Christianity Decline In The UK (1)
Commentators and observers frequently tell us that Christianity is in serious decline in the UK, with some of them saying that it is in terminal decline. Is it? If it is, why is that so? In addressing that issue, I will begin by looking at what happened to the church in the early centuries of Christianity, and then consider how this is relevant to the United Kingdom in general, and Scotland and England in particular.
Furthermore, I will certainly propose that Christianity as seen in the UK has lost its credibility today, and I will suggest that the reason for this is that the ‘otherness’ of church has been discarded in favour of respectability and acceptability in the eyes of the nations. I will attempt show how from my own understanding how this situation can be reversed if the lessons of the past are learned deeply. I will conclude that, in today’s society, the answer of God to the state of the visible church in the UK today is the power of the Holy Spirit.
In order to look for the reasons for the decline of mainline Christianity in the United Kingdom, we must first consider the early years of Christianity in the centuries after Christ, and see what happened there. Wright speaks of an aggressive, evangelistic Christianity that burst into life in the Roman Empire in the years after Christ; a Christianity that posed a threat to the cohesion of the entire Roman Empire because of the irreversible clash between two different and opposing modes of thought. This clash was brought to an end by the “truly brilliant idea” of making Christianity the single religion of the Roman Empire.
Wright observes that “The legalising of the Christian religion in this particular fashion was the greatest disaster to have befallen the church in all its history.” The real effect, he believed, was the paganising of the church, the invasion into the church of a foreign and destructive spirit, and the church being permeated with the far-from-Christian concerns of the state. Lloyd-Jones observation of today’s church was certainly true of the church then: “The church is no longer distinct from the world, for instead of the church going out into the world we have allowed the world to capture the church from the inside.” “Once more,” says Wright, “religion was being used in the service of political power and social cohesion, but in a way which transformed the religion of the cross into something quite different.”
The result was staggering. “The persecuted minority became the persecuting majority. The little flock became the established authority.” The church was no longer a radical body of the people of Christ, but it had become the servant of every citizen; it was religion for the people, how the people wanted it and when they wanted it. The church was now the servant of the state, and had lost its distinctiveness; the church was bankrupt of the presence and power of God, the organic body of Christ had become a state-controlled institution. Tozer’s observation of the twentieth-century church is appropriate for then: “The church and the world have become so mixed up that it is hard to tell one from the other.”