Cultural religions dying in UK
Success of minority faiths in Britain provide lessons for American Christians
Great Britain, once known as a Christian nation, is rapidly becoming secularized. In a recent article in The Guardian, Andrew Brown discusses this issue of the disappearance of the Church in the United Kingdom. He references a recent Win/Gallop poll that states that only 30 percent of British citizens would identify themselves as religious.
“In the last 30 years alone attendance at mainstream churches has just about halved,” Brown said.
However, Brown makes a very important distinction in the religions of British society. He writes that cultural religions are the ones failing because they do not have deeply held beliefs. The second type, namely countercultural religions, have very strong theological beliefs and are not afraid to articulate them.
This article makes a few strong points about successful religions that are applicable to Christianity in America. First, religions that are the strongest are not accepted by the society around them. The decrease in church attendance, along with new gay rights and abortion laws, seem to point to the fact that American culture is abandoning its evangelical roots.
However, according to Brown, this may be a good thing for American Christianity. As the religion becomes more of a minority in the society in which it exists, its beliefs and identity become stronger.
“This kind can be extremely strong, and it also draws strength from being in a minority,” Brown said.
This point is supported in various texts of Scripture such as Romans 12, where Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed. (NASB)”
“Where Christianity is found in its biblical form it is always countercultural,” Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote.
The second point the article makes that is maybe most applicable to Christians in the United States is that these countercultural religions flourish because of their deep theology.
“People who are religious in a countercultural way know what they believe, and could argue it out with people who disagree,” Brown wrote.
In the last decade or so, a new emphasis on theology has risen in American Christianity. Conferences such as “Together for the Gospel” and organizations such as The Gospel Coalition have pushed Christians to think deeply about all issues involved in a biblical worldview and to formulate intelligent opinions. This focus must continue and the postmodernism that has crept into the church must be put down if Christians truly want to engage the culture around them.
“Acculturated Christianity doesn’t require any theology at all,” Mohler said. “But a countercultural Christianity — it requires a robust set of beliefs. A robust understanding of doctrine. A robust theology. A robust understanding of the authority of Scripture. A robust understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Therefore, as the culture in America grows farther apart from the Church, Christians must be reminded that their deep-seated beliefs are what will continue to cause them to grow. Just as the early Church fathers found joy in their persecutions, we too must embrace the lesser role the church has in American society.
Sutherland is the opinion editor.