the Church a Future?

Has the Church a Future?

Has the Church a Future?

Excerpt

Shortly after this small volume appeared in 1980, I was invited by an enthusiastic reader of it in South Carolina to come and address his Presbytery on its theme. The event was advertised under the title of the book itself: “Has the Church a Future?” After the first of my talks in that setting, I had the distinct impression that this was a nonquestion for the vast majority of those present. Undoubtedly it is still a non-question for some, especially in those parts of the United States where Christendom can still seem to be alive and well. But these vestiges of imperial Christianity are fading fast, and even where they are still able to make a lot of noise, their rhetoric is contested, openly and covertly, by countless factors in their contexts that render the question of their future entirely and critically pertinent—even more pertinent because they suppress and repress it. Although statisticians and other quantifiers in the service of Christian promotionalism go on a good deal today about Christianity’s status as the world’s most populous religion, the truth of the matter “on the ground” is quite different. Christian fundamentalism and other forms of Christian reaction produce periodic displays of numerical success; but are such successes really the sort of thing that serious readers of the New Testament can laud? The Roman Catholic church, which has been able, by hook or by crook, to sustain its primacy longer and more impressively than any other form of organized Christianity, is as much in trouble in the developed world today as are the remnants of classical Protestantism; and in the developing world it is holding on chiefly by courting those elements that are either benefiting from the religious status quo or not yet fully affected by the rationality of the Enlightenment and the allure of the secular society. As I write this, Pope Benedict XVI is in Brazil attempting to rally Catholics in what he and his advisors . . .
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