The Nones Have It

June 1, 2016 — 23 Comments

noneThe arrival of the “post-Christian” Western world is ahead of schedule. Great Britain just passed the point where those with “no religious preference” actually outnumber those who profess to be Christians.

With Europe leading the way, can North America be far behind?

You know what makes this even more shocking? The results come from a survey where all the people claiming to be disciples of Jesus needed to do, was simply check a box. One wonders how many among that 48% would still claim to be Christians if they lived in Iraq.

Ponder for a moment the sobering title of an article in London’s The Spectator.

“Britain Really is Ceasing to be a Christian Country.”

The secularization of the United Kingdom was a matter of great concern to C.S. Lewis. And this erosion was well underway during his lifetime.

The truth is that although Lewis excelled as a Christian apologist (defender of the faith), it was not a role he coveted. He much preferred to write speculative fiction, literary criticism and devotional works.

Yet, because the need to reach people with the simple truth of the Gospel had grown so dire, Lewis felt forced to offer a persuasive rationale for belief. Consider the following description of his self-understanding. These words were written in response to a public attack of his work by a theologian. The final sentence bears directly on the subject of this column.

When I began, Christianity came before the great mass of my unbelieving fellow-countrymen either in the highly emotional form offered by revivalists or in the unintelligible language of highly cultured clergymen.

Most men were reached by neither. My task was therefore simply that of a translator—one turning Christian doctrine, or what he believed to be such, into the vernacular, into language that unscholarly people would attend to and could understand. For this purpose a style more guarded, more nuance, finelier shaded, more rich in fruitful ambiguities . . . would have been worse than useless. It would not only have failed to enlighten the common reader’s understanding; it would have aroused his suspicion. He would have thought, poor soul, that I was facing both ways, sitting on the fence, offering at one moment what I withdrew the next, and generally trying to trick him.

I may have made theological errors. My manner may have been defective. Others may do better hereafter. I am ready, if I am young enough, to learn. Dr. Pittenger would be a more helpful critic if he advised a cure as well as asserting many diseases. How does he himself do such work? What methods, and with what success, does he employ when he is trying to convert the great mass of storekeepers, lawyers, realtors, morticians, policemen and artisans who surround him in his own city? One thing at least is sure.

If the real theologians had tackled this laborious work of translation about a hundred years ago, when they began to lose touch with the people (for whom Christ died), there would have been no place for me. (“Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger”)

It is the duty of each generation of Christians to share the faith with their neighbors. Likewise, it is the responsibility of each new generation of clergy to teach faithfully . . . and to live a God-pleasing life.

Whenever we fail to tackle the “laborious work of translation,” God is able to raise up another to do it. Still, men and women of the caliber of C.S. Lewis are few and far between.

May God have mercy on Britain, America, and all of those lands where we have taken for granted the heritage of faith bequeathed to us.

_____

If this subject interests you in the least, take a moment to read “Having Pity on Pittenger.” Anglican priest Dwight Longenecker describes a chance encounter with Dr. Pittenger decades after Lewis’ death.

I was alerted to this news account by Gene Veith’s fine blog, Cranach. The good doctor does an outstanding job of bringing newsworthy stories to the attention of those interested in Church and State relations.

23 responses to The Nones Have It

  1. 

    Reblogged this on Medieval Otaku and commented:
    That’s a sad trend in England. Christians everywhere should take note.

    • 

      Yes we should. The good news is that in much of the rest of the world–most notably Africa and Asia–the Church is growing at an amazing rate.

      • 

        I’m very happy about how the Church is growing in both of those continents. Those places look like they will be the future centers of Christianity. It’s just a shame that religious fervor is dying in the lands formerly comprising Christendom.

      • 

        Yes, but should the Lord tarry all of those missionaries from the other continents can rekindle the Gospel among those in the West who have forsaken it.

  2. 

    A boat without an anchor drifts aimlessly. EIther never reaching safe harbour or crashing onto rocks. So do children and adults

  3. 

    Already I have heard of African Christian groups and Philippine Christian groups sending missionaries to the US (I fear we are not far behind the UK in a decline in those professing faith)

    • 

      Yes, it’s been happening for a while. Often missionaries come to serve same-ethnicity communities who have immigrated to the West. But more and more often now they are becoming increasingly intentional in their outreach to all.

  4. 

    I had no idea that the trend for Christianity has gone down as sharply as it has over the years! One major reason (this is merely speculation) is the large number of denominations in circulation such as Baptists, Catholics, and Methodists that each have their own unique views about Scripture that leave the masses confused and doubtful about God’s word. The fundamentals about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ stay constant for most sects of Christianity, but other issues draw believers apart. This makes sense and was warned to us by Paul in the New Testament, which is why he pushed so desperately for “unity in the church”. All that Christians can do now is to rally together and make a difference for the Lord in one mind, as close as we can get.

    • 

      Yes, the lack of unity in the Body of Christ is a tragedy. Especially since Jesus prayed explicitly for it.

      I’ve blogged in the past about the core faith shared by all Christians (as confessed in the ecumenical creeds).

  5. 

    Hello Brother,
    Amen. Yes, Lord help us to live it, speak it, and share the Gospel daily.

    Gary

  6. 

    I blame the internet.

    • 

      An interesting comment. While there is certainly much good that has come via the internet… I’ve read that the majority of online data traffic may be of a shadier variety.

      I suspect you offered this comment tongue in cheek. It is, of course, too simplistic… and the recourse of traditionalists who are not, as a group, fans of fantasy and anime… Thanks for writing.

      • 

        I don’t get your comment. Please elaborate.

      • 

        I was saying that there is good and bad that results from the existence of the internet, including the fostering and erosion of faith. However, I’ve read that the amount of dark (evil) matter may exceed that which is good, or what might be deemed neutral.

        The tongue in cheek remark was due to the brevity of your comment, which can be read at face value–which has validity–or as a critique of the way that some people blame complex problem on simple causes–which expresses wit.

        Since I share your interest in fantasy, I think that “we,” as a group, would more often use the latter approach. In this case, of course, since the wit would combine with the accuracy of the fact, it makes the comment all the more apropos.

  7. 

    I believe we are at the end of Western Civilization. The future will be one of savagery and darkness. Westerners are spoiled brats. I also think nature is resetting itself. We advanced too far. The idea that the forward technological advancement of humanity will continue is flawed. But then maybe God will come.

    • 

      You’re certainly not alone in thinking any of those things. I’m amazed at the success of “post-apocalyptic” books, series, and films; makes me wonder if the general malaise of the age is permeating the modern psyche.

  8. 

    Reblogged this on danielcooleyblog and commented:
    Will the Nones really have it? I love the Lewis quote in here about translation. I never thought of his writing that way, but his writings were a translator of sorts for me. Makes me realize the importance of my translation for others.

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