Sunday, October 15, 2006

2001 US survey: ‘Absolute collapse of mainline Protestantism’; RCs’ beliefs no different
Of course I see that but the article is far from perfect:
For example, a mere 21 percent of America's Lutherans, 20 percent of the Episcopalians, 18 percent of Methodists, and 22 percent of Presbyterians affirm the basic Protestant tenet that by good works man does not earn his way to heaven.
Faith vs works always was a non-issue; the recent RC-Lutheran agreed statement was correct (the former didn’t give in as wrongly implied). This quotation implies an old anti-Catholic canard: ‘you think you earn your way into heaven’. Recently blogged another quotation about that: we just can’t please the Protestants and ex-Protestants. When we stress penance and ascesis we’re accused of exactly this; when we preach mercy we’re called lax.
Gerald McDermott, an Episcopalian, agreed: "This happened because in the last 30 years American pastors have lost their nerve to preach a theology that goes against the grain of American narcissism. What we are witnessing now is what (evangelicalism's premier thinker) Francis Schaeffer predicted over 20 years ago -- that the American church of the future would be dedicated solely to peace and affluence."

Paul Hinlicky and McDermott found another result of the Barna survey depressing. Only 33 percent of the American Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists, and 28 percent of the Episcopalians agreed with the statement that Christ was without sin.

To McDermott, these numbers indicate an "epochal change in popular theology." He added, "This would suggest a loss of faith in the Divinity of Christ." If this result is accurate, a large segment of the U.S. population was reverting to Deism, a belief system prevalent in 18th-century England and shared by leading American thinkers of that period.

"Christ would then be no more than the Dalai Lama, an admirable kind of a guy."

"If this figure holds up it signals a complete breakdown of catechetical practice," said Hinlicky who teaches religion and philosophy at Roanoke College in Salem, Va.

"What has brought us to this point is zero theology since the 1960s," Hinlicky explained.

Summing up his views on Barna's findings on the beliefs of mainline Protestants and Catholics, McDermott said, "This underscores how America has become a mission field."
Ministers reading this who are Christians: you’ve got your work cut out for you.

The Eastern Orthodox convert boomlet didn’t happen in a vacuum. On the ground level, where RC = non-Anglo mainline Protestant, where else are Evangelical Is Not Enough* people going to go? (People who would have been happy Modern Canterbury Pilgrims or Newman-like RCs 50 years ago.)

Of course there are also the RC traditionalist movement and the Continuum. Learnt something interesting recently from two priests of the latter: most people in their congregations are not ex-Episcopalians! They’re getting the kind of converts I just mentioned: the majority, followed by the senior/founding ex-Episcopal members, traditional refugee ex-RCs (about 20 per cent to a third in some parishes) and finally something like 6 per cent born members.

*Yes, I know that Thomas Howard has been an RC for about 20 years.

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