Thursday, May 14, 2015

Matt 24 watch, 262: Pew on Religion/ Worldview trends in the USA and globally . . . what is going on? Why? What can we do?

A cluster of headlined articles I noticed over the past few days has been making much of the religion/worldview trends in the USA as reported by the noted Pew Trusts foundation. The implications are chilling:

 The Pew folks remark:
The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing . . . these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men . . . . 

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.1 . . . .The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.2
 In short this cannot be written off as oh, it's just those compromised liberal theology blighted churches etc. Something deep and worldview cultural plausibility based is going on. Something, therefore, that is deeply spiritual.

 The comparative Pew survey and 40-year projections on global religion/worldview trends make for telling wider context:

 The just linked IBT article is aptly headlined: "Pew Survey Predicts Rise In Atheism In US, Europe Despite Growing Religiosity Worldwide." The article highlights, that -- if things remain on-trend:
 “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase. Over that same period, Muslims -- a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates -- are projected to increase by 73 percent. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate as the global population overall.”
 Those trends have all sorts of implications, including especially for the always unstable Middle East, with extensions of that instability into Africa, India, Russia and Europe as well as North America and the Caribbean. Just think, Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS, to underscore, backed up by the prospect of a nuke-armed Islamist theocracy in Iran.

But that is not the primary concern today.

My concern today is worldview-spiritual, with a major focal point on foundational truth issues, and extensions to the highly relevant challenge of the mission of the church in our region and from our region. Where, obviously if the Christian faith is seen as undergoing demographic collapse in the North, just to keep on track in the face of aggressively anti-Christian trends, considerable growth has to be happening.  In short, we need to reflect on how to accelerate growth in the South where there is now a century-long Southern Christian Reformation, and how to stabilise and even reverse trend lines in the North through an effective call to reformation, confident discipleship and revival in the teeth of de-Christianising forces and agendas. Some of which, frankly, are utterly ruthless and care not a whit for truth, reasonableness, respect, duty to the right or fairness so long as they think they can get away with what they are doing and saying.

So, we need to look to our mission and we need to look to the challenge of providing solid intellectual and cultural leadership under the vision of the fulness of Christ transforming all things, which requires a well-grounded and effective education programme of action.

In steps of thought:

 1 --> First, foremost, there has been no material change in the basic warrant for the Christian Gospel, which remains as it has always been, anchored to the resurrection of Jesus. Just as Paul presented to the Athenians c 50 AD. Truth -- warranted, credible challenging truth, has not changed.

2 --> As a reminder, let me again link and embed the Lee Stroebel The Case for Christ video:

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel from Slaves4Christ on Vimeo.

3 --> Likewise, the underlying evidence for the reality of God has not changed. Never mind the now common new atheist talking point that "there is [little or] no evidence for god."

4 --> If you doubt this, here is a recent post I made at UD blog, in response to someone coming from that agenda. In a nutshell: 
a: We find ourselves inescapably to be under government of ought,

b: which, if that sense of obligation is a delusion, would let loose grand delusion in our mindedness, ending in self referential, self-falsifying absurdity. And,

c:  evolutionary materialism in particular, never mind the impressive lab coats and confident manner of its proponents and promoters on every hand, etc, is indeed patently self-falsifying. Famed evolutionary thinker, J B S Haldane put this succinctly:
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]
d: It is reasonable to acknowledge that a world that (from cosmological evidence alone) credibly seems to have had a definite beginning and is finely tuned in many ways that support C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, protein using, cell based life, shows strong signs of having been shaped creatively by intelligently directed configuration. That is, it points to design.

e: Moreover, it is highly reasonable to acknowledge that we really are under moral government, that OUGHT is real, relevant and binding. (E.g. we OUGHT not to kidnap, bind, torture, rape and murder little children for our pleasure; just to give a decisively clear case in point.)

f: That points to there being a world-foundational IS that properly grounds OUGHT.

g: After many centuries of debate, there is but one serious candidate to meet these conditions: the inherently good Creator-God, a necessary and maximally great supreme being, who is worthy of ultimate loyalty and service by doing the good . . . which is our reasonable service. 

h: Similarly, it is obvious that a genuine nothing -- non-being -- can have no causal powers, so if there ever was utterly nothing, nothing would forever obtain. So, we have to face: why is there something, rather than nothing?

i: The answer is, something always was; pointing to the reasonableness of a necessary being as the root of reality. A being that is independent of dependence on external causal factors, and that is so embedded in the roots of reality that if a world is possible, it will be present in that world.

j: As a simple case, 2 is a necessary being. Start with the set that collects nothing, and assign it 0:
{ } --> 0
{0} --> 1
{0, 1} --> 2, 
k --> God is a serious candidate to be such a being. But of beings, we can have possible vs impossible [think, square circle], and of possible, contingent and necessary.
l: Now, such a serious candidate necessary being will either be  impossible, or else actual.

m: That is, those who object to the reality of God, actually imply that they can meet the burden of proof to show such a being is impossible. 

n: A lot of atheists used to argue like this, typically suggesting that no being like the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God of ethical theism is possible as evil exists. This has collapsed as it turns out the reality and OUGHT-NOT-ness of evil point to the reality of God as the IS that grounds OUGHT, and also 

o: Plantinga's free will defense shows how once goods pivoting on responsible freedom [such as, love] exist, then the existence of God is compatible with the existence of evils.

p: So, in fact, those who would dismiss God have an unmet burden of warrant, one that is not ever likely to be met.

q:  Where also, patently, millions across the ages have met God in the face of the risen Christ and have been transformed to the good by that living encounter.

r: That means, that in the end -- protestations and indignant reactions to the contrary notwithstanding -- broadly spreading atheism will in the end be rooted in fallacies of distraction, distortion, polarisation, scapegoating  and dismissal. As, we so often see. That is, what we see is "without excuse."

s: Thus, we face a Romans 1 challenge. Which, we must rise to meet.
5 --> In terms of our region, it is consequently useful to think in terms of the two tidal waves challenge:

6 --> where, to answer the de-Christianising challenge, Francis Schaeffer's analysis (as adjusted) will be helpful:

7 --> This then leads to the challenge of prophetic, intellectual and cultural leadership:

8 --> In addressing the second wave, a basic primer on Islam can be helpful, as can other resources from the RH column of this blog:
9 --> But, I think we need to shift gears to a more global, strategic, mission-focussed perspective:
Matt 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
10 --> For, by God's grace we are culturally bridging people, largely descended from the peoples of the 10/40 window that have received much from the Gospel in our region, and who also have close ties to the lands of the North. So, we -- the peoples of the afr- and indo-afro Caribbean sub regions -- need to begin to consider ourselves as the third tidal wave, in light of the three triangles vision and opportunity:

11 --> And, it is to that end that I have long championed the creation of a regional cyber- and microcampous centre- based college, e.g. consider something like this attached to a church facility in every significant community across our region:

12 -->  featuring an associate degree programme that is like this:

13 --> and featuring also, say this as an education programme:

14 --> where the tablet PC can serve as a critical education resourse that is highly portable:

15 --> Surely, something along these lines is feasible? Let us consider:

Capacity Development -- the AACCS

16 --> From this, we need not just bemoan the sort of trends that are being reported, but we can do something about them.

So, again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END