Why Christianity Is Dying But Spirituality Is Thriving?
Dr. Steve McSwain looks at the changing shape of Christianity in America.
BY: Dr. Steve McSwain
The following distinctions I see emerging within this new expression of Christianity beyond the institutional Church.
1. Christian “Nones” and others are devoted to re-writing Christian theology. Many of them believe the Church has mistakenly perpetrated a teaching within Christianity that is neither Christian nor consistent with the teachings of Jesus. In most churches, for example, the shedding of innocent blood is believed to be necessary to atone for “original sin” and so make salvation possible for the elect. That, without the death of Jesus, people would go to hell and there suffer eternally. For “Nones,” and other “emergent” Christians, as they’ve been called, this theology is a creation of the church, is inconsistent with the historical Jesus, and no longer works in this modern world. Consequently, It must change.
2. These Christians hold what they regard as a healthier view of their sacred text known as the Bible. They respect the Bible but they do not revere it. To them, the Bible is not a "Constitution," as described by one of their primary spokespersons, Brian McLaren, in A New Kind of Christianity. They regard the Bible instead as an inspired book, capable of providing wisdom and spiritual direction. But it is not a textbook on science or the origins of the universe. It is not an “answer-book” on all moral or ethical questions.
3. This new and emerging Christianity is interested in spirituality and does not see itself in competition with other religions. In fact, there is instead an avid interest in exchanging ideas, learning from each other, and collaborating together for social change.
4. Emergent Christians support the LGBT community and believe the gay community should be granted equal rights under the law. In other words, they have given up the church's longstanding war with the gay community. They have chosen instead to accept what science and psychology tell us about the universe, as well as the complexities of the human mind, human development and human sexuality.
5. This new Christianity is open to what other religions can teach us about spirituality, too. They would regard, for example, Desmond Tutu's statement "God is not a Christian," as factually accurate. While affirming that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19), they would still be open to the spiritual insights that may come from Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other spiritual tradition. They believe the current Church is dying because it mistakenly believes "We're right! Everyone else is wrong!"