Voting with their feet
Churchgoing in Britain is in freefall in the ‘mainline’ denominations. Membership of the Church of England declined 27% between 1980 and 2000. This realization led to a survey in 2003/2004 to find out why. In all, 14,000 people in Britain and Ireland responded to the widely-advertised invitation to say why they were giving up on church.1 People wrote responses, rather than answering multiple-choice questions.
Astonishingly, 91% gave very similar reasons for disenchantment with church, which can be summarized in the words of one person: ‘The church needs to give a more robust defence of the reasons for believing.’ People pleaded for the churches to answer the sceptics and defend the faith.
Many respondents had joined house churches to get teaching that built their faith. Several websites were frequently listed as providing the sort of teaching that people wanted, which included creationist web sites. Respondents wanted evidence for their faith and teaching that upheld the authority of the Bible.
Unfortunately, many church leaders in the traditional churches have capitulated to the evolutionary view of history, destroying their trust in the Bible and any desire to defend it. Josef Ton, the Romanian Baptist pastor who suffered for his faith at the hands of the communists, said, ‘I came to the conclusion that there were two factors which destroyed Christianity in Western Europe. One was the theory of evolution, and the other, liberal theology … Liberal theology is just evolution applied to the Bible and our faith.’
The destruction of Genesis began in earnest with the German ‘higher critic’ Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918), who applied an evolutionary view of human history to the Bible (with the monotheism of the Bible arising from a primitive polytheism). Wellhausen and co. decided that the books of Moses were not written by Moses, but were a late concoction by unidentified Jewish rabbis. Even many ‘conservative’ theological colleges now teach this destructive ‘JEDP’ heresy.2
The second reason for disillusionment was frustration with church leaders not teaching the holiness of God and moral standards. A huge number of respondents grieved over the ordination of homosexuals by the Anglican Church. But then if you discard the Genesis account of creation, with its straightforward history of the first marriage of a man and a woman ordained by God, why not have a man and a man? And why stop at denying Genesis? So they reject the Bible’s clear condemnations of homosexual acts (such as Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10).
Research in Australia also shows that issues of truth and moral standards are very important in people seeing church as irrelevant.3 Even a secular commentator, Andrew Bolt,4 pleaded for church leaders to stand up and be counted on moral issues, particularly the sanctity of life in regard to the high rate of abortion.
One liberal archbishop in Australia, commenting on the hemorrhage of members from his denomination, blamed ‘fundamentalist’ (i.e., Bible-centred) churches for ‘sheep stealing’! He can’t see that starving sheep will look for pasture elsewhere (sadly, many just starve to death).
People in the United States are also deserting ‘mainstream’ denominations that have become infected with liberal theology. The liberal churches are dying and conservative (Bible-believing) churches are growing.5
Clearly the creation message, with its focus on upholding the authority of Scripture, is pivotal to this question of church growth or decline. If church leaders do not uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse and do not emphasize teaching that shows the truthfulness of Scripture, people will increasingly see the churches as irrelevant … and vote with their feet.
References and notes
- Let the people speak, Church Survey UK. The 42-page report is available at www.churchsurvey.co.uk/?home. Return to text.
- For refutation, see Grigg, R., Did Moses really write Genesis? Creation 20(4):43–46, 1998. Return to text.
- Bellamy, J., et al., Why don’t people go to church? National Church Life Survey [Australia], 2002.Return to text.
- Bolt, A., We kill babies, Melbourne Herald-Sun, 10 November 2004, p. 23. Return to text.
- Shiflett, D., Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity, Sentinel, USA, 2005. Return to text.