Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Every picture tells a story (extended) (a bit more)

Update: America likes NZ and is following our trends (sorta)!

NZ stat graph

NEW LINKS

With thanks to colleagues on the staff for supply of links, read also these reflections:

a. For some hard work on the stats and perceptive comments, read and digest what Geoff Robson (a ministerial colleague here in Chch) has to say. One great comment is this:

"And remember, while there are plenty of nominals among the ‘Christian’ respondents, there is no such thing as a nominal when it comes to No Religion. When you tick that box, you mean it."

b. Mike Crudge (also a ministerial colleague in Chch) makes an excellent point in this analysis, that actual church attendance is a critical statistic as 'census' religiosity is measured. He gives a graph which implies that the peak of church attendance in NZ was in (a) 1980s (b) 1960s (c) 1880s (d) 1930s. Actually, when we allow for the decline in that stat as a percentage measure and for rise in population, we have the curious possibility that actual 'bums on pews' in NZ is pretty constant! (That, at least, could explain the complacency of those of us in leadership ... 'Well, when I went to church on Sunday, the church was full.' Maybe it was, but how many were at the beach!?)

c. From the Dim-Post blog, a graph re the 'oddities' here.

Friday 13 December: new reflections from Bosco Peters here.

ORIGINAL POST

This picture tells an alarming story for the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand (but not Polynesia). With graph supplied by leading religious researcher in our country, Dr Peter Lineham, we see a sorry story via census figures of Anglican decline continuing  without sign of leveling out. Worse, Anglicanism is aging here (as reported here). As Bosco Peters says, according to the graph, in two decades Anglicanism ceases to exist here!

The story for Protestant Christianity is also alarming as every indicator here shows decline for non-Catholic Christianity and continuing growth for the religion of None or No Religious Commitment.

As we head to our bicentenary year for celebrating the first preaching of the gospel on these shores, should we spend a year in sackcloth and ashes rather than in celebration?

Credit where credit is due: as this news seeps out today (e.g. here and here) all Christians should acknowledge the success of the Catholic Church as it becomes the largest denomination here.

Nevertheless, the NZ Catholic report notes that the Catholic figures above show a decline in the number of 'census Catholics'. 491,421 in 2013 is less than the number in the 2006 census, 508,812.

Further, the relative strength of the Catholic church does not much mitigate the continuing decline of Christian allegiance in this country. We were once 90% a Christian country, now we are a country which is less than 50% Christian. We are sliding further and further into some kind of secular and/or spiritual-but-not-religiously-committed country

To return to the Anglican tragedy unfolding before our eyes: get past no longer being the largest denomination and focus on simple numbers. In 2006 there were 554,925 census Anglicans. In 2013 there are only 459,771 census Anglicans. That by my maths is a decline of 17%.

As a correspondent has said to me this afternoon, the whole of our next General Synod should be devoted to asking ourselves how we arrest and turn around the decline in our church?

But it would not be worth asking ourselves that question if we do not take a long and careful look at why the Catholic situation is currently relatively stronger than the Anglican situation.

FURTHER REFLECTIONS or 'on further (slower) reflection, after writing the above in haste (and correcting some initial incorrect reading of the graph' about an hour after first publishing the post)!

(1) Anglicans certainly need to ask two related questions:

Q1: why is our rate of decline as steep as it is? (Wrong answer: that we are shedding our aged members (see here). That may be true as far as it goes, but it does not answer the question why we have not been drawing in new members, and why the aged members do not have more Anglican children and grandchildren willing to name themselves as Anglican in census returns)

Q2: when we have many similarities to the Catholic church, why are their numbers (looking at the whole line) fairly steady compared to our decline? A comment below is worth noting, "As Stark and Finke have shown, churches that stand for something thrive, while those that equivocate tend to decline."

(2) All churches in these islands could do well to continue the reflections already begun with previous censuses on why Christianity as a whole is in decline. That question should be asked, in my view, alongside the question of why No Religion is on the rise. In one sense, if only our decline was matched by a corresponding rise in (say) Islam. Then we could more valiantly fight for Trinitarian doctrine (which we are quite good at). No. Our challenge (likely) is twofold:

(2.1) how do we communicate the relevance if not the eschatological urgency of faith to those comfortable with no faith?

(2.2) to those who understand themselves to be spiritual but indifferent to 'organised religion'(see, again, here), how do we communicate the blessings of fellowship and the advantages of corporate worship?

(3) Anecdotally (as mentioned in reports such as here) the decline in all churches is sharpest among second and higher generation Kiwis. That is, if we were to exclude (say) recently arrived Asian Catholics or South African Anglicans or Korean Presbyterians from the census figures, we could be in 'last one out turn off the light bulb' territory re active church participation. What specifically draws established Kiwis into dissociation with the churches of their forbears? (Possible answer, seriously: life is too good here. Who needs God when we have a working health service, long life expectancy, and heaven on earth at the beach, in the bush and on the mountains?)

(4) What can non-Catholic churches learn from the Catholic education system in our country? (In my view one of the significant reasons for the comparative strength of the Catholic church in this period of decline of Christian allegiance is the association between 'school and parish', forged via requirement for baptism in order to gain enrolment in a Catholic school. But that is only the start of the learning points ... Bosco Peters recently published pertinent reflections here.)


99 comments:

hogsters said...

I have been involved in a number of denominations and proudly identify as an Anglican because quite simply, where it is faithful to its heritage as far as doctrine, I reckon it cant be beat. However, I believe it true to be a truism, and also a protective mechanism of the great shepherd, that that a liberal church has within it the seeds of its own destruction. (a well worn but non the less true observation)

Is the writing on the wall. Probably for the Anglican church in NZ if we continue in the current trajectory

I say that with grief not glee because people matter to God and the church is meant to be a bridge to truth not a barrier to it. Think how upset Jesus got with the religious establishment and his passion when it came to the so called "cleansing" of the temple. As I have said before you don't polish a car when its headed for the wreckers. As for SYNOD I wonder how much of what we do is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.



.

Anonymous said...

Not only is aging have a toll on Anglicanism, it's having a toll on this Anglican's eyes. I wish these graphs used sharper lines and different colours.

It would be helpful to have a fuller picture than just this 50 year one. How have churches like Destiny and the newer denominations fared?

Martin of the dim eyes

Father Ron Smith said...

If you look at the inclination of the downward graph, it become obvious that the declension of Anglicanism in Aotearoa is not so steep as the overall drop in Christian adherence. That surely says something.

One thing can be said about the apparent decline; the people left are no longer 'nominal'. One contributing factor, of course, is the fact that the Church is seen by more of society as out of touch with the reality of today's world.

I cannot agree with Hogster's facile diagnosis. I think that the continuing conservatism of the Church is a contributory factor in its decline - for our young people. I can only speak for my own family - who agree with the need for a more inclusive Church, but do not see it happening.

Eric Love said...

The graph here shows census Christian numbers in freefall, but whether active Christian faith is on the decline is the more important thing. Church attendance numbers would be a more relevant indicator.

The newer denominations don't show up much in the census stats because they don't have lots of nominals.

In Australia, Catholic figures correlate with certain ethnicities. Increases in Catholics may be due to immigration.

Aussie census figures still have Christians in the majority, but maybe only for another decade.

Joel Wilhelm said...

As Stark and Finke have shown, churches that stand for something thrive, while those that equivocate tend to decline.

Kurt said...

Father Ron's observation is quite true, at least for America. Many polls have shown that young people have been turned off to ALL RELIGIOUS denominations because of the past 35 years of conservative Evangelical political action. A few denominations claim to have grown (e.g., Pentecostals), but they operate as revolving doors as far as their memberships go, and they are no more successful in retaining their young people than anyone else.

Kurt Hill
In snowy Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Kurt writes: "Many polls have shown that young people have been turned off to ALL RELIGIOUS denominations because of the past 35 years of conservative Evangelical political action."

I am at a loss to understand how liberal denominations like Tec have declined so drastically as a result of 'conservative Evangelical political action'. I rather suspect that Tec's passionate advocacy of abortion, indifference to having children, steadily increasing age profile and lack of evangelism (not to mention the departure of most conservatives and endless lawsuits against conservatives) might have something to do with Tec's virtual disappearance within 10 years.

Martin

carl jacobs said...

Western man no longer begins with the self-evident fact that God exists. As a result, he no longer seeks after the revelation of truth that God provides to man. Instead, man begins with the self-evident fact that man exists. From this position of isolation, he tries to reason his way to truth. But he quickly finds that he can't get there. In fact, he finds he can't get anywhere. He is limited and finite - nothing but ashes and dust. In despair he turns to the only certainty he can find in his bleak and empty world - the authenticiy of his own desires. That becomes his lodestone, for he can grasp nothing else.

It is difficult to understate the impact of evolutionary dogma on this process. It severed the necessary link between creature and Creator. It was the enabling idea that allowed learned men to say "The heavens do NOT testify to the glory of God." God became an abstract concept - unreachable, unknowable, silent. Is in any wonder that unbelief runs rampant? God is Truth, and we live among a generation that has denied Truth. How can it help but deny God? Truth is the fingerprint of God on Creation.

Worshipping the anthropomorphic god of man's authentic desires will work only so long as man can act to satisfy those desires. Otherwise, it becomes just one more god that fails. Then men will look for another god to fill the gaping void in their lives. Unbelief will eventually give way to something. Likely pagan, and likely malignant. That is what man is by nature after all - a pagan.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
The following comment is too person focused and insufficiently issue focused, so a little moderated:

"Well, Carl, either you are one of the Western Men you talk about here, conforming to your own depressing statistics, or you are something different - a Global South Man in a Northern world. Which are you? ...."

carl jacobs said...

FRS

I am unapologetically pre-modern.

The statistics are not mine. I merely sought to interpret them. At the center of post-modern Western civilization is a pre-emptive denial of the existence of Truth. That's why I have so much trouble with it. That's why it has so much trouble with me. To assert the existence of a knowable Truth to which all men are accountable is to commit the modern heresy of 'fundamentalism.'

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl / Ron
I do not think the 'deep' problem re Christianity in the West lies in geography or in pre or post modern views; nor, in the end,is it about whether the church could or should have walked path A instead of path B (though that is worth thinking about).

I do think Carl is putting his finger on the 'deep' problem: the fundamental starting point for our culture, whether God does or does not exist, or, if you like, whether our culture presupposes the existence of God or not ... and that (to pick up a Robert Frost phrase) makes all the difference!

Janice said...

What Carl wrote.

hogsters said...

I cannot agree with Hogster's facile diagnosis. I think that the continuing conservatism of the Church is a contributory factor in its decline - for our young people.

Please explain why you think my diagnosis is "facile" .

How does your diagnosis explain the FACT that growing churched contain youth and are by en large conservative as far as theology?

Father Ron Smith said...

My only comment on your last observation, hogster, is that one needs to accept the fact that your 'churched youth' are the exception in today's world. They are not the sort of young people who are engaging with the world as it needs to be engaged with. (IMHO)

Father Ron Smith said...

"I say that with grief not glee because people matter to God and the church is meant to be a bridge to truth not a barrier to it. Think how upset Jesus got with the religious establishment and his passion when it came to the so called "cleansing" of the temple. " - Hogster -

What I found facile in your comment, Hogster, was that you also said "a liberal church has within it the seeds of its own destruction. (a well worn but non the less true observation)".

I wonder if Jesus found the same sort of comment made by the professional religious people of his day - about his 'liberality- in freeing the Jewish Church from its hypocritical Pharisaism ?

One interpretation of the 'cleansing of The Temple by Jesus, is that the scribes were, by their licensing of trade in the Temple precinct, preventing the Gentiles from drawing near the Holy of Holies - because they didn't think they deserved the hospitality.

Now, that is liberality at its very best - practised by jesus.

Scott Mackay said...

Peter, I don't want to minimise the seriousness of the decline. However, one of the reasons the decline appears steeper on the graph between 2006 and 2013 is that the x-axis isn't to scale! The final census was delayed by two years, but the graph does not reflect this because it has plotted every census at an equal distance. (Peter L has obviously clicked 'Line graph' rather than 'Scatter plot' on Microsoft Excel).

A correction would probably only soften the appearance of decline mildly, but these sorts of subtle things in statistical presentation all contribute to the overall effect.

Peter Carrell said...

Well spotted, Scott!

PS the Ang church needs all the help it can get!

MichaelA said...

Kurt Hill's comment is simply incorrect, at several points:

"Father Ron's observation is quite true, at least for America. Many polls have shown that young people have been turned off to ALL RELIGIOUS denominations because of the past 35 years of conservative Evangelical political action. A few denominations claim to have grown (e.g., Pentecostals), but they operate as revolving doors as far as their memberships go, and they are no more successful in retaining their young people than anyone else."

Firstly, no polls in America have shown young people to be turned off all denominations by evangelical political action (whatever that means). No doubt there are some, because in a group that large you will always find someone who holds any position you care to name.

In any case, if that were the case, you would expect that Kurt's own highly liberal denomination of The Episcopal Church would be growing, or at least shrinking at a slower rate than others. But the reverse is the case. TEC is losing numbers more quickly than other mainline denominations.

Secondly, there is no evidence that Pentecostals are any more "a revolving door" in America than are Episcopalians.

Thirdly, its not just Pentecostals - most denominations in USA appear to be better at retaining their young people than Episcopalians, who seem to be ageing more than any other group.

This is a re-print of an article from Episcopal Cafe, a pro-episcopalian blog in USA: http://www.ecww.org/blogs/episcopal-church-going-way-grange

Rev Clifford claims that the median age in TEC is 57, but I am not sure that is correct - the average age is supposed to be in the mid-60s and that would seem hard to reconcile. Whatever, the trend is clear.

MichaelA said...

"What I found facile in your comment, Hogster, was that you also said "a liberal church has within it the seeds of its own destruction. (a well worn but non the less true observation)"."

Its not facile if its correct, Fr Ron!

Kurt said...

Actually, Martin, the last widespread survey for TEC of which I’m aware (released in 2011) showed that membership in 16 of the Episcopal Church's domestic dioceses and eight of its non-domestic ones grew in the immediate past period, though overall membership did decline. Much of this reflects in-and-out-migration patterns in the USA. Certain areas (Southwest) grew in population, while other areas (Northeast) declined.

The overall decrease in Episcopal Church membership reflects a trend across most other Protestant denominations. This includes some of the most politically and socially conservative, such as the Southern Baptists, and some of the most theologically Calvinist, such as the various Presbyterian groups.

In 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey” reported that its research, and that of other leading scholars, showed that the proportion of the American population that defines itself as Protestant has “declined markedly in recent decades,” while the proportion of the population that is not affiliated with any particular religion “has increased significantly.” It’s called secularization, Martin, and it’s been a factor in Europe for more than 100 years. It really began to take off here in America after the politicization of conservative Evangelicalism 35 or 40 years ago. Up until then America had been an “exception” to the secularization of the West. No longer.

Even more recent polls show that, among young people especially, the downward trend is sparked by very negative attitudes toward conservative Evangelicalism, which bleeds into dislike of ALL religion. Disgust with conservative religion does not necessarily result in a desire to affiliate with liberal denominations. Usually it’s a turn-off to all religion.

Over the centuries, TEC has experienced far more “drastic membership declines” than what is happening now, and we have recovered, and have grown, too. So there is reason for concern—among most Christian denominations, not just TEC—but there is certainly no reason for freaking out.

Those are the facts here in America, Martin. (I can’t speak for the countries Down Under).

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

"PS the Ang church needs all the help it can get!"

Or in the words of Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail: 'I'm not dead yet!'

Sir Martin of Spamalot

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid you're talking nonsense, Kurt, and you're guilty of the fallacy of 'post hoc ergo propter hoc'. If young people are 'disgusted by conservative religious politics' but not by 'liberal religious politics', why have they not flocked to Tec and UMC and UCC and other disappearing entities? Are you saying they are too stupid to tell the difference? Well, you know what I think of American "education", so I wouldn't dispute that point with you .... It isn't 'disgust' over politics, it's simply that in hedonistic, sex-obsessed America where abortion is extolled (especially by Tec) and entertainment is a leading preoccupation for most young people, the idea of being in church and denying yourself has little appeal for the 'me generation'. Add to this the pop appeal of people like Richard Dawkins and co., and you have a ready escape clause for the conscience. (It's hard to sleep around and still feel comfortable in church.) Should I add that when religion is no longer seen as a matter of salvation but a form of sociality, it faces stiff competition from sports or Rotary International?
As for Tec's parlous state, I think you are whistling past the graveyard. The median age of Episcopalians is 57 - i.e., long past reproduction - and the median attendance is 66 and falling. The decline has been precipitous under Schori. As the stockbrokers say, 'past performance is no guide to the future', but if you can think of a way that a church which doesn't have babies and doesn't 'proselytise' can grow in numbers, I'm sure the national leadership would like to know. The ambitious plan to double membership by 2020 has been quietly dropped. Half of all Episcopalians will die in the next 18 years - pretty similar to NZ Anglicanism.

Martin

Kurt said...

Well, Martin, what can one say to someone who dismisses reputable social scientific studies as “nonsense”? If you insist on substituting your own personal biases and “analyses” of American religion and education as you understand it (to say nothing about your subjective views of TEC), one really has no basis to carry on an intelligent conversation on the subject.

Kurt Hill
In chilly -0.11 C Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

In the light of Martin's insulting description of the viability of TEC, I wonder what is the context of his own congregational experience. Is he, for instance, a member of the recently declining 'Destiny Church', which, in New Zealand, is rapidly losing face and membership - because of its preoccupation with Bums on Seats and revenue to Head Office?

In fact there is growing evidence of the decline of many protestant mega-churches, in the U.S. and elsewhere, where the so-called 'prosperity Gospel'. is deeply antithetical to the Good News of the Charity of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.

Where the youth of the Church are entertained, rather than truly discipled, the turnover becomes a problem for the leadership - of any 'spiritual' entity. And that is what is happening in some of the more 'Go-Go' churches around the world.

Mainline Anglican Churches will still be around when the froth and bubble of the youth-culture frisson has departed - because of the sacramental assurance that they are equipped to provide.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
Martin has made certain specific charges against TEC's continuing viability. These are NOT rebutted by calling them an 'insulting description.' If you do not like the charges, rebut them. Please do not, here, offer responses such as 'insulting description' which does not actually carry reasonable and reasoned debate forward.

A point we can all share in is that ALL Anglican churches in the Western world, to a greater or lesser degree (as far as I can see) share in Martin's bleak forecast of the future.

TEC's challenge is our ACANZP challenge.

The simple fact, which I ask you to face, is that in those Western churches, the worst cases of aging congregations are in the 'liberal' (whether liberal Protestant or liberal Catholic) wing, and the best cases of not-so-aged and growing congregations are in the conservative wing.

In your own local diocese the number of younger candidates offering to be discerned for ministry coming from conservative parishes vastly exceed the number of candidates coming from liberal/progressive parishes. (Indeed, from moderate parishes in the middle!) I suggest that should be a cause for much more careful reflection than (with respect) I find you giving here. These candidates do not come from 'entertaining' churches, but from serious, sober-minded churches, sometimes even from churches which have quite long, lecture (not entertaining) type sermons.

Food for thought?

MichaelA said...

Kurt Hill wrote:

"Actually, Martin, the last widespread survey for TEC of which I’m aware (released in 2011) showed that membership in 16 of the Episcopal Church's domestic dioceses and eight of its non-domestic ones grew in the immediate past period..."

My name isn't Martin, and eespectfully, Kurt, perhaps you should check your information more carefully? The report you are thinking of showed a jump in average sunday attendance (not membership) in 2011. This was a statistical anomaly due to one obvious factor - Christmas Day fell on a Sunday that year, hence Christmas service attendances boosted the ASA numbers!

Your own church has released its "widespread survey" for 2012. See an article on it at http://www.christianpost.com/news/episcopal-church-continues-downward-trend-according-to-report-107906/. As an Anglican commenter points out in the article, those figures didn't admit to the loss of the diocese of South Carolina, but regardless, the figures still show TEC membership in the same decline it has been in for years (and more so since the V. G. Robinson consecration).

"The overall decrease in Episcopal Church membership reflects a trend across most other Protestant denominations."

No it doesn't Kurt, that is the whole point: TEC's decline is worse than that of any other mainline denomination.

"Even more recent polls show that, among young people especially, the downward trend is sparked by very negative attitudes toward conservative Evangelicalism, which bleeds into dislike of ALL religion"

No they don't Kurt. You keep asserting that, but all you are doing is projecting your own presuppositions onto neutral data.

"Over the centuries, TEC has experienced far more “drastic membership declines” than what is happening now..."

When - in the American Civil War? TEC has continually declined since the 1970s, essentially since Bishop Spong and others began to publicly reject biblical orthodoxy. But that decline accelerated in the 2000s as the latest heresy of ordination of practicing homosexuals gathered pace.

"...but there is certainly no reason for freaking out."

I agree. TEC will not die overnight and the liberals can quietly bask in the ruins of their denomination for many years yet.

"Those are the facts here in America, Martin."

My name's not Martin, and we have seen that facts are what your posts are very short on.

"...what can one say to someone who dismisses reputable social scientific studies as “nonsense”?"

So far, the single study you have referred to does not support your point. What is being dismissed as "nonsense", by Martin, myself and others, is your personal and unsupported opinion.

"If you insist on substituting your own personal biases and “analyses” of American religion and education as you understand it (to say nothing about your subjective views of TEC), one really has no basis to carry on an intelligent conversation on the subject."

Precisely. Words you would do well to take to heart.

Father Ron Smith said...

I won't comment on your commenting on my comments on this thread any more Peter. You and I obviously have very different understandings of what constitutes the Good News of the Gospel in today's world. So there is little benefit to be gained in comparing my understanding with yours - for instance - on the relative 'quality' of the young people offering themselves for ministry in the Diocese of Christchurch at this point in time.

My only worry is that, it catering for a more protestant, big-band ministry - akin to the Destiny-type denigration of LGBT people as part and parcel of the ethos - our diocese may become more like the dioceses of Sydney and Nelson, ACNA and GAFCON, than the mainline Anglican Church in which I have invested my life and ministry, and which I believe Christ is more generously shared and celebrated with the rank and file of society.

Kurt said...

“The simple fact, which I ask you to face, is that in those Western churches, the worst cases of aging congregations are in the 'liberal' (whether liberal Protestant or liberal Catholic) wing, and the best cases of not-so-aged and growing congregations are in the conservative wing.”—Fr. Carrell

That may not be true for much longer. Particularly if we do what the leadership of our Diocese (Long Island) is doing to renew and grow the Church. (Here in my little Catholic parish, we have more than doubled our attendance and membership in the past three years.) As I pointed out previously recent surveys show that in America:

Religious progressives are significantly younger than religious conservatives. The median age of progressives is 44, that of conservatives is 53;

Religious conservatives make up smaller proportions of each successive generation, 47 % of the Silent Generation, 34% of Boomers, 23% of Gen X, and only 17% of Millennials.

Religious progressives constitute nearly twice the proportion of Millennials (23%) compared to the Silent Generation (12%). Among Millennials there are about as many religious progressives (22%) as non-religious progressives (secularists).

The real challenge to religious progressives (such as Fr. Ron and me) is to find ways of reaching out to these progressive Millennials who share our values, but who may be turned-off to organized religion in general.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Let me reiterate some points which are very important to me re your response to my last comment:

(1) I noted the quantity of the people offering for discernment NOT the quality. (The quality is uniformly good, thanks be to God).

(2) I carefully talked about offering for discernment. I make no comment about the numbers accepted for ordination training. That is another subject and one on which a comment might be too readily misinterpreted.

(3) Let time alone tell in which direction the Diocese is heading in, say, 2020. There is much water to flow under the various bridges of our life!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
I could be wrong!

I am delighted that your own church and your own diocese are (so to speak) bucking the trend or attempting to do so.

But I think we are talking about the big picture of our own churches and of the Western Anglican churches. The signs are not great ...!

Janice said...

Carl wrote,
Western man no longer begins with the self-evident fact that God exists. As a result, he no longer seeks after the revelation of truth that God provides to man. ...
It is difficult to understate the impact of evolutionary dogma on this process. It severed the necessary link between creature and Creator. It was the enabling idea that allowed learned men to say "The heavens do NOT testify to the glory of God." God became an abstract concept - unreachable, unknowable, silent. Is in any wonder that unbelief runs rampant?


I'm interested to know if any of your churches make any efforts to counter the "impact of evolutionary dogma". If so, how? If not, is that because you believe it can't be countered?

MichaelA said...

"(Here in my little Catholic parish, we have more than doubled our attendance and membership in the past three years.)"

Kurt, you must be doing far better than your neighbouring parishes then. According to TEC official statistics, the Diocese of Long Island dropped 2.4% in membership from 2011 to 2012, and it dropped 3.1% in average Sunday attendance:

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/sites/default/files/downloads/statistical_totals_for_the_episcopal_church_by_province_and_diocese_2011-2012_0.pdf

Anonymous said...

I will be quite surprised if this gets posted. But I simply MUST note my disgust at the unfair and imbalanced way you treat Fr. Ron's posts, subjecting him to severe 'moderation' while folks whose views line up more closely with your own are allowed wider latitude. The bias and the agenda in your treatment of Fr. Ron are obvious to anyone with eyes to see. Of course, I'm not surprised by this. It is what we wicked "revisionists" have come to expect from you purer than pure "evangelicals." One standard for yourselves. Another for those with whom you disagree or who dare to challenge you.

carl jacobs said...

So Kurt

Where exactly are all these young 'religious progressives?' Because I can tell you exactly where they are not. They are not in TEC. They are not in ELCA. They are not in PCUSA. They are not in the UMC. They are not in the RCA. They are not in the UCC. These are all aging graying churches with membership augering into the ground and budgets closely following. All these young religious progressives are also not in the statistically insignificant UUA. There are no independent progressive churches to speak of. So where are they? Or perhaps we have used a rather broad definition of religious progressive. In essence, someone who claims some vague belief in God (however defined) or perhaps just 'spirituality' while holding to a liberal worldview.

The real challenge to religious progressives ... is to find ways of reaching out to these progressive Millennials who share our values, but who may be turned-off to organized religion in general.

No doubt. For what is your message?

"We bring you glad tidings from God (however you might define him - personal, impersonal, abstract personification of human longing). Not that God has actually said anything. He is silent and inscrutable. What we know of God is what we reason out for ourselves. We just tell you what we think God would say. We don't have an exclusive claim to truth. Other religions also possess truth. In fact every religion is equally valid because each represents a different and equally valid view of the Divine (however defined.) So we have a tradition regarding this unknown God just like everyone else and you should try it out because we have really cool rituals and stuff."

"We won't tell you how to live or think (except you must vote for Democrats) because God isn't much interested in that. He just wants you to do good stuff for others. He isn't angry at you because you are good and he loves you just the way you are even if you don't believe in him. The only people he is angry with are those crazy puritanical fundamentalists. Oh, and political conservatives.

So come to our church for fellowship and interesting if unending speculation about the divine. All we have are questions. You get to find your own answers. Or not.


That will bring them in the door.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"(1) I noted the quantity of the people offering for discernment NOT the quality. (The quality is uniformly good, thanks be to God)."

Peter, therein lies another question - of the candidates I know personally, who have offered themselves from the catholic side of the equation in our diocese, at least two candidates, who have the required theological background, have been turned down - presumably because of their pro-LGBT leanings - or, at least, that is what has been discerned from the process. Does this say something about the perception of the panel?

And, if so, what does that have to say about the prospects of non-conservatives being accepted by our diocese for ongoing ministerial training? And that's just people I know about.

This may, of course, reflect on the overall religio/political stance of our 'discernment' group in the diocese.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
(Please use at least a first name if you comment here).

Fr Ron is frequent commenter here and makes many great comments which go un moderated. But some comments over the years have been moderated and I stand by the moderation. He is not the only one moderated here.

My moderation has come under serve and searching critical examination here, from all sides. You are most welcome to express your view on my deficiencies.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
No doubt over the years there are many candidates for consideration re ordination in each of our dioceses who are turned down for a variety of reasons.

In my personal experience of being part of discernment I cannot recall being part of a decision made on the grounds you mention.

In the end my personal experience of being part of a diocesan discernment group has focused decision make on whether we concur with the call of God on the life of a candidate towards priesthood or diaconate. I cannot recall decisions being made on what wing of the church or what theological leanings a person has.

That is, I can make no comment on the situations you refer to as they do not relate to my own experiences of discernment.

Anonymous said...

Carl's point, if I read it correctly, is that self-described 'religious progressivism' does not translate readily, if at all, into church membership and attendance. It is not difficult to imagine a fairly large number of people brought up in a Christian culture still "observing" Christmas and Thanksgiving, but having no grasp of the Trinity or personal discipleship, and thinking Christianity means belief in 'God' (undefined), kindness and 'going to heaven when you die'. This 'religion without dogma', along with liberal views on abortion, sex and now suicide, is what most people understand as 'religious progressivism'. It can be defined as 'half-believing without belonging'. It's been around for many years in the empty churches of Scandinavia, where the indigenous population no longer even believe in life after death, and Muslims are beginning to surpass churchgoers. The religious landscape of post-Christian Europe is anything but "progressive".
Of course one can always find exceptions in a place as big and transient as New York City: as Kurt knows, Tim Keller has achieved remarkable results there, larger than most Tec parishes. Even the Diocese of Sydney has established a congregation in NYC, and I understand there's a thriving Hillsong there as well.
But do I have to repeat Aristotle's aphorism about swallows and spring?
(Boids and spring - now dere's a song for wintry Brooklyn!)

Martin Chuzzlewit

Kurt said...

First, MichaelA, I was not responding to you, initially. Don’t be so presumptuous. Others made similar points to yours.

Second, your recent reply has so many misstatements and distortions of fact that it is difficult to deal with all of them in one sitting. But that is typical of the most zealous of TEC’s opponents. A line-by-line approach would probably be useless anyway, since you obviously have made your mind up on the subject, and no amount of evidence I could advance would convince you that you are mistaken even on the most minute point.

However, some general observations:

Whether or not TEC’s membership decline (through mass defections of social and theological reactionaries, such as SC, Pittsburgh, etc.) is “worse” than the decline in other American denominations does not negate the FACT that most American Protestant churches are experiencing serious decline—this includes some of the most politically and socially conservative “born-again” denominations as well as liberal churches. Recent social science surveys here DO establish that. So there is something going on in America that transcends the tempest in a teapot in the Episcopal Church. How about doing a little research, fella…?

Yes, Michael, the American Civil War was one instance of drastic membership decline in my church. Almost overnight TEC shrank significantly in membership as nine dioceses announced their split. At the time it was not at all apparent that reunion would be possible; eventually, however, that came to pass. Even after experiencing an Evangelical schism over “Ritualism” a decade later, TEC grew significantly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But your knowledge of American Episcopal history appears to be quite incomplete. A far more serious decline occurred following the American Revolution of the 18th century. Some historians, such as Dr. J. Robert Wright of the General Theological Seminary, consider that decline “unprecedented” in Christian history—at least until the decline of the Orthodox Church following the Russian Revolution. Compared to the massive dislocations, deprivations and membership decline we experienced in the aftermath of the Revolution, today’s defections are piddling. In the 18th century tens of thousands of Churchmen, including most clergy, were expelled from the country, or left voluntarily; that would be the equivalent to millions of people today. Most Anglican parish churches were closed, the Church was disestablished and much of its property was seized. Few priests and deacons ministered to those Episcopalians who remained—and no bishops existed at all in North America. Now THAT was “a decline worse than that of any other mainline denomination.” Yet TEC recovered. And we will recover from Bobby Duncan, et.al., too.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Kurt said...

What can we offer them, Carl…? Well, that’s a fair question. And in answering it I can only write from the experience of my own little parish here on Long Island.

We can offer them membership in the Household of God. Most, though not all, of the newcomers are younger Gen Xers and older Millennials. We have probably tripled or quadrupled our Baptisms. Little old hippies like me may not be having many kids, but plenty of young people are! And some of them are coming to us, because “I’ve heard good things about you people.”

We can offer them the Holy Mass. Over the past three years or so we have gone from one Sunday Mass to three (though we are suspending the 9 am service, at least for the winter). Over the past three years we have more than doubled our attendance and membership. Pledges are up as well.

We can offer them Liturgical Worship. I have been told by some newcomers at coffee hour how much they appreciate the Liturgy, and find it far more fulfilling than PowerPoint presentations and “praise bands.” Many like the incense, too! And all I have spoken to appreciate that they “don’t have to check their brains at the door.”

We can offer them opportunities to serve others. They volunteer in our soup kitchen making meals for the homeless, and they share dinner each Sunday after the 5 pm Mass with the less fortunate. Last year when we it was our parish’s turn for the winter homeless shelter, they volunteered for that, too. They also have their own vocations in their neighborhoods and workplaces. They are excited by our Bishop’s vision for the Diocese.

We can offer them an understanding of the Catholic Faith. Our Bishop’s Committee (Vestry) is working on several exciting projects for next spring, including church classes.

I’m sure that you will find clouds in every silver lining, Carl, but that’s your nature…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY



Anonymous said...

Of course local or parish churches can grow, even in times of decline, but a lot of this can be transfer growth, as some parishes decline or are closed and parishes are amalgamated. Good preachers, music, children's work etc will attract people from failing churches. The real question for all of us is whether we are attracting unchurched people, and not just existing churchgoers fed up with powerpoint and praise bands (something I readily understand, though I like modern worship music and am not averse to using powerpoint when preaching, but as a background to my sermons, not a substitute).
It would be interesting, Kurt, if you had statistics on whether your growth is transfer growth or unchurched becoming active or even converted.
The special challenge in places like NYC, London, Sydney and Auckland (but CHCH as well) is outreach to immigrants, including those from non-Christian backgrounds. Our great cities are very diverse and a magnet to people from Asia, Africa and Latin America. All Souls in London, for example, has doubled in attendance since the 1990s, with two very full morning services, with hundreds of Chinese now attending. Sydney Cathedral has extensive outreach to Asians as well. How good are Anglican churches at winning and keeping this new population?

Martin Weltkind

MichaelA said...

Thanks Kurt - it took a while but we are finally getting there. Yes, TEC shrank in the past due to cataclysms like the American Civil War and the American Revolution - but nothing like that is happening now, is it?

TEC is shrinking now simply because it has chosen to follow a false gospel and drive out its faithful ministers. The result has been a steady decline since the 1970s.

There is no point blaming Bobby Duncan - he is an effect, not a cause.

And yes, the fact that TEC's decline is much worse than that of other denominations is relevant, despite your attempt to dismiss it - it is a salutary warning to other churches what will happen if they emulate TEC.

But I do agree with you that TEC will recover - when it abandons its current fads and returns to historic Christianity. That has been the basis for its recovery in the past, and that will revive it in future.

Father Ron Smith said...

Kurt, I want you to know that you have at least one co-religionist on this blog. I quite agree that the catholic wing of Anglicanisn - when it is moderate and not conservative - offers salvation in sacramental observance of the commands of Jesus. As my old English teacher used to say, "A verb is a doing word". Well the Sacraments of the Church are about both doing and being - they are existential - where 'The Word' becomes flesh, once again, and graciously 'dwells among us'.

This enables us to say, with Paul: "Christ IN me, the hope of glory!"

mike greenslade said...

The idea that truth and popularity are positively correlated is an interesting one. It is certainly one adhered to by advertising agencies. Since when has it been a biblical concept?

The similarities between the church growth movement and Coca Cola are worth exploring.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike
You make a fair point but isn't it only to a degree? Does not courting popularity necessarily mean we do not consider reasons for decline and ask if we do anything I the light of that consideration?

Janice said...

So can I assume that no one is doing anything to counter the impact of evolutionary dogma?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
At this time of the year 'silence' in response to the question you ask might mean no more than that people are caught in the whirl of Christmas and end of year activities!

I understand dogma/evolutionary theory to have two possible meanings. 1. The dogma that there is no Creator and what we experience of life is simply what has resulted from unguided non-designed evolution. 2. The dogma that life as experienced today is an outcome of evolution (understood by Christians as compatible with God being the Creator who initiates life and guides it).

I am not particularly aware of Christians in NZ generally opposing 2. Every time we assert there is a Creator, that evolution is insufficient to explain the whole of fine, let alone the meaning of fine, then we are opposing 1.

Or am I misunderstanding your question?

Carl's point, as I understand it, is that huge mischief is being wrought in the Western mind because an explanation of biology has become an amputation of theology from that mind.

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

At this time of the year 'silence' in response to the question you ask might mean no more than that people are caught in the whirl of Christmas and end of year activities!

You're probably correct. But that shows something, if only that no countering efforts easily come to mind. If that's true then it might be reasonable to presume that not a lot of thought has been given to the matter over the years.

Given that many people in mainstream churches would rather be caught on the street in their pyjamas, or even naked, than describe themselves as a creationist (since the term could so easily be heard as Creationist with all its pejorative connotations) I was wondering if anyone had come up with anything better than the simple, "God did/guided it," method of dealing with the materialist philosophy behind evolutionary theory. That cut no ice with me when I was 15, studying high school biology and disappointed to the point of anger with what I thought of as the hardly Christian behaviour of people in the church I was then attending. Why add God when, according to the scientists (the acknowledged bearers of true, scientifically proven knowledge), God plays no necessary role?

I suppose I was hoping that someone might, say, be concentrating on the resurrection as evidence that there is more to this universe than materialist philosophy can account for. Or even that some places might be offering talks or study groups on topics such as the philosophy of science, the limitations of the scientific method and other issues related to the questions of faith versus knowledge. For that matter, if it is true that every time we assert there is a Creator we are also stating that evolution is insufficient to explain the whole of life oughtn't we be exploring and explaining the ways in which evolution is insufficient? For instance, in high school I was taught that the Miller-Urey experiment demonstrated the feasibility/likelihood of the evolution of life from non-living matter (chemical evolution). That's been knocked on the head to the point that evolutionary theorists now say the theory only concerns what happened after life somehow spontaneously formed. If we're going to share the gospel with people (especially young people most of whom are brainwashed, as I was, by the public education system) and give them reasons to believe oughtn't we start, like Jesus did, at Moses?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
Good points, especially about the resurrection.

Brainwashing through mainstream education? No doubt. But are all affected by it? I have four children and their choices of subjects over the years have tended to not include biology. One affect on their father has been that he has avoided grappling with what his children have been taught in biology!

Janice said...

Are all affected by it? I think so, to some degree. And if it's not the schools there's always TV, the movies, books, games; it's pervasive in our culture.

Shawn Herles said...

There are three primary reasons for the decline in Christianity in general (Pentecostals aside, who are not declining), and for the catastrophic decline in Anglicanism specifically.

Firs, and most importantly, we are in competition with another religion, Liberal Secular Humanism. This is the theology of the State in the West, complete with Bishops (politicians), theologians(scientists, sociologists) priests (teachers, social workers, political activists) and of course it's own inquisition (Human Rights Councils) to punish heretics.

Failure to recognize the truth that we live in a theocracy, and one that is at war with the Christian Faith, means that no effective opposition has been mounted by the mainline Churches, many of which are in bed with this false religion. Just listen to the rhetoric which comes from our supposed leaders, and the ABC.

Second, the catastrophic decline is directly related to the failure of the Liberal experiment, which empties churches and denominations at an impressive rate. Liberalism guts the Faith of it's truth and spiritual power, in favor of various modernist false idols. And people seeking a real alternative to the spiritually barren and morally bankrupt ideology of modernism find only the very same thing, superficially dressed up in theological drag (pun intended).

An example: A man who is guilty of terrible crimes walks into an evangelical/Pentecostal Church and asks, "is their forgiveness for my sins?" The pastor says "yes, Jesus died for your sins, and if you accept Him as your Lord and Savior your sins are wiped away."

Same man walks into a liberal church and asks the same question, but gets this answer; "Jesus did not die for your sins, he was a political activist killed for opposing the evil, white, male, heterosexual, capitalist Patriarchy. But you might feel better if you come on our pro-choice march tomorrow."

Which church is going to grow? Which is preaching the power of the Gospel?

And third, there is no such thing as No Religion, no such thing as secularism. The failure to see Modernism as a religion at war with the Christian Faith is why the Anglican Church has been so easily subverted and perverted by it's pernicious influence.

Do we want the Anglican Church to grow in the West? We can, in a few easy steps;

Pray. Fast. Preach. Purge the Church of Liberalism and liberal theologians and leaders. Cut funding for liberal churches, like ST Matthews. And most importantly, reject and oppose the ideology of Modernism totally. All of it. "Secularism", Liberalism, "Human Rights", democracy, egalitarianism, the notion of progressive evolution, all of it.

Anonymous said...

Janice: yes, evolutionism is "in the culture", but "the culture" is a sad, reduced thing, marked by reductionism, conflict and parallel lives and worlds that don't and can't talk to each other. Stephen Gould's 'non-overlapping magisteria' was just smoke and mirrors, I don't think he really believed that sound bite.
Richard Dawkins, to his credit (!), has tried to make evolutionism the interpretative key to reality and 'the meaning of existence', and is open about this; which is nonsense of course, because he's not a physicist, let alone a philosopher, nor can he live according to his own assumptions.
The real issue isn't biology, which is only one slice of science - and let me add that for a variety of reasons I am increasingly sceptical about macro-evolution or the supposed engine of it. As a recent book from a non-believer discussed, evolution cannot give a credible understanding of the human mind, and this point could be extended endlessly with reference to knowledge and rationality.
The battle field I choose is Philosophical Naturalism, which is the working (unjustified) assumption of atheists.
Refute this and you refute the adequacy of Neo-Darwinism.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Shawn, I agree pretty much with your analysis, to which I would add that some demographic ingredients:
1. Historically most church growth has ben natural, i.e. believers have children and the children believe in turn. But most Tecies have few children, which is why I think Kurt is whistling past the graveyard, and the philoprogenitive past is no guide to the childless present.
Maybe Kurt could tell us how many newcomers to his parish are newly-converted Christians, and how many are transfers.
2. multiculti has been a weapon in the hands of the new left for attacking Christianity, even though it has created strange bedfellows, e.g. leftist politician scouring for votes among gay-hating Muslims. 'Liberal secularism' is a power play aimed at silencing dissent, hence the leftist invention of 'hate speech laws' to enforce conformity.
3. I think Anglicanism will survive, even in the USA, but first much of it must die off - as is happening. A critical issue in Europe - not so much in the US or Down Under - is the challenge of Islam in the cities - some areas of England are like Pakistan now. Liberalism has no answer to this.
If Christianity is not about eternal salvation, it is no more important than adult education classes.
Liberalism may not begin as another religion: it usually starts as questions about tradition, but after a while the questions take over (along with an attitude of intellectual arrogance and assumed moral superiority, rarely openly said but usually felt: 'I'm smarter, cool with the culture and kinder/more 'generous' than those old fogies' - which is basically what Brian McLaren has concluded). But everything follows its own internal logic, and 'liberal Christianity' must become another religion, as Gresham Machen saw many years ago. And that is exactly what has happened to Tec.

Martin

mike greenslade said...

All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer. John 13:35 for Anglicans.

liturgy said...

Greetings

Janice is correct there is little energy for discussing evolution. That’s because the real energy of church is focused on the single, you-know-what debate. Oh, yes – you can get some energy out of a few if you question penal substitution.

The “God guided” evolution really doesn’t go anywhere. The essence of evolution is randomness. All this is doing is a last, desperate attempt at holding God’s head above the water in a rapidly filling tank.

If church keeps proclaiming that death is the result of Adam’s sin, and every five year old knows that dinosaurs died millions of years before “Adam”, go figure what the five year old will think about the church’s intellectual life.

The “growing churches” so often mentioned here know the correlation between denying evolution and preaching Christianity – others don’t seem to have started doing the intellectual work. Too busy debating the all-important you-know-what, I guess.

Advent blessings

Bosco

Anonymous said...

So, just to clarify what you actually understand and believe, Bosco (because I am not at all clear on this):
1. Do you think Jesus believed in the historical existence of Adam?
2. Do you think Jesus believed in the historical existence of Noah?
3. If Jesus did believe in 1 and/or 2, was he mistaken in so believing?
4. Did the Apostle Paul believe in the historical existence of Adam?
5. If Paul did so believe, was he mistaken in this belief?
A brief, clear answer to these questions would be very helpful.

Advent askesis,

Martin

Shawn Herles said...

Yes, it's a shame that the you-know-what issue has been forced upon us by the State and by it's proponents in the Church. But that is not the fault of those who oppose it.

Having actually spent serious time in the Anglican Evangelical world, the truth is that a wide variety of issues, including the Secular creation myth called "evolution", are being discussed and debated.

But we have little choice bit to focus on where the Enemies current attack is taking place, and that is marriage and sexuality.

In a war, your focus your defense on the front where the attack is taking place, and that front is homosexuality.

liturgy said...

I am sorry to read, Martin, that you are not at all clear on those 5 questions. Your normal reaction to what I write does not lead me to believe that you would find my answers very helpful for you to resolve them at all. I suggest you seek the answers from people whose responses you would not react aversely to. Even Peter and you differ on the place of women - so I cannot even suggest his answers might better help you.

Advent Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin (and Bosco)
For what it is worth, here are my answers to your questions:

1. Do you think Jesus believed in the historical existence of Adam?

Yes, according to what 'historical' meant to the Jesus who lived a real human existence in the first century AD.

2. Do you think Jesus believed in the historical existence of Noah?

See above.

3. If Jesus did believe in 1 and/or 2, was he mistaken in so believing?

No.

4. Did the Apostle Paul believe in the historical existence of Adam?

Yes, like Jesus.

5. If Paul did so believe, was he mistaken in this belief?

No.

Martin: A brief, clear answer to these questions would be very helpful.
Peter: No doubt I could be clearer but I hardly think I could be briefer.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Your energy detection levels re "you know what" issue are clearly fossicking in nooks and crannies of Christian life that I never venture near. The energy I detect is for preaching from the Bible, witnessing Christ to non-Christians, supporting people through trials and tribulations.

(Shawn has a point: it is those seeking change who generate the energy re "you know what.")

I suggest you too quickly deny the possibility of God "guiding evolution" (ham-fisted though such phrasing is). Is God at work in the world? Is life purposive? If it is, I cannot see how that purposive work cannot "work all things together for good" through evolution (random though it is). I imagine if we could understand "how" God works his purposes out we would be God!

Yes, we need to do more work than blithely saying that the Fall introduced death into the world for the first time. But we should not blithely dismiss such connection either (I am NOT saying that is what you are saying!).

Anonymous said...

Peter, thank you for answering briefly AND clearly my straightforward questions about historical fact. As to what Jesus and Paul actually believed, I don't think anyone reading the NT dispassionately could have come up with any different answer, assuming the Gospel writers are accurate here and Paul wasn't a pre-post-modern proto-Wittgensteinian language game theorist. Whether they were correct is a different question, of course.

I took up the challenge to answer Bosco's question about the grammar of John 6.51, 54 and told him what I think those verses mean; now I would be grateful for him to return the compliment and answer as clearly and briefly (much briefer than I!) on these questions.

Martinos Elpizon

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Martin, there are questions and there are questions. I don't think that putting a question or set of questions to another commenter requires that they answer them, even if they have form for answering other questions. In short, in my view, Bosco is welcome to answer or not to answer your questions.

Have you stopped beating your wife?

:)

mike greenslade said...

Peter - this game looks fun. Can I play too?

Do you believe:
a) for every drop of rain that falls, a garden grows?
b) that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality?
c: that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone?
d: in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers?

Anonymous said...

"Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Are you referring to Scrabble? She was the spouse-beater. Then she discovered Sudoku and we had nothing more to talk about.

Of course Bosco is free not to answer. Then others will draw their own conclusion (as Henry VIII did on the taciturn Thomas More). That great liberal catholic Bishop Charles Gore was clear on what he believed about the presumed ignorance of our Lord, and he said so unambiguously, and I encourage Bosco to follow this great example: not least because Bosco himself has raised the matter of five year olds, dinosaurs and Adam, and he should realise that his question points in exactly the same direction.
So, Peter, I would respond as the parents of the man born blind: John 9.21.

Shawn: I entirely agree. I have never once preached on 'you know what' and only once given a lesson on the subject. It's not a battle I have chosen.

Martinos Kenotikos

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike
1. No. Some rain falls on the sea.
2. Yes.
3. St Paul taught that.
4. Possibly reporters are more important than photographers. But both are less important than bloggers ...

Father Ron Smith said...

A question of you, Peter - in the light of your answer to the question "Did Jesus and Paul believe in the (literal) existence of Adam and Eve"

Do you think that God created the universe and then left it to find its own evolution - without further interference? Or not ?

carl jacobs said...

I am not at all surprised that Bosco refused to answer those five questions. Once start pulling on that thread and the whole of the Christian faith would unravel. "Was Jesus wrong? How could he be wrong? Did he just not know? How could He speak exactly what his father wanted and not know?" Perhaps that is the hard intellectual work that must still be performed - figuring out how to rescue Christianity from the falsehood of its central Revelation. But that's been the Liberal enterprise for over a century with nothing to show for the effort but empty churches.

If you want to know why Christian churches die, you could not ask for a better description of the cause than this sentence:

If church keeps proclaiming that death is the result of Adam’s sin, and every five year old knows that dinosaurs died millions of years before “Adam”, go figure what the five year old will think about the church’s intellectual life.

If death is not the result of sin then what remains of the Gospel? If there is no first Adam then how can Christ be the second Adam? Ah but we have already done the hard intellectual work of kicking substitutionary atonement to the curb. So we already have another gospel. We have a god who didn't create a people with whom he isn't angry and so he had no reason to redeem by means of a cross and a Savior.

Hey but we have cool Liturgy. Yes this is exactly why the Christian Church is dying in the West. It no longer believes the Scripture. Let God be true and every man a liar.

carl

liturgy said...

Yes, Peter, I am very much with you in moving to a less ham-fisted understanding of God creating through the Big Bang and evolution. It is the very scientistic misunderstanding that randomness precludes purpose, goal, and meaning that we seldom (almost never?) hear from Christian pulpit or teaching. When was the last time ordinary people heard such declaration publicly? Might ordinary people be forgiven in thinking that all Christians accept the Genesis stories as historical and scientific accounts? And might they be forgiven in thinking that the nihilistic evolutionist philosophy is the only interpretation of the scientific explanation? Or that therefore our life and ethics are little more than whatever we might make of them?

So I do differ in where I see “the Enemies current attack is taking place”. The Enemy is more subtle than that.

I see now that Martin’s questions were not genuine questions that Martin sought help with but ones that he already has his own answers to with a Matthew 22:15-18-Have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife? sense to them. Martin himself does not reveal his answers to 3 and 5 as you do, Peter.

The problem with Martin’s anachronising approach is underscored as we are immediately now at
6. Did Jesus and the Apostle Paul believe that there was death prior to Adam?
7. Were Jesus and Paul mistaken in this belief?

Acknowledging any error anywhere whatsoever in the scriptures of course undermines those whose individual exegesis leads them to insist that the you-know-what issue is not an anachronism asked of these ancient texts.

If, Martin, from your most recent comment you are asking me if I understand that Jesus could be wrong about things, my belief in his full humanity leads me to say yes.

Advent blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am neither a deist not a pantheist.

From the Bible I believe that God intervenes in the world as he wills, leaves us to our own devices as he wills, and works in ways mysterious and wondrous to behold.

Anonymous said...

“I see now that Martin’s questions were not genuine questions that Martin sought help with but ones that he already has his own answers to with a Matthew 22:15-18-Have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife? sense to them. Martin himself does not reveal his answers to 3 and 5 as you do, Peter.”
No, Bosco, once again you are over-hasty in coming to conclusions, as you were in pronouncing too quickly on Greek grammar. My questions were entirely genuine, as I wanted you to follow through on your beliefs as openly and honestly as the liberal catholic bishop Charles Gore was on his. I often have the feeling that you engage in drive-by shootings and never stay to answer direct questions put to you by those you are apparently criticising.
I thought you would have grasped that my answers to 3 and 5 are the same as Peter’s. No concealing from me at all. How about you?

“The problem with Martin’s anachronising approach is underscored as we are immediately now at
6. Did Jesus and the Apostle Paul believe that there was death prior to Adam?
7. Were Jesus and Paul mistaken in this belief?”
In the absence of explicit statements on this, I have to infer an answer, but it’s one known to anyone who has studied Reformation and (I think) patristic theology, which is simply this: birds and animals were not made for eternal life and death in the animal kingdom is natural and non-moral. (Romans 5.12 refers to humans.) Otherwise the commandment ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ makes no sense. Calvin at least understood this. I haven’t checked Basil’s Hexaemeron or Augustine’s De Genesi ad litteram to confirm what they thought on this.
At least you have now stated that Jesus ‘in his humanity’ “could be wrong about things’. I’m not sure what the Council of Chalcedon would have made of that! But now take courage in both hands and tell all his actual mistakes, just as Bishop Gore once did.

Martinos phaneros apokrinomenos

Anonymous said...

"It is the very scientistic misunderstanding that randomness precludes purpose, goal, and meaning that we seldom (almost never?) hear from Christian pulpit or teaching"

I am struggling to understand this sentence. I have always understood 'randomness' to mean the absence of purpose, goal and meaning, which predicates can only be used of a Mind or personal subject. The philosophical naturalism that underlies Neo-Darwinism is precisely that consciousness is the LAST in the sequence that begins with the singularity, leads to elements, the formation of galaxies and planets, then, after 12 billion years or so, mysteriously to biotica, and then to microscopic, plant and eventually chordate life. The whole process as the Neo-Darwinists see it, is unguided and undersigned. Richard Dawkins is crystal clear about this. Nothing could be more different from Aristotle (as the patron genius of medieval thought) or the Bible.
Which is one reason (a big one) why I'm not a Darwinist. I practise modus tollens here.

Martin

liturgy said...

I neither see how I was over-hasty in pronouncing too quickly on MichaelA’s Greek grammar, when Martin agreed with me that his contention about the present not being appropriate for a regularly repeated action is incorrect.

Nor is there any indication that Martin’s “answers to 3 and 5 are the same as Peter’s”. Explicitly, Martin states, “Whether they were correct is a different question, of course.” So I am responding to actual statements, not “feelings that I often have”.

Rather than any real conversation, Martin’s responses are incessantly littered with personal put-downs such as “its an answer known to anyone who has studied Reformation theology” etc.

I certainly do not have the answer to every question. But Carl has underscored some of the conversations that certainly I was hoping could safely be had here. Is Carl satisfied by Martin’s response that there was death in the animal kingdom prior to Adam’s sin? Or is that a conversation also unsafe to be had publicly here between them as it risks showing disunity between people who fear pulling on any of the threads as Carl suggests?

I am surprised to read that Martin is not sure what the Council of Chalcedon would have made of my conviction that ‘in his humanity’ Jesus “could be wrong about things’ [is this the first time that Martin has made such a public acknowledgement of uncertainty about any church teaching?] It is precisely connected to the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon that I make my statement, “the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the unity, but rather the property of each nature being preserved”.

Advent blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

Scanning down this lengthy thread once more, I came to this astounding statement:

"Failure to recognize the truth that we live in a theocracy, and one that is at war with the Christian Faith, means that no effective opposition has been mounted by the mainline Churches, many of which are in bed with this false religion. Just listen to the rhetoric which comes from our supposed leaders, and the ABC."

My first question of this is: What particular 'theocracy' are we at present 'living under' in N.Z.?

This bit alone I found puzzling; so puzzling, in fact, that the rest of it just went in one ear and out the other - not because there was nothing to stop it, but that the whole statement is so illogical. (It sounded a bit like a 'Destiny Church' sermon.)

carl jacobs said...

Is Carl satisfied by Martin’s response that there was death in the animal kingdom prior to Adam’s sin?

No, he isn't. Neither does carl accept that randomness can have purpose. But that is because I reject the idea of randomness out of hand. There are no random molecules in the universe, for that would imply some part of creation existed outside of the Providence of God. What appears random to man is not in fact random. That is not an opening for evolution however. Creation testifies of God by leaving no room for man to postulate an alternate cause. The entire point of evolution is to postulate an alternate causal force.

In fact, I am much more interested in this idea that Jesus could have been wrong. What might He have been wrong about? If he theoretically could have been wrong must we consider the possibilty that He actually was wrong in something He said as recorded in Scripture? How may this be reconciled with His relationship to the Father and the Spirit? How could He then teach with authority? And what standard would we use to judge the rightness of His words? How does one judge the truthfulness of God?

Perhaps we could use black and white marbles like to Jesus Seminar.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

I absolutely share Fr. Bosco's assertion that the full humanity of Jesus must, ipso facto, have in some ways affected his human responses. For instance, Jesus' question of his Father, at his demise; "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken ME?", implies a purely human cri de coeur. Then he (by instinct?) was enabled to recall his divine vocation, with the words: "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done".

Surely in his 'divinity' Jesus must have 'known' that his Father would not forsake him. However, in his full humanity, Jesus had some doubt. (The possibility of doubt must be present for faith to exists).

I think sometimes we are fooled by some of the hymns we sing. For instance; "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes". Was Jesus incapable of human grief? Not so, on occasions; "Jesus wept".

Anonymous said...

For the avoidance of doubt, perhaps I need to express myself more directly and less "Britishly".
1. Bosco's reply to MichaelA missed the point that the issue in John 6.51 etc wasn't the present tense (in attributive participles, not verbs) but the *punctiliar subjunctive aorist in the verbs. Bosco pounced on the wrong target, and didn’t grasp what MichaelA was getting on.
2. The Council of Chalcedon (two natures joined in one person with the communicatio idiomatum) would have rejected as an error the idea that Jesus qua a man believed and taught error. That was the whole point of my reference to Charles Gore. The controversy at the time over ‘Lux Mundi’ showed that people understood here this one would go: directly into Modernism and other radical departures of the 20th century. As Carl hints, for a while you can cover over radical theology with conservative-sounding liturgy, which is what liberal Anglicanism did for 70 years or so, but not for ever. Time and culture wait for no one.
A list of Jesus' errors would be most helpful!
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin,
Does the mustard seed grow into the largest of trees?

Anonymous said...

Peter: yes, of course it does, just as camels pass through the eyes of needles, eyes have logs in them, Pharisees swallow camels and stars fall from heaven.

Martin of Mopsuestia

liturgy said...

Dear Martin and Carl

Was Abiathar high priest when David entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and when David gave some to his companions?

The Council of Chalcedon (two natures joined in one person with the communicatio idiomatum) would have rejected as an error the idea that Jesus qua a man believed and taught error in anything pertaining to revelation about God or salvation. It would not have rejected as an error the idea that I hold, and I might have upset any Docetist readers, that Jesus in his full humanity could be wrong about other things.

The only “pouncing” I did was on MichaelA’s assertion that the present tense in Greek is not “appropriate for a regularly repeated action like the Lords Supper”. I stand by the “pouncing” that this is incorrect.

The silence about disagreement between Martin and Carl about questions 6 & 7 is deafening. Woe betide anybody daring to pull that string. We don’t want to be showing any foundational disagreement between people who publicly agree on you know what, do we?

Advent Blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

Another question for biblical literalists:

If Adam and Eve were the only people on earth at Creation, Whom did the murderer Cain marry after his expulsion from the the home of his parents? Was it his own sister? If so, would that be accounted incest?

Or were there, in fact, other human beings around at the time - unconnected with A & E.?

Anonymous said...


"The Council of Chalcedon (two natures joined in one person with the communicatio idiomatum) would have rejected as an error the idea that Jesus qua a man believed and taught error in anything pertaining to revelation about God or salvation. It would not have rejected as an error the idea that I hold, and I might have upset any Docetist readers, that Jesus in his full humanity could be wrong about other things."

That's precisely where you're wrong, Bosco. The Church Fathers NEVER made this 20th century distinction between things 'pertaining to revelation about God and salvation" and other matters (as Raymond Brown tried to do for the Bible), and the whole history of discussion of the relationship between the Logos's omniscience and Jesus' human knowledge, from Hilary of Poitier to Aquinas, onward to the kenoticisms of Thomasius and Gore, has been about resolving this enigma, according to four main theories. (Of course, if, like Bultmann, one abandons the divinity of Christ, instead of bits of it, like Gore, then the problem is 'resolved', and so is Christianity). This was exactly why Mark 13.32 was such a problem for the Church Fathers: how could God incarnate say he was ignorant about something?
The Church Fathers did not accept that the Incarnate Logos could believe and teach something that was factually false. Why not? Because they knew this would call into question the hypostatic union and the perfection of his manhood and lead, not into Docetism (hardly an issue in the fifth century), but 'Nestorianism' (so-called) or adoptionism.

As for what Carl may or may not believe about animal death before Adam, this is not an issue that bothers me either way, and I don't know why you keep harping upon it. He is free to disagree with me, and I with him. I have never thought God created animals to be immortal (though C. S. Lewis does speculate about this in 'The Problem of Pain').

Martin

MichaelA said...

"The only “pouncing” I did was on MichaelA’s assertion that the present tense in Greek is not “appropriate for a regularly repeated action like the Lords Supper”."

And your pouncing was entirely misdirected, for two reasons:

(a) You posted as though I had asserted that the present tense in Greek is never used for a repeated action. I did not. I suggest going back and re-reading my post (or perhaps reading it *carefully*, for the first time).

(b) However, you then compounded the error by suggesting that the present tense of eating in John 6:56 must be read as a repeated punctiliar action. There is no basis for such a reading. The present tense in Greek usually carries the aspect of *continuing* or *state of being*. We only read the aspect of a repeated series of discrete actions if the context demands it. In the passage of which John 6:56 forms part, the context if anything demands the opposite.

Other parts of my post dealt with aorist subjunctive, which Martin has responded to above.

"I neither see how I was over-hasty in pronouncing too quickly on MichaelA’s Greek grammar, when Martin agreed with me that his contention about the present not being appropriate for a regularly repeated action is incorrect."

I don't see a difficulty with being over-hasty, so long as one gets it right. That is where the problem lies with your post. And no, the present tense should not be read as a regularly repeated action unless the context demands it - that is not its aspect.

MichaelA said...

"If, Martin, from your most recent comment you are asking me if I understand that Jesus could be wrong about things, my belief in his full humanity leads me to say yes."

You are of course welcome to believe anything you like. But in terms of Christian teaching, that is a belief (and a correlation) that the historic Church rejected (until the advent of modern liberalism, of course).

MichaelA said...

"If Adam and Eve were the only people on earth at Creation, Whom did the murderer Cain marry after his expulsion from the the home of his parents? Was it his own sister? If so, would that be accounted incest?"

It may not have been. This was prior to the Mosaic covenant. We don't read of any condemnation of those who prior to the Mosaic covenant married their siblings. Its all speculation anyway.

carl jacobs said...

Bosco

I originally understood you to be making a much broader statement about the connection between death and sin. In terms of essential Christian soteriology:

1. Adam was a real person.

2. Adam would not have died if he hadn't sinned.

3. Adam died because he did sin.

4. Adam's sinful nature was passed on to me through Adam's offspring.

5. I am a sinner by nature and I will die as a result because the wages of sin is death.

This is the chain that I perceived you had denied. An argument about the fate of animals doesn't really figure into this discussion. If I had understood this to be only about whether animals died pre-fall, I probably wouldn't have posted. I would however have grouched about it privately. I do think that all of creation was cursed by Adam's sin, and that death was a general consequence of that curse. But that argument is orders of magntude less serious than them arguments about the necessity of the items I listed above.

I will say this however. The idea that an immortal creature could be created by means of an evolutionary process dependent upon death is a logical contradiction to me. It would still require a special act of creation to change the ontological nature of the newly evolved "man" - which rather defeats the point.

carl

Janice said...

I can remember sitting on a swing as a child of about 8 or 9 and thinking about the wonderful illustrations of costumes through history that I'd found in our family set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I imagined my ancestors, going back through the generations, wearing the costume appropriate to their time, and finally got to Adam who I imagined would have worn a cave man outfit. Then, being well indoctrinated into evolutionary thought through school and my own love of reading, I thought about Adam's mother and father and presumed that because they were not human but some sort of ape-like animal they would not be wearing clothing of any sort. Then I thought about Adam going to heaven (because he was human) and about his parents not going to heaven (because they weren't human) and then I wondered how heaven could be heaven for Adam if his Mum and Dad weren't there, not for any wrong they had done but simply because, despite being so close to being human that their child was born human, they themselves weren't. I think that was the beginning of the process that ended when I was 15 and declared that I no longer believed in God.

I'd like to know what the defenders of evolutionary theory (and those believe only humans were created to be immortal) would say to a child wondering about such things.

liturgy said...

Dear Martin

Let me try one last time, as this thread sputters on, to get beyond the obfuscation, clearly there being no energy to discuss openly the good challenge first put before us by Janice of the impact of the evolutionary paradigm on the decline of Christianity (the topic of this thread) and how we might as Christians respond to this without merely retorting that evolution is false (unlike others here, I do not have every answer to every question fixed, nor a solution for every issue, so my opening points were a genuine search for a way forward):

So – let me terminate this side street that seems to have so captured your drive by asking you once again: Was Abiathar high priest when David entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and when David gave some to his companions?

As you would say: a simple yes or no answer will suffice.

And then with today’s
O Adonai,
et dux domus Israƫl,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

I bid you an Advent a Dieu

Bosco

liturgy said...

Dear MichaelA

It is a fascinating phenomenon that people regularly see in others and accuse them of failures that they themselves are guilty of.

I am quite willing to acknowledge that somehow (I still cannot see how) I misunderstood your points.

Might you also do me the courtesy of retracting your fabrication. Nowhere have I “compounded the error by suggesting that the present tense of eating in John 6:56 must be read as a repeated punctiliar action”! I did not. I suggest going back and re-reading my post (or perhaps reading it *carefully*, for the first time).

I merely point out that the present tense is used in Greek in the New Testament for a regularly repeated action like the Lords Supper. It is obviously not solely so used, in fact I explicitly state “No suggestion, of course, that every use of the present is iterative.” Obviously the present tense is more often used not with that meaning.

Just to keep the complexity of tenses rolling, you can understand your future apology to me here on this site as already having been accepted.

Advent blessings

Bosco

carl jacobs said...

Bosco

clearly there being no energy to discuss openly the good challenge first put before us by Janice of the impact of the evolutionary paradigm on the decline of Christianity ... and how we might as Christians respond to this without merely retorting that evolution is false

I didn't involve myself in that discussion because my answer would have been "Deny the reality of evolution." I perceived that to be the one answer that wasn't supposed to be given. So I didn't have much to contribute. If you are looking for some solution to this problem that begins with the admission "Evolution is true but..." you are out of luck. There isn't one.

carl

mike greenslade said...

Kia ora Peter,
Janice tells a common story, and her question is a good one. Many others will have had similar experiences and outcomes. I am not a defender of evolutionary theory - or of nonsensical biblical manipulations. But I think the answer she gave herself at aged 15 was a good start. The steps that follow are equally worth taking.

liturgy said...

Thanks, Carl.

I respect the integrity, simplicity, and lack of prevarication of your response.

Bosco

Anonymous said...

"Was Abiathar high priest when David entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and when David gave some to his companions?"

Not according to I Sam. 21.1, which references his father Ahimelech, whom he succeeded in that office. But if you are enquiring about the meaning of the verbless elliptical phrase 'epi Abiathar tou archiereos', you could consult J. Wenham, JTS(1950), 156; or the footnotes of The ESV Study Bible, p. 1187, where four possibilities are quickly summarised (not all as a time reference), though of course without the textual apparatus. (Somewhere, I suppose, Bart Ehrmann will have written a book on this, taking the maximalist contrary view.) The ESV translates this verbless phrase generally as 'in the days of Abiathar the high priest' (contrast NRSV, which supplies a verb). For myself, insofar as I've given it much thought, I've taken the verse to be a generalised time reference with conventional anachronism using the name of the most distinguished high priest of David's time - just as in a thousand years time (the distance from David to Jesus) someone might write of our era, 'Queen Elizabeth served as a mechanic during WWII' when in fact it was Princess Elizabeth who did this.
Since you raised the question and asked my understanding, which I've given, I would be interested to know how you understand this phrase.

Martinos ho grammateus, epi Georgiou tou basileos (me genoito!)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,

As Adam said to Eve when she complained about her name, "Don't worry! One day, say in 2013 on a blog somewhere Down Under, it will be seen as just a 'conventional anachronism' to help explain the origin of the species."

Anonymous said...

'As Adam said to Eve ...'
Ah, Peter, I thought you were going to quote to me that recently discovered work from antiquity, De Origine Generis Humanae, aka 'The World's First Palindrome':

'Madam, I'm Adam.'

Martin Toledoth (by everyone)

Anonymous said...

Bosco -
fortasse non leges hoc, sed gratias tibi ago propter tuum ultimum nuntium, et tibi offero pro tuo versu de legis donatione hunc pulchrum cantum a pulcherrima Hayley Westenra
- audi et gaude!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tId6ePj7Zpo

benedictiones Adventus

Martinus frater in Christo

MichaelA said...

Hi Bosco, you wrote:

"It is a fascinating phenomenon that people regularly see in others and accuse them of failures that they themselves are guilty of."

I couldn't agree more.

"Might you also do me the courtesy of retracting your fabrication."

Since I have not fabricated anything, the answer must be No. As I make clear below, I also do not think that I have been mistaken about your position (which is quite a different matter from the serious charge of fabrication):

"Nowhere have I “compounded the error by suggesting that the present tense of eating in John 6:56 must be read as a repeated punctiliar action”! I did not. I suggest going back and re-reading my post (or perhaps reading it *carefully*, for the first time)."

I have, and I stand by my characterisation of your position.

Re your last point, I am more than willing to give apologies, where I consider they are merited.

liturgy said...

Gratias tibi ago, Martinus, frater in Christo,

Deus te benedicas

Fratus tuus in Christo,

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

And the rest was SILENCE.

Deo gratias!

MichaelA said...

Silence is only found in heaven, Fr Ron. The reason we are not silent now is so that we may warn those who are complacent in their sin. Perchance some may be saved.