Is the church dying? Do we need to be worried?

Crosses on the top of churches

Many atheists make strong statements about how the church is in terminal decline, and it’s only a matter of time til it is reduced to an insignificant minority in most western countries, and eventually worldwide. Some christians may be influenced by these claims.

I did some research for my other blog to check out the facts and the conclusions of sociologists of religion, so I thought I’d share them here.

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The Old Testament: an update on a journey (part 1)

Hebrew Scriptures

This post is very much a personal reflection about a journey I am still on.

For years I didn’t think much about the Old Testament. I read it sometimes, looked up passages occasionally, appreciated Isaiah and Ezekiel. But I didn’t really spend much time considering what I thought about it. After all, I am a christian, living in the new covenant, and following Jesus is my greatest priority. Of course I needed to understand Jesus in his Jewish context, and that meant in the context of the Hebrew scriptures, but I didn’t need to have a settled view on the many difficult questions raised by the Old Testament.

Eventually, a couple of years ago, I started to pray that God would lead me into a better understanding of the Old Testament, especially the difficult questions. And then I began to do some reading, thinking and research. And I think God has started to lead me somewhere.

So here is where I am up to. I’m not finished yet – there is much I have yet to work out. But I think I can at least see a little way ahead.

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Book review: ‘I love Jesus and I accept evolution’ by Denis Lamoureux

Book cover

Last year I posted about how christians are gradually becoming more accepting of the theory of evolution.

As part of that post, I reviewed the work of Denis Lamoureux, Associate Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Alberta in Canada, based on some online slideshow teachings he has produced.

I have now read his book on the same subject. What’s it like?

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If you don’t laugh, you cry!

While we are on the subject of Australia’s attitude to refugees arriving by boat, here is a telling sketch by Aussie satirists John Clarke and Bryan Dawe. (Actually John comes from New Zealand, but works in Australia.)

For those not familiar with Aussie politics, the sketch presents hardline Australian Government Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, who is a christian, as a schoolboy before the headmaster.

It is very galling when non-believers (I presume) have more christian standards than self-confessed christians do.

Enjoy!

Refugee mistreatment makes me sick at heart

Crowd protesting

These are difficult times. For many in our world, the difficulty is surviving poverty, or escaping from a murderous regime.

I live in Australia. I don’t live in poverty, and while our government has some very bad features, it isn’t a direct threat to my life. For me, some of the difficult issues are ethical.

Like whether my country’s government is pursuing a murderous policy towards others.

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Justice and the gospel in the local church

Micah 6:8

Last post (Justice and the gospel), we looked at how the ministry of Jesus included both evangelism and meeting physical needs. But in many western evangelical churches, the “gospel” has been narrowed down to mean little more than personal salvation.

If you are in a church like that, and you believe that justice and care for the poor and marginalised is part of the gospel, what can you do?

Let’s look at a few ideas and a little personal experience, and then (hopefully) others will share what they are doing.

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Justice and the gospel

Aid project in Kenya

When I was a young christian (a few decades ago now!), evangelical churches tended to focus on evangelism, and some viewed justice and social action with suspicion. Things have changed since then, with most christians and churches supportive of social welfare and overseas aid programs.

There is still a tendency to see these programs as of secondary importance compared to evangelism, but this too is changing.

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The Bible – how do we know it’s not a fraud?

Bible

I have been considering the implications of Peter Enns’ suggestion that, in the light of the evidence, we should understand the Old Testament differently than we have done in the past. In a comment on the post Interpreting the Old Testament, Brisancian has asked a number of questions about how we can know what’s true.

I thought the questions were important enough to answer in a new post. Quotes from Brisancian’s questions are shown as blockquotes.

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Christians, prejudice and love for ‘enemies’: living in the opposite spirit

Girl holding sign

Last post I looked at how some studies show that many christians are prejudiced towards groups such as gays, atheists and Muslims, and are less likely than other people to show love to members of these groups.

How can we start to bring about change?

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Christians, prejudice and love for ‘enemies’

Girl holding sign

Jesus told his followers, quite definitely, to love their enemies, and warned them against hatred. Yet today, the public image of christians is somewhat tarnished – some christians are seen to be loving and caring, but others are seen to be prejudiced and intolerant, especially towards groups like gays and Muslims.

What is the evidence for this?

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Interpreting the Old Testament

Scribe

Previous posts on topics related to Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation: The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature and Variation in Old Testament teachings.

Finally, how Jesus and the New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament. It wasn’t the same way we do it today.

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A great light

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. …. in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.”

Isaiah, c 700 BCE. (Isaiah 9:1,2,6,7)

Variation in Old Testament teachings

Tanakh

I’ve blogged about Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation, and about his first topic, The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature. Now I want to look at his second topic.

There are variations in teaching within the Old Testament. What do these tell us about God and his revelation to us?

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Wealth, poverty, inequality …. and Jesus

Coins

Try this brief quiz (if you haven’t seen my other blog):

  1. Which country is the richest in the world in terms of median wealth?
  2. Which countries come close?
  3. Which countries have the greatest and least disparity between the rich and the rest?
  4. In the richest country, what percentage of people live in poverty?

Have a guess, then check out the answers.

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