Christianity Rebounding in Europe

posted at 8:27 am on July 14, 2007 by see-dubya

Buried behind the WSJ’s subscription wall is a fascinating look at the resurgence of a particular type of Christianity within Europe, and especially within the cold grey socialist paradise of Sweden. There an outraged ACLU-type demanded a hotel chain remove the Bibles from its nightstand drawers, and they complied. Then something rather un-Swedish happened.

A national furor erupted. A conservative bishop announced a boycott. A leftist radical who became a devout Christian and talk-show host denounced the biblical purge in newspaper columns and on television. A young evangelical Christian organized an electronic letter-writing campaign, asking Scandic [the hotel chain]:Why are you removing Bibles but not pay-porn on your TVs?

Scandic, which had started keeping its Bibles behind the front desk, put the New Testament back in guest rooms.

“Sweden is not as secular as we thought,” says Christer Sturmark, head of Sweden’s Humanist Association, a noisy assembly of nonbelievers to which the Bible-protesting hotel guest belongs.

The WSJ reporter seems pretty confident that Christian religiosity is on the upswing, and spends most of the long article trying to explain why that might be. Some economists have an idea about how that could have happened:

As centuries-old churches long favored by the state lose their monopoly grip, Europe’s highly regulated market for religion is opening up to leaner, more-aggressive religious “firms.” The result, they say, is a supply-side stimulus to faith.

“Monopoly churches get lazy,” says Eva Hamberg, a professor at Lund University’s Centre for Theology and Religious Studies and co-author of academic articles that, based on Swedish data, suggest a correlation between an increase in religious competition and a rise in church-going. Europeans are deserting established churches, she says, “but this does not mean they are not religious.”

Upstarts are now plugging new spiritual services across Europe, from U.S.-influenced evangelical churches to a Christian sect that uses a hallucinogenic herbal brew as a stand-in for sacramental wine.

Well, that’s not the kind of “ascension” He meant, but it sounds to me like that church is the exception, whereas charismatic and evangelical churches are more the norm–and are growing rapidly just like they are in the United States. That fact isn’t lost on the free-market theorists:

The enemy of faith, say the supply-siders, is not modernity but state-regulated markets that shield big, established churches from competition. In America, where church and state stand apart, more than 50% of the population worships at least once a month. In Europe, where the state has often supported — but also controlled — the church with money and favors, the rate in many countries is 20% or less.

“The state undermined the church from within,” says Stefan Swärd, a leader of Sweden’s small but growing evangelical movement.

The state supported churches are banal, PC, and empty; they need not compete for parishioners because the state supports them no matter how wacky their ideas, how tepid their sermons, or how empty their church:

Consider the scene on a recent Sunday at Stockholm’s Hedvig Eleonara Church, a parish of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran institution that until 2000 was an official organ of the Swedish state. Fewer than 40 people, nearly all elderly, gathered in pews beneath a magnificent 18th-century dome. Seven were church employees. The church seats over 1,000.

Hedvig Eleonara has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn’t believe in God and took the post “on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday.” The church scrapped Sunday school last fall because only five children attended.

Just a few blocks away, Passion Church, an eight-month-old evangelical outfit, fizzed with fervor.

Passion Church is, obviously, not state supported.

What struck me about this piece was that I had just finished reading almost the same argument by Lawrence Henry in the American Spectator Online–about subsidized versus unsubsidized talk radio in the United States. AM talk is competitive, and it’s brash, vibrant and entertaining as the talent struggles–and succeeds–to attract listeners. Meanwhile subsidized radio (ahem NPR ahem) is very professionally produced, but it is also bookish, snobbish, and trending toward irrelevant. If the state-sponsored churches of Sweden lack butts in their pews, the subsidized talkers of NPR lack ears on their frequency. But like the sinecures of the Swedish priesthood, NPR doesn’t care if you listen or not. They get paid either way.

_______________
As for the Christian renaissance in Europe, I witnessed it firsthand a while back while I lived in England. I attended one of the more Anglican of Anglican churches–though it may not have received money from the government it was very much the Established Church. It offered a beautiful, traditional service in a breathtaking building. And it was slowly dying off; the few who came were treated to well-intended, erudite, but PC sermons. Once over sherry after church the vicar told me that modern Anglicans no longer believed in the Virgin Birth–including himself in that tally.

One night I went with some friends to another church, only nominally Anglican, which was meeting in a school auditorium. It was packed with young people and college students, and the two-and-a half hour (!) service was mostly praise music with a modern band and the lyrics projected on a movie screen. The sermon was a striking admonition–the college students were about to be released on Christmas break, and they would go home and likely be subject to ridicule and abuse from their families and friends for their decisions to become Christians. They had to be strong in their faith to put up with that scorn, because that was exactly what Jesus had said they would endure.

I dislike praise-music services, so I didn’t go back–but the contrast couldn’t have been more striking. Nonetheless I loved the muddled, dying church I attended, where one of the priests introduced me to a poem by R.S. Thomas, called The Moon in Lleyn, about the apparent end of religion. As best as I can put it together, it goes like this, although I know I’m missing at least one line:

The last quarter of the moon
of Jesus gives way
to the dark; the serpent
digests the egg

…the tide laps
at the Bible; the bell fetches
no people to the brittle miracle
of the bread.
Religion is over,
And what will emerge from the body of the new moon,
no one can say,

But a voice sounds in my ear: Why so fast mortal?
These very seas
are baptized. The parish
has a saint’s name time cannot
unfrock. In cities that
have outgrown their promise people
are becoming pilgrims
again, if not to this place,
then to the recreation of it
in their own spirits.
You must remain
Kneeling. Even as this moon
making its way through earth’s
cumbersome shadow, prayer, too
has its phases.

Perhaps in Europe a new phase has begun.

_____

Sorry for the absurd length of this post, but let me add one last note on Sweden and religion. Although several sources claim their suicide rate isn’t quite as elevated as Americans like to claim it is, there was an increase as the welfare state took hold. A 1991 study* by a Wayne State professor

found that the fall in religiosity in Sweden was indeed associated with a rise in the suicide rates of the young.

The finding is a bit problematic, because the study couldn’t completely disentangle a simultaneous breakdown in the institution of marriage in Sweden, which may have been a contributing factor as well. But to whatever degree broken homes or a loss in religiosity were driving a rise in youth suicide, it stands as a rebuke to statist socialism and the abandonment of traditional institutions in the name of progress.

*Stack, Steven. The Effect of Religiosity on Suicide in Sweden: A Time-Series Analysis. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 30, No.4., pp. 462-8.


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Great article, S-D. Thanks.

jaime on July 14, 2007 at 8:46 AM

This is good news.

Christoph on July 14, 2007 at 8:47 AM

It seems to me that the uprise in Christianity in Europe has more to do with islamic savagery and islamic bullying over public space and recognition than anything else. This will be followed by a rise in Europe’s white birth rate, both of these are indications that European civilization wants to live … at least, when the birth rate comes up, they will be.

progressoverpeace on July 14, 2007 at 8:56 AM

They better find god, because they are doomed

tomas on July 14, 2007 at 8:59 AM

This will be followed by a rise in Europe’s white birth rate

hmm

are only white europeans christian? no white muslims in europe?? hmmm

zane on July 14, 2007 at 9:02 AM

I appreciate this post, but again, rather than be amazed that the ‘new’ churches are alive and old ones dying…acknowledge that God is working, raising up a generation of believers, and He deserves all the glory. Big dying empty churches glorify themselves, not God. But God will be glorified in gymnasiums, coffeehouses, prisons, wherever two or three are gathered together in His name.

Doug on July 14, 2007 at 9:10 AM

Interesting, if unsurprising. (BTW, many if not most Anglicans believe in the Virgin Birth. Just ask the heads of the two largest national Churches in the Communion, Nigeria and Uganda.)

I know this will not win me friends among the HA readers but I found this article unsurprising because throughout history the vast majority of people have been religious. People want to be religious. It’s only under rather unusual circumstances that people opt out of religion altogether.

I’m an Episcopalian, so I know something about banal sermons, beautiful buildings and dying churches. I also know that people want to believe, they want to participate, they want to embrace the discipline and beauty of Christianity. This September the Episcopal Church of the USA will almost certainly break with the Anglican communion. This will allow the ECUSA to go its own way into PC oblivion. But it will also allow the vibrant, growing, fully-believing Anglican Churches of African to re-evangelize the USA. This will be a great case study in exactly what’s happening in Sweden and what you saw in England.

Watch over the coming years for the contrast: the elderly (out of habit) and the childless, metrosexual, lefty elites will attend the establishment Episcopal churches in the beautiful, mostly-empty buildings, but the new Anglican church down the street, the one in the pre-fab structure, the one aligned with the Church of Nigeria, will be filled, filled with passion, – and just as importantly, filled with kids.

Thomas the Wraith on July 14, 2007 at 9:10 AM

I know there’s an evangelical TV channel broadcast from the US into Europe although I forget what its called.

aengus on July 14, 2007 at 9:24 AM

So, are you saying that “Do Whatever Makes You Feel Good” is not the only way? There’s a more dignified way to live your life other than figuring out ways to fornicate that nobody has thought of before? Drugs and booze are not the only highs? Nonstop complaining about society and culture isn’t always fulfilling for everybody?

The liberals are definintely NOT going to like these insane theories.

Metro on July 14, 2007 at 9:29 AM

To think that Swedes were outraged by something so un-PC. It’s not enough to make me go to IKEA today. If Christianity has a resurgence in Europe, it is not because of any religious dogma. Europe is beyond that. However, today, Christianity is rightly associated with the only force that can stand up to islamic hegemony and stand for some kind of decency when secularism seems to equal debauchery.

So a vote for Christianity, such as this outcry not to take the Bibles out of the hotel chain, is not a cry for religious dogma. It is a protest against the secular-islamic juggernaut and their allied PC agents that even some Swedes can see is undermining and destroying their culture.

What guys like Hitchens don’t understand, is that today Christianity for most Christians is not about religion at all. It is about western culture. And now that western culture is under attack by both the secular left and the islamists, Christianity becomes of interest because we all have a stake in its survival, whether we be Christians or Jews or atheists. Where ever Christianity has been removed, Marxism or despotism has replaced it. There is not one nation on earth that is non-Christian that any liberal atheist would want to live in. Not because they want to go to church, but because the values of modern Christian societies parallel their values.

So while it may be intellectually satisfying to be an atheist, to reject religion categorically, simply because religious institutions can be dogmatic and religious people not very nice, if we all do that and reject Christianity out of the same principle, and purge it from our western society, we will inadvertantly pull the foundations of our liberal, free, and prosperous society from underneath us. What will replace it will not be to our liking. It is one thing for an individual to reject Christianity as an intellectual exercise. But for a society to reject it, would be a disaster.

jihadwatcher on July 14, 2007 at 9:31 AM

I meant to say it IS enough to make me go to IKEA. But not buy anything. Too expensive.

jihadwatcher on July 14, 2007 at 9:33 AM

Since the 1850 European demise of Christian faith converting into scientific devotion to emperical proof, we witness the outcome of 150 years of Christianity societies’ self abhoration.

Recall Milton’s Paradise Lost and Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. Having CHOSEN to depart from the Father Lord God, we of European ancestry eventually place ourselves spiritually into one of three parties by our own preference; those who rule in hell rather than serve in heaven, the apathetic non-commital spewed out of existence having denied spirit’s existence, or the prodigal son whom the Father welcomes back with open arms.

Pride precedeth the fall. The prophets consistently call for repentence and to abide in faith, hope and charity love. People rediscover truth WITHIN, not merely in the external sense of science, in order to experience God of all and sense purpose in life beyond the material. As we awaken to truth, we must commit to truth. Otherwise, we are lost.

maverick muse on July 14, 2007 at 9:35 AM

great take, jihadwatcher

Metro on July 14, 2007 at 9:43 AM

are only white europeans christian? no white muslims in europe?? hmmm

He should have said that the birthrate among indiginous Europeans who are re-discovering their hisotric Christian roots will rise.

This whole thing needs to be phrased in terms conveying the reality that the native peoples of Europe are being wiped out and displaced by imperialist interlopers. Use the exact same terminology that libs use to describe European conquest of North America.

Great article, see-dub.

Bad Penny on July 14, 2007 at 9:48 AM

Religion will get you empty pews.

Preach Jesus, have church be a place where people can have an authentic encounter with the God of the universe, and watch God work! Church attendance is meaningless. Changed lives, the power of Jesus to transform you into a diferant kind of person….that is what draws people.

debi118 on July 14, 2007 at 9:49 AM

I meant to say it IS enough to make me go to IKEA. But not buy anything. Too expensive.

To my surprise, I have read several times that people go to IKEA for hotdogs.

As for Europeans re-adopting Christianity as a bulwark against Islam, it must be a shock to secularists there to learn that religion has any power at all.

JiangxiDad on July 14, 2007 at 9:51 AM

As a proud member of the Gideons International (182 countries) I am excited to see that people were demanding the Bibles back in to the rooms! We receive phenomenal testimonies of people who go to these rooms to commit suicide then find the Bibles and change their minds and give their lives over to Christ. It is amazing what God’s word can do in places you would not think it possible. He is truly an awesome God.

Centurion68 on July 14, 2007 at 9:52 AM

Our country was built on respect for fellow man that was derived from Christianity if not practiced by each individual. Other countries can’t grasp that amazing fact.

tomas on July 14, 2007 at 9:56 AM

A bright start to the day!

Bob's Kid on July 14, 2007 at 10:15 AM

I’ll take a Prince of Peace over a pedophile warlord anyday.

There’s great poetry [Songs of Solomon] and philosophy [Proverbs/Beatitudes] and psychology [Psalms/Micah] in the Bible.

You don’t have to believe in its divinity to appreciate its humanity.

Unlike the Koran (a pastiche of plagiarized, rambling oddities), it is one of the core documents of Western Civilization.

Censoring it will only leave a cultural/spiritual vacuum to be filled by the militant Islamic influence.

Know thyself.

And thy enemy.

profitsbeard on July 14, 2007 at 10:26 AM

Revelation 5:9
“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

God’s Spirit is moving around the globe! All of us are messed up. WE need Jesus :-)

Ordinary1 on July 14, 2007 at 10:32 AM

[If] my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

That gem is from the 2nd book of Chronicles. Good for Sweden.

We can win all the wars we want on the battlefield but until those imprisoned by Islam receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior it won’t mean anything in an eternal sense.

Mojave Mark on July 14, 2007 at 10:34 AM

People in Europe are finding that the secular lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Good for them.

Kowboy on July 14, 2007 at 11:02 AM

Agree with above posters, all this Christian revival stuff is a natural human reaction to the evils of islam. All over Europe, the hajjis are taking over, the Left is bending over and taking Mohammad in the back door, sooner or later the Euros will say “Enough!” and fight back. Let’s pray they fight back through church attendence and not through armed gangs of skinheads competing to see who can kill the most invaders. Without Christ, that’s what it’ll come to.

Tony737 on July 14, 2007 at 11:04 AM

I believe the evangelical churches are growing everywhere because they are closer worship wise to the way it was supposed to be than the older churches. Many old school types frown on modern worship but I challenge you to read the life of David (the books of Samuel) and see how he worshipped. That man was off the chain when it came to praising God. Somewhere along the line we found it acceptable to just sit in hour long scripted services, sing a couple of hymns and listen to a sermon and then head off to KFC for some lunch. I moved from the Baptist church (not bagging on them by any means) a number of years a go to a modern day non denominational and have never looked back. If you don’t look forward to church you aren’t having the right experience.

gator70 on July 14, 2007 at 11:06 AM

It is one thing for an individual to reject Christianity as an intellectual exercise. But for a society to reject it, would be a disaster.

jihadwatcher on July 14, 2007 at 9:31 AM

Good post.

But remember society is made up of individuals.

Individual #1: “I reject Christianity, but it will survive without me.”

Individual #2: “I reject Christianity, but it will survive without me.”

Individual #3: “I reject Christianity, but it will survive without me.”

Individual #4: “I reject Christianity, but it will survive without me.”

Individual #5: “I reject Christianity, but it will survive without me.”

Individual #6: “Christianity? What is that?”

Connie on July 14, 2007 at 11:10 AM

I meant to say it IS enough to make me go to IKEA. But not buy anything. Too expensive.

jihadwatcher on July 14, 2007 at 9:33 AM

Have you ever been in IKEA? Stuff in there is crazy cheap.

BadgerHawk on July 14, 2007 at 11:20 AM

The rejection of Christianity by such groups only reaffirms in me the Truth of Christianity itself. If it were false why are they so afraid of it?

Irenaeus on July 14, 2007 at 11:20 AM

debi118 on July 14, 2007 at 9:49 AM

Amen debi.

Clueless WSJ reporter attempts to analyze a resurgence in faith by equating church attendance to the corporate bottom line. These guys need to get out more.

infidel4life on July 14, 2007 at 11:23 AM

Very interesting, see-dubya. Thanks for this.

mikeyboss on July 14, 2007 at 11:24 AM

The Holy Spirit at work……even in Sweden. Wow!!!

Hening on July 14, 2007 at 11:28 AM

The Christian meme is a very strong one.

JayHaw Phrenzie on July 14, 2007 at 11:45 AM

found that the fall in religiosity in Sweden was indeed associated with a rise in the suicide rates

In his book, Every Family Needs a CEO author Reuben Bar-Levav argues the need for a strong father figure in every family, even if that role has to be taken by the mother. He wrote that most people wrongly assume depressed suicidal people are the results of abusive overly authoritarian parents.

Bar-Levav shows that instead these people are created by weak indulgent parenting. The overly authoritarian parent creates angy adults with their own set of problems, not suicidal disfunctional adults who wallow in depression. He gives case studies to show the profiles.

Children given everything they need, without having to work for it, who are not held accountable for their actions, end up messes. The case studies are a great read; you will find someone you know in those pages.

The Swedish socialist system is the weak parent. So along with the so-called rationalism which removed the great optimism that comes with Faith, Sweden indulged the population by law until it lost the will to live.

Bussels Journal showed the emptiness of the Churches who no longer believe ‘None comes to the Father except through Me’.

What guys like Hitchens don’t understand, is that today Christianity for most Christians is not about religion at all. It is about western culture. And now that western culture is under attack by both the secular left and the islamists, Christianity becomes of interest because we all have a stake in its survival, whether we be Christians or Jews or atheists…jihadwatcher

A good agnostic friend takes the same position. My only argument with him is that without belief that God is behind the rules, man rationalizes the fine points until they fit his own needs. Thus ‘Jesus would have approved of gay marriage’ morphs into ‘lambda isn’t all wrong, why not lower the age of consent to 16, 15, 14, 13, 12 ….’.

Ideas without faith are no longer axioms, just useful target points on a moving target and eventually we end up with Dutch euthanesia law:

Children between 12 and 16 must normally have their parents’ consent before they may request euthanasia. However, in ‘exceptional’ cases — those involving serious and incurable disease or intolerable and unrelenting suffering — a doctor may agree to such a child’s request even without parental request

I’ll take a Prince of Peace over a pedophile warlord anyday. profitsbeard

Hooahh

entagor on July 14, 2007 at 11:56 AM

“The state undermined the church from within,” says Stefan Swärd, a leader of Sweden’s small but growing evangelical movement.

The libs and leftist decry any kind of involvement of the church within the state. What they don’t understand is why our Founding Fathers instituted the separation of church and state. It was done more to keep the State out of the Church, rather than trying to keep the Church out of the State. Coming from England, they had already seen what happened when the State had control over the Church and were determined to ensure religious freedom in America. 231 years later, we see the same lesson being learned in Sweden.

Mallard T. Drake on July 14, 2007 at 11:59 AM

Sorry my post makes it look like profitsbeard made a euthanesia quote. The age of consent quote was excerted from the Dutch law link.

Profitsbeard’s statement:

I’ll take a Prince of Peace over a pedophile warlord anyday. profitsbeard

speaks for itself and for me too

entagor on July 14, 2007 at 12:00 PM

The church I attend is fairly well established and very bible-oriented. (Covenant Evangelical) We had a sermon one Sunday about how studies have shown that when a church stops trying to reach out to the community and becomes “lazy” staying within the four walls, it begins to decline and die. Reaching out to the community includes community service and continually trying to invite new attendees for services and Bible study classes.

This is similar to the “free market” approach dicussed in See-dub’s article. Churchs that continually “compete” for new members are more successful. Those that are content with what they have or don’t have to compete will die off.

Mallard T. Drake on July 14, 2007 at 12:04 PM

I’m an Episcopalian, so I know something about banal sermons, beautiful buildings and dying churches.

Articles have been posted previously on HA about the Episcopal priest in Seattle who decided that she was both Christian and Muslim simultaneously. She was assigned to St. Marks Cathedral. She has since been told to take a leave of absence to contemplate her devotion to Christianity.

St. Marks used to be one of “the churches” in Seattle. However in recent years they have wandered off the path. They have a homosexual priest in charge of the church. They perform same-sex “marriage” ceremonies in the church. This dual religion woman was serving there. As they stray from the Biblical, the attendance has dropped to the point where they are looking for grants from other denominations to meet their budget and operating expense shortfalls.

Tired churches and churches that stray from teachings will find their concregations shrinking.

Mallard T. Drake on July 14, 2007 at 12:12 PM

See-dubya, great post! Jihadwatcher, great comment! Great comments from everyone! Gave me a lot to think about. I wish I was that eloquent.

nottakingsides on July 14, 2007 at 12:14 PM

….dicussed in See-dub’s article.

Sorry. That should have been See-Dubya’s :/

Mallard T. Drake on July 14, 2007 at 12:14 PM

Mallard T. Drake on July 14, 2007 at 11:59 AM

Exactly. My pastor had a sermon last year where he discussed the true history of the separation of church and state. That principle was fought for at the behest of the church, not the state. There could be no freedom of religion if the state and church were the same.

Tennman on July 14, 2007 at 12:18 PM

Sweden is not as secular as we thought

Insert (country X) into that quote – “is not as secular as we thought” – and you just wrote some very famous future last words that a great many secular humanists are going to be saying, all over the world.

Ironically, I think even the most fundamentalist Christians would be as likely to say them – to have grossly underestimated just how NON-secular most societies are. Scratch that: all societies.

I don’t care what people say – when push comes to shove, atheism ranges from rare to non-existent. 99.9% of people, whether they admit it or not, have some species of religious faith. And that other .1% are lying – at least to themselves.

The only surprising thing about this report is that so many people actually actively spoke out.

The secular progressives are in for a long, long line of similar surprises. God – or the idea of God, if you’d prefer – has always been and will always be a near universal concept. No matter how people try to hide from it, or deny it.

Sweden is not as secular as we thought

That’s because you’re stupid.

Professor Blather on July 14, 2007 at 12:23 PM

I believe it was Augustine who said, “In every man there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.” That vacuum is man’s human spirit. People want to worship God in some way the world over, even in the most primitive areas, because in man’s deepest part there is an empty human spirit. It is no surprise to me there is a hunger in Europe to know God in a more intimate, subjective way.

Jesus said, “God is seeking true worshippers who worship in spirit and truth.” There is a lot of so-called “worship” in every part of the world of God because man has an innate need and desire to know and worship God. Apes and chimps have no desire to worship God because they do not have a spirit.

However, there is a true worship which results from man having his soul (mind, will, emotion,) redeemed and his spirit regenerated by God’s Spirit through Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross. To try to please God by our efforts and work apart from Christ is substandard and falls short of the glory of God. God told Isaiah the prophet mans’ good works are as menstruous (filthy) rags to God.

When people in Europe begin to see and experience the true liberation and freedom Christ gives through the Spirit they get excited and share this with their friends and family. Unfortunately, the tired old state run churches have veered off from their core product which had made them vibrant and relevant hundreds of years ago.

Texas Mike on July 14, 2007 at 12:33 PM

is allahpundit on suicide watch? has anyone checked on him?

:P

its vintage duh on July 14, 2007 at 12:44 PM

Good post. I’m no fan of the “praise music” style worship myself, even though I’m of the younger demographic it’s targeted to bring in, but if that’s what it takes to help bring people back to church in Europe, then good. Every little bit helps

brak on July 14, 2007 at 12:50 PM

See-dubya, awesome post dude, awesome. A nice change of pace.

I wanted to weigh in on praise music. Prasie music serves a purpose. It unfortunately is a reflection of the lack of seriousness with which we treat education as a whole. It is a cultural reflection and neccesary. Our educational system lent itself to the deeper things of any subject. OPur current education system produces far to many Paris Hilton devotees. As our culture begins to value education more and the averages rise I think you will se a gradual move to more churches being doctrinal and less charismatic.

I know where you are coming from. I attend The Rock in San Diego and we use alot of praise music versus hymns. Our mission is to reach San Diego. Were our weekly sermons to be doctrinally challenging it would not bring people into the doors. We have a special program for the meat of the bible. For those seeking the meat they can get it. If someone is not seeking meat and they walk into a sermon that is deep into theology they won’t be a part of that church.

Theworldisnotenough on July 14, 2007 at 12:52 PM

is allahpundit on suicide watch? has anyone checked on him?

:P

its vintage duh on July 14, 2007 at 12:44 PM

Heh. Allahpundit still has hope. KP is single and the iPhone will be coming out in new colors for Christmas and will likely be on sale so he can afford it, the irony that Jesus’ birth would bring the object of Allah’s lust into his clutches…

Theworldisnotenough on July 14, 2007 at 12:55 PM

Here’s a thread at FaithFreedom that touches on why spirituality is rejected by intellectuals. Warning, it’s a bit long, but VERY insightful.

deesine on July 14, 2007 at 12:57 PM

Sweden is not as secular as we thought

That’s because you’re stupid.

Professor Blather on July 14, 2007 at 12:23 PM

Well said Professor. :)

Suz on July 14, 2007 at 1:01 PM

Have you ever been in IKEA? Stuff in there is crazy cheap cheaply made.

BadgerHawk on July 14, 2007 at 11:20 AM

Tim Burton on July 14, 2007 at 1:05 PM

I wanted to weigh in on praise music. Prasie music serves a purpose. It unfortunately is a reflection of the lack of seriousness with which we treat education as a whole. It is a cultural reflection and neccesary. Our educational system lent itself to the deeper things of any subject. OPur current education system produces far to many Paris Hilton devotees. As our culture begins to value education more and the averages rise I think you will se a gradual move to more churches being doctrinal and less charismatic.

A few years ago our church congregation (Lutheran) went through a bitter time when a praise service was introduced to co-exist with the traditional services (for a total of three). Eventually the praise service was eliminated.

I am not a fan of praise or of contemporary Christian music in general (tho I do have “I Can Only Imagine” on my iPod), but if the Church wishes to reach out, either here or in Europe, this worship needs to be offered as well in those churches which are traditionally more formal. Many Lutherans believe they are maintaining a near-sacred “tradition” by keeping only the formal service. To me it’s like this: do you want to enlarge the body of believers, as Christ commanded, or build a fortress that shuts others out?

Kimmer on July 14, 2007 at 1:10 PM

As a Christian and a metalhead (Yes people, you can be both) it’s refreshing to find groups out there putting out Christian music that appeals to my tastes. I’m not knocking traditional Christian music, it just never really was my cup of tea. I listen to Pillar, Skillet, Kutless, and other bands that put out the word. I know to many of you it would be unappealing, but to those of us who like that style, it’s just what we’ve been looking for.

Many young people (Not me, I’m OLD! lol) are being given the chance to get to know Jesus through this music and I think that’s great.

Kowboy on July 14, 2007 at 1:24 PM

I don’t have a problem with contemporary music it is the theology behind the lyrics that most of us struggle with. Where are the great writers today? They certainly aren’t writing Christian music!

sabbott on July 14, 2007 at 1:34 PM

Here are some questions that come to my mind in connection with see-dubya’s quite interesting post.

(1) It seems plausible that “market conditions” among Christian sects could influence their general success or decline. Is some set of such natural conditions or causes sufficient to account for the course of Christianity in Europe? What, if any, is the role of the Christian god in the course of Christianity in Europe?

(2) Would the widespread publication of plausible naturalistic explanations for a rebound of Christianity in Europe contribute to such a rebound, work against it, or have no effect?

(3) If sponsorship of a sect by the rulers leads to the decline of the sponsored sect, how do we explain Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi Islam? But if sponsorship by the rulers causes a sect to thrive, how do we explain Sweden and Christianity among the Swedes?

(3) Isn’t it presumptuous for a political man to establish any god or gods his people, at the expense of the other gods? But isn’t it impious for a political man to do anything other than establish the true god or gods for his people?

(4) What is god? What is divine? What is holy? Can more than one being correctly be named god? Am I serving the god or gods by thinking about these questions? Am I serving the god or gods by raising them here?

Kralizec on July 14, 2007 at 1:34 PM

(3) If sponsorship of a sect by the rulers leads to the decline of the sponsored sect, how do we explain Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi Islam? But if sponsorship by the rulers causes a sect to thrive, how do we explain Sweden and Christianity among the Swedes?

Kralizec on July 14, 2007 at 1:34 PM

I think it might be the difference between a government sponsored religion and a government MANDATED religion.

Kowboy on July 14, 2007 at 1:43 PM

Maybe this is the result, as someone suggested above, of the rediscovery of truth. Unlike some of our own (ahem) more astute atheist non-believers, Europeans have engaged in a sort of ritual ridicule and distrust of Christianity and Judaism for decades, attributing all sorts of sinister motives and bad faith to believers.

Now, they might have learned the hard way that they were only half right, and the hateful theocracy that they imagined inside the church actually exists, but only in the mosque, and I see them waking up to the scimitar and thinking that maybe this church thing wasn’t so bad after all…

Jaibones on July 14, 2007 at 1:54 PM

I’ve seen a number of posts about “Christian music.” Let’s remember my brothers and sisters that there is no such thing as “Christian music,” only Christian lyrics.

Mojave Mark on July 14, 2007 at 1:55 PM

I’ve seen a number of posts about “Christian music.” Let’s remember my brothers and sisters that there is no such thing as “Christian music,” only Christian lyrics.

Mojave Mark on July 14, 2007 at 1:55 PM

Agreed. But it has been harder in the past for some of us to find those lyrics set to music that we like. It’s getting a lot better nowadays.

Kowboy on July 14, 2007 at 1:59 PM

I sang in a Praise and Worship band for 10 years. I also grew up in a Baptist church with hymns. I love both and feel there is a place for both. Many churches now have two services, one traditional and one that is more contemporary. This is another reason why evangelical churches are growing. It isn’t so much marketing as much as it is understanding people and what their needs are. (Okay, maybe that does sound a little like marketing, but these churches are quite sincere)

Rose on July 14, 2007 at 2:06 PM

Maybe this is part of what’s at play with the Pope’s recent statement and going more old school.

Bad Candy on July 14, 2007 at 2:07 PM

There is not one nation on earth that is non-Christian that any liberal atheist would want to live in.

Well, there is one, but some of the liberals in question seem to have a problem with the religion/heritage of that country. Otherwise, excellent post, jihadwatcher.

About praise music: I’m not a fan either. However, my church has a nice practice of taking the old standard gospel music and setting it to a blues, country or R&B arrangement. The other nice practice is that the length of the choir-band’s praise time is far shorter than that of the pastor’s preaching time. Before I started attending my present church (three years ago), I went to a lot of churches whose choirs sang for an hour while the pastors preached for twenty minutes. If I wanted to hear bad singing, I could stay home and listen to it on the radio.

baldilocks on July 14, 2007 at 3:37 PM

In my church, praise music is an essential part of service. It turns our focus from ourselves and onto God, opening our hearts to abide in his word.

As to the actual praise music, I or my family has never lacked good music. My son has hours of very good Rap music. My wife has hours of contemporary gospel. And I have hours of modern and contemporary rock music. None of the music is compromising the word of God in any way. My church Praise service is never the same from one Sunday/Wednesday to the next. For God’s word tells us: “My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever. Pa 145:21

And God made use of different languages and cultures. So our praise will always sound differently, but will always have the same goal. Never ceasing, never wavering, and never compromising.

As for the old stale churches, we ran from those a long time ago. God always reminds us, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Matt 20:16

Hallelujah, Glory is his name!!!

Zaire67 on July 14, 2007 at 3:41 PM

Terrific poem. I’m going to have to add him to my wishlist.

John on July 14, 2007 at 4:08 PM

When JS Bach first performed “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” in a church, the people were stunned. It was praise-music. Individual dioceses within the big monolith competed musically and artistically. Individual creativity was encouraged. That’s what the big established churches subsequently shut out.

laelaps on July 14, 2007 at 4:49 PM

All of those “old” hymns everyone keep talking about were once considered “edgy” and inappropriate. I guess it doesnt matter, old hymns, modern worship, or Bach cantatas, as long as Jesus is the reason we are good to go!

gator70 on July 14, 2007 at 5:17 PM

Amen gator.

Rose on July 14, 2007 at 5:23 PM

Hence the reason we have the first Amendment. Not to protect us from religion, but to protect the religion from the state….

Herikutsu on July 14, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Here are some questions that come to my mind in connection with see-dubya’s quite interesting post.

(1) It seems plausible that “market conditions” among Christian sects could influence their general success or decline. Is some set of such natural conditions or causes sufficient to account for the course of Christianity in Europe? What, if any, is the role of the Christian god in the course of Christianity in Europe?

(2) Would the widespread publication of plausible naturalistic explanations for a rebound of Christianity in Europe contribute to such a rebound, work against it, or have no effect?

(3) If sponsorship of a sect by the rulers leads to the decline of the sponsored sect, how do we explain Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi Islam? But if sponsorship by the rulers causes a sect to thrive, how do we explain Sweden and Christianity among the Swedes?

(3) Isn’t it presumptuous for a political man to establish any god or gods his people, at the expense of the other gods? But isn’t it impious for a political man to do anything other than establish the true god or gods for his people?

(4) What is god? What is divine? What is holy? Can more than one being correctly be named god? Am I serving the god or gods by thinking about these questions? Am I serving the god or gods by raising them here?

Kralizec on July 14, 2007 at 1:34 PM

1) See-dubya’s thesis is flawed horribly. The mainline denominations in this country, which were never associated with the State declined precipitously starting in the 1930s, when they adopted the higher critical method. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian church in the US recently voted to begin praying to “mother, daughter, womb” so as not to offend. The Episcopal and Methodist churches are very much in decline as well. Evangelicalism is growing in this country, but it is by using marketing methods to get people into the church. Many children in these evangelical churches grow up and leave the church. If we’re exporting our brand of evangelicalism to Sweden, the same thing will happen there. If man’s methods are used, true conversions will not happen and the church will not grow. In fact, it make’s God angry. He destroyed Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu, for making ‘unauthorized fire’ to Him. Every revival we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere has been in response to preaching the Law and the Gospel appropriately.

Francis Schaeffer documented the catastrophe in the mainline denominations in ‘The Great Evangelical Disaster’.

2) Naturalistic causes have no effect on the spread of Christianity. God makes the church grow in response to the gospel being preached, though he may use disasters and other things providentially to soften men’s hearts.

3)NOt sure what you mean

4) From Question 7 of the Westminster Larger Catechism:
“God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
There is only one God. He is defined in the Bible. ‘Holy’ primarily means ‘separate’ or ‘set apart.’ The Hebrew word for ‘holy’ in the Bible gives the image of ‘a cutting’ like someone cutting food and separating it with a knife.

PRCalDude on July 14, 2007 at 6:14 PM

As far as “praise music” being light and floffy, I must say “not always”. I’ve recently become a fan of Todd Agnew, whose lyrics are genuine and, at times, convicting. I doubt that any true Christian could listen to the lyrics in the song “My Jesus”, and not be at least a little bit convicted.

BigOrangeAxe on July 14, 2007 at 6:21 PM

As far as “praise music” being light and floffy, I must say “not always”. I’ve recently become a fan of Todd Agnew, whose lyrics are genuine and, at times, convicting. I doubt that any true Christian could listen to the lyrics in the song “My Jesus”, and not be at least a little bit convicted.

BigOrangeAxe on July 14, 2007 at 6:21 PM

“Praise music” can be fine if it’s doctrinally sound. Much of it today isn’t, and the lyrics are repeated over and over again like a mantra. That’s really the problem: the message, not the instruments. Of course, rocking out before the sermon probably doesn’t comprehend the fact that you are worshiping a holy and righteous God. The music should incline your heart toward worship. Everything must be done “in good order.”

PRCalDude on July 14, 2007 at 6:27 PM

I have also read a study that indicated Christianity is the largest and fastest growing religion throughout the world. I had always thought it was Islam. Studies that have stated Islam was the fastest excluded these very same types of evangelical churches.

JellyToast on July 14, 2007 at 6:44 PM

JellyToast on July 14, 2007 at 6:44 PM

Islam will outbreed Christianity.

frreal on July 14, 2007 at 7:20 PM

“Praise music” can be fine if it’s doctrinally sound. Much of it today isn’t, and the lyrics are repeated over and over again like a mantra. That’s really the problem: the message, not the instruments. Of course, rocking out before the sermon probably doesn’t comprehend the fact that you are worshiping a holy and righteous God. The music should incline your heart toward worship. Everything must be done “in good order.”

PRCalDude on July 14, 2007 at 6:27 PM

So Rock and Roll is still the devil’s tool? Exactly how much Christian Rock/Metal have you listened to? I have found the message in this type of music to be just as powerful as any other. Rocking out before the sermon might not be appropriate for you, but for some it does incline their hearts towards worship.

No offense, but your post sounds like you believe there’s only one way to worship God. There are many ways, and I’m sure our holy and righteous God approves of them all.

Kowboy on July 14, 2007 at 7:24 PM

Praise music IS worship. At least to me.

Bob's Kid on July 14, 2007 at 8:08 PM

Although I use to play in a rock band for years my personal preference is not the so called “praise music” performed for and with a lot of Christian groups. There is the temptation to exhault one’s self instead of God in performing music. Satan himself had been a choir director in his earlier career. However, unlike prayer, all praise is acceptable to God. Psalm 150 mentions a lot of musical instruments involved, so who am I to criticize. So, we should let Christians praise according to their own conscience and not criticize them.

The only things I will take issue doctrinally with are the basic matters of the faith such as Christ’s redeeming work on the cross as the Son of the Godhead, the authority of the Bible, justification by faith – not works, the virgin birth and the second coming of Christ. All other issues can be devisive.

Christ prayed in John 17 that Christians would be one so that world might believe that God the Father sent the Son. This is the real Lord’s prayer. Divided Christianity is deluited and neutered Christianty.

Texas Mike on July 14, 2007 at 8:16 PM

Fascinating, good news. Thanks for the post, See-Dubya.

Thomas the Wraith, we have friends who attend one of those Anglican churches that is overseen by an African archbishop. The priest and part of the congregation left the ECUSA several years ago, not knowing what would happen. Today, that church is young, growing and alive. We went to their confirmation and heard an excellent sermon regarding courage and living in God’s strength given by their US bishop.

This post made me reflect on the fact that as we have moved around the country, we have been a part of several churches that met in various non-traditional places, including such locations as a hotel, school, home, shopping center, and town park.

The vitality of a church does not depend on buildings or tradition, but on the living God. I am grateful to hear He is at work in Europe.

INC on July 14, 2007 at 8:34 PM

PRCal, Praise music does draw you to God. Most of it is scripture set to music. But I guess it depends on your experience with it. Maybe what you have heard is not the same as what I have been exposed to. I find the Hosanna series to be quite well done, at least in the past. I haven’t heard too much of their new stuff.

Rose on July 14, 2007 at 10:18 PM

CW: I completely empathize with you: I prefer the solemnity of the (old) Anglican services to the “praise worship” tunes so popular (across denominational lines) in so many churches today. Is it too much to ask for a sound, Bible-teaching Anglican church that hews to the traditional hymns and format? Based on my (admittedly dated) experience while in the military in England, it almost seems to be…. In the US, however, I think we see a growing movement of such churches: traditional Anglican/Episcopalian services featuring Bible-based preaching.

sanantonian on July 14, 2007 at 11:29 PM

Hey! Do you want to make God laugh? Tell Him what your plans are.

cjs1943 on July 15, 2007 at 12:06 AM

I have also read a study that indicated Christianity is the largest and fastest growing religion throughout the world. I had always thought it was Islam. Studies that have stated Islam was the fastest excluded these very same types of evangelical churches.

JellyToast on July 14, 2007 at 6:44 PM

It seems important to learn the status of Christianity and Islam in regions in which believers in the respective doctrines are both numerous. Who is killing, converting, enslaving, or taxing whom? Which faith is growing? If it needs to be said, I’m not posing rhetorical questions.

Kralizec on July 15, 2007 at 1:41 AM

1) See-dubya’s thesis is flawed horribly. The mainline denominations in this country, which were never associated with the State declined precipitously starting in the 1930s, when they adopted the higher critical method. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian church in the US recently voted to begin praying to “mother, daughter, womb” so as not to offend. The Episcopal and Methodist churches are very much in decline as well. Evangelicalism is growing in this country, but it is by using marketing methods to get people into the church. Many children in these evangelical churches grow up and leave the church. If we’re exporting our brand of evangelicalism to Sweden, the same thing will happen there. If man’s methods are used, true conversions will not happen and the church will not grow. In fact, it make’s God angry. He destroyed Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu, for making ‘unauthorized fire’ to Him. Every revival we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere has been in response to preaching the Law and the Gospel appropriately.

Francis Schaeffer documented the catastrophe in the mainline denominations in ‘The Great Evangelical Disaster’.

2) Naturalistic causes have no effect on the spread of Christianity. God makes the church grow in response to the gospel being preached, though he may use disasters and other things providentially to soften men’s hearts.

3)NOt sure what you mean

4) From Question 7 of the Westminster Larger Catechism:
“God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
There is only one God. He is defined in the Bible. ‘Holy’ primarily means ’separate’ or ’set apart.’ The Hebrew word for ‘holy’ in the Bible gives the image of ‘a cutting’ like someone cutting food and separating it with a knife.

PRCalDude on July 14, 2007 at 6:14 PM

In fairness to see-dubya and the thesis he reported, it seems one could reply that, despite the decline of the “mainline” Protestant sects, Christianity did better in the U.S. than in Europe, partly because in the U.S. those sects weren’t subsidized and authorized by the U.S. Government. On that basis, one may still be able to find a role for something resembling “market conditions” as a condition or cause of the success or failure of a religious sect. Understand, being the devil’s advocate is an important part of my service to the god.

PRCalDude said, “Naturalistic causes have no effect on the spread of Christianity. God makes the church grow in response to the gospel being preached, though he may use disasters and other things providentially to soften men’s hearts.” Natural events can’t affect the spread of Christianity, but can affect the god, who in turn can affect the spread of Christianity. But natural-seeming events can affect the spread of Christianity, if and only if those events were initiated by the god for that purpose. Is it worthwhile even to ask what the evidence is for such beliefs? Something seems to underlie such beliefs, other than their mere evidence, but what?

As for the reply quoting the Westminster catechism (and setting aside the obvious question of its evidence), does anything somehow unite the listed perfections, while excluding other, candidate perfections? I’m not just joking in pointing out that, in formulas like this one, the god is always said to be, for example, Most Wise, but never Most Quiet, Most Loquacious, or Most Cute. To my knowledge, no one claims the god picked his own perfections from a list. So again, what, if anything, relates all his perfections to each other?

Kralizec on July 15, 2007 at 2:40 AM

Ritualistic service versus non-ritualistic service is really a moot point. Protestants argue that the more stratified/organized service is anti-Christian, while the Roman Catholic or Orthodox would argue that the non-ritualistic services are incomplete in their tradition and theology, lacking the Apostolic succession.

However, it appears that both are right and wrong in a sense. It is my notion that the religious impulse represents two things: One the desire to be ministered to, which is, freely attended to, served, and so forth; and the desire to minister to others. This is also unpaid and free. The rise of volunteers for a ’cause’ is a result of a religious impulse which is unfulfilled, likely because the churches have forgotten how to empower their laymen and women to serve.

On the other hand, the Protestant focus has always been businesslike; thus this WSJ attitude is unsurprising. A saint once said, “Don’t try to change the world, Change worlds.” Many Protestants, because they have no supporting church hierarchy and are reliant on the ‘business’ of a constant influx of willing offerings. Part of this is that the aforementioned church buildings require maintenance, and thus levy a tax on the leadership of the church no matter how small. Megachurches make sense, because they use a charismatic preacher – who hopefully is doctrinally sound – to attract masses of people. In this case, the church may act more closely to the be ministered to/minister model because pressure is off them to meet maintenance and salary costs. This is simply due to the massive growth of the church. The people who pay the offerings do not feel pressured to do so because of the low pressure on the leadership, and thus they satisfy better their impulse to minister. With the mass of resources the church then finds it easier to minister to people. Especially with the proliferation of modern technology and the novelty-focus of modern society make small churches less and less feasible. Those who attend must really understand the idea of ministering.

Many denigrate the Megachurch, but based on society (which we have shaped) the megachurch is a clear solution. I’ll just go with the Catholics and say, “God uses them as an instrument of his grace.” But reserve my judgment on whether they are the true path to salvation.

House churches are the other solution, which is something which requires approximately zero maintenance, but they then bear the problem of doctrine. A megachurch, because of its size, will have difficulty straying too far from accepted doctrine (not that it won’t happen) simply due to market pressure.

But a house church has no such pressures. The only way I can think that you could maintain doctrine in house churches would be through a hierarchy, not unlike the early church or Paul described.

By the by, the decay and death of the heavy mainline protestant churches was inevitable. You can’t be Roman Catholic lite; these churches relied on the strength of society to be strong, and thus as society wanes in this era, they will die.

My belief is that like the hypostases of God, there are three manifestations of his Body. The first is intellectual, which is the Eastern Orthodoxy of the Desert Fathers. It is ritualistic, but the rituals are centered it seems around intellectual, esoteric meanings which appeal to the intellectual man or woman. They don’t ‘miss heaven by 18 inches’ because through the intellect is how God reaches them.

The second is the Roman Catholic church, which is very Jamesian, being focused on displaying faith through works. This appeals to what is sometimes called the ‘Passional Man’ who desires to strive, do, toil and work for God in material ways. Small surprise that Catholic charities are the biggest in the world.

The third was born in Asuza; though the Protest was the ‘John’ preparing the way for its coming. These churches are not Protestant (which are Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian) nor Restoration (Church of Christ, etc) but new-born from the Spirit. If you read on the Asuza revival, this third hypostasis is not unlike the Holy Ghost (the Orthodox being like the Son, appealing to the mind, the R.Catholic being like the Father, with their focus on the Pope and works.) This is the church that appeals to the emotional and devotional man, one that is marked most clearly by its emotional and explosive ‘born again’ experiences and emotional, musical services.

Music, which anyone who hears ‘occupies’ is the vector of the third, the first is vectored by images (ikons) which require the person to actively consider and think about them. The second, its vector is likely men, as it is men we take orders from to go into action.

Don’t take this is an accusatory sense, but in the sense of digging for deeper patterns in the life of the Body of Christ.

RiverCocytus on July 15, 2007 at 11:08 AM

It is great that a radical leftist has converted to Christianity. Most converts make the best proponents of the Faith. I have taken comfort in reading the Bible while alone in a hotel room many times. God is nondenominational. God is on the pages of the Bible. I think it is a sham that people complicate God for their owm personal gains. Get a job!

sonnyspats1 on July 15, 2007 at 11:16 AM

Irenaeus sez:

The rejection of Christianity by such groups only reaffirms in me the Truth of Christianity itself. If it were false why are they so afraid of it?

????
Can’t argue with this kind of logic. Especially coming from a church father.

HeIsSailing on July 15, 2007 at 12:11 PM

This thread is killing me. I have to be somewhere at 2:00 pm and can’t finish reading. Great posts. Hotair is addictive

entagor on July 15, 2007 at 12:22 PM

Excellent article and corresponding posts. We need more positive articles like this here, and less Hitchens/Allahpundit man-love articles.

Vaporman87 on July 15, 2007 at 3:23 PM

There are those of us in the Protestant church that are conservatives. I am a Lutheran myself. The Lutheran church has a history of being very liturgical and much of today’s Christian music simply does not match my theology. I’m not trying to split theological hairs either, it’s just very hard to listen to!

An example. We do not have alter calls in the Lutheral church. We don’t believe that fallen man is capable of “making a decision for Christ” and that this is the work of the Holy Spirt through the Word and Sacrements. (How can a totally depraved human make a decision for something totally Holy?) By the time man is receptive to God’s message the Holy Spirit has converted him. When we hear music about Making a Decision for Jesus…it isn’t part of what we believe…

sabbott on July 15, 2007 at 3:37 PM

Very good post See-Dub good comments. Most are good info good insight heart revealing and thoughtful, some thought provoking. Got in late again and by the time I finished reading don’t have time to jump in (got to get ready to preach). Just wanted to say I enjoyed tremendously. Oh, forgot to mention some of the comments were a hoot. “David was off his chain” Ha!

mjkazee on July 15, 2007 at 6:28 PM

In fairness to see-dubya and the thesis he reported, it seems one could reply that, despite the decline of the “mainline” Protestant sects, Christianity did better in the U.S. than in Europe, partly because in the U.S. those sects weren’t subsidized and authorized by the U.S. Government. On that basis, one may still be able to find a role for something resembling “market conditions” as a condition or cause of the success or failure of a religious sect. Understand, being the devil’s advocate is an important part of my service to the god.

Fair enough. I’m sure involvement with the state played a role. But the watershed issue in both the U.S. and Europe was the issue of the inerrancy of the Bible. Once these churches decided the Bible wasn’t the Word of God, but only contained the Word of God, they declined rapidly. Deciding that the Bible is errant basically means that man is the ultimate determining authority of what is true and what isn’t. This leads to relativism.

Natural events can’t affect the spread of Christianity, but can affect the god, who in turn can affect the spread of Christianity. But natural-seeming events can affect the spread of Christianity, if and only if those events were initiated by the god for that purpose. Is it worthwhile even to ask what the evidence is for such beliefs? Something seems to underlie such beliefs, other than their mere evidence, but what?

We would say that God is sovereign over naturalistic causes. To get into the evidence of my beliefs, we would have to start from first principles: is there even a God? Is atheism logically tenable? From there, why is the Christian God the only true God, and what evidence is there for Him? This can’t be done in this forum because these threads go into the archive too quickly, and usually just when we start making progress. My co-blogger is the best to answer these questions. I’ll see if we can trackback. The short answer is that the evidence for the Christian God is that the claims in his Word are the only ones logically defensible versus those of atheists and other religions. We usually try to prove it by process of elimination vs other religious claims.

As for the reply quoting the Westminster catechism (and setting aside the obvious question of its evidence), does anything somehow unite the listed perfections, while excluding other, candidate perfections? I’m not just joking in pointing out that, in formulas like this one, the god is always said to be, for example, Most Wise, but never Most Quiet, Most Loquacious, or Most Cute. To my knowledge, no one claims the god picked his own perfections from a list. So again, what, if anything, relates all his perfections to each other?

Good question. I don’t quite know, but I’ll take a stab. I would guess that it is his holiness that relates all these together. There is nothing like God, he is separate, holy. But he relates to us in language and attributes that we can understand. You’ve asked a much more insightful question than I feel I can answer, because I haven’t studied Christian ethics well enough. But I would say that all of his attributes, like righteousness, are a subset of his holiness.

PRCalDude on July 15, 2007 at 11:39 PM

Interesting that I read this today. I had the Sean Rima show on during the Sunday errands around town. He was talking about the LA Archdiocese’s settlement. He also was talking about how it will be smaller churches that may ‘take up the slack.’ Similar to someone’s earlier post concerning the African Anglican churches. We truly live in interesting if not safe times.

Church attendance is a start, but it’s certainly not everything. How many believe but don’t necessarily attend a formal church for one reason or another might be a good question. How to bring them to the fold might be another. More important may be how many of those will stand with the rest against the PC and Wahabbist crowds? Then again, I’m a troubleshooter. Not a priest.

I bring that up I guess because of my situation. I attend once in a blue moon. Not because I don’t believe. I simply have responsibilities that usually prevent me from attending. If it’s not the job sending me out, it’s a family thing. One worships where one can. I’ve prayed in some awfully strange places. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the Man Upstairs probably does not care whether you worship from a formal church, your home or from the middle of some nice slice of Hell (which I’ve done). I think he would care more that you do, and that you mean it.

Suihei Deloi on July 16, 2007 at 3:16 AM