Colorful discussion has disturbed the ghost of Darwin on the matter of whether the universe shows signs of intelligent design. (I often think it depends on which newspaper you read).
However, my concern is with something I refer to as intelligent decline, which is what I see in the empty pews of so-called mainline churches.
We’re shrinking, and there are reasons.
Not long ago, a fellow retired professor wrote a brilliant piece on this. (We academic geezers keep in touch, you see.) His theory applies to different mainliners variously. He happened to be writing about my own denomination.
First, he said pastoral assignments and oversight are directed by desk-clergy, remote from the local church. He said the guiding voices should be members who have stood the test of time. (I know, age again.)
What does the New Testament advise? “Consult with the elders.”
The fondest dogma of the century is that the basic pattern of history is change, and change is inevitably beneficial. Well, consult the great historians and you will learn that the main pattern of history is repetition. Only experience is wisdom.
We French often say, “The more the change the more the same thing.”
The second reason for decline is that until 1880, churches dealt in revivals and personal conversion. Then came the cult of gradualism with its classrooms and religious education books. No decisive events, just vague, gradual growth.
The third reason was, of all things, mushy ecumenism. One denomination is as good as another, so when you marry or go to college, just shop around.
Reminds me of the president’s insistence that America is not exceptional. (Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy for churches or nations).