Christianity Decline In The UK (3)
By losing its otherness, “church has therefore lost its radical nature as a counterculture driven by the politics of Jesus and has made itself the watch dog for morality and a chaplain to society.” “For the real Church does not live by a religious and moral cultural tradition, but by the word of the living God, which proclaims judgment over kings and priests, over the rulers and the governed, over the ecclesiastical and social institutions.”
Now, all of this is crucial to an understanding of why mainline Christianity is declining in the United Kingdom today, because, when the church surrenders its identity and otherness and becomes the established state church, it loses all credibility in the eyes of the very people that it believes it is reaching. It is this loss of credibility that is at the heart of Christianity’s decline in the United Kingdom today.
Muslims are often described by Europeans as fanatical, although this is a charge that is not often levelled at Christians today! Holy wars, death to infidels, a total willingness to die for Allah, and many other characteristics are used by some people to show why Muslims are fanatical. I would suggest that a better way to describe Muslims is faithful. I would further suggest that because they are faithful to their religion, they, as Muslims, do not have a credibility gap between what they believe and how they are seen to live. Their religion is plausible and credible because they are plausible and credible. Plausible and credible is precisely what mainline Christianity is not in the United Kingdom today, and this I will put forward as the most important reason for mainline Christianity’s decline.
The mainline Christian church of the last few generations has claimed to be the possessor of absolute truth while, at the same time, showing nothing of the presence and power of the God that it claims to represent. Such claims turn absolute truth into a set of doctrines or theology enshrined in creeds or confessions, the holding of which proves (or disproves) the validity of faith. How far this church has moved from its roots!
Now there most certainly is absolute truth. “That truth is not a doctrine or a worldview or even a religious experience; it is certainly not to be found by repeating abstract nouns like justice and love; it is the man Jesus Christ in whom God was reconciling the world. The truth is personal, concrete, historical.” As Fowler has stated: “Truth is lived; it is a pattern of being in relation to others and to God.”
Therefore, Newbigin speaks of mission as God’s mission, not ours; as the work of God where the church is, not the work of the church where God is. “It is God who acts in the power of his Spirit, doing mighty works, creating signs of a new age, working secretly in the hearts of men and women to draw them to Christ.” This is precisely what mainline Christianity has been bankrupt of, and this is precisely why mainline Christianity has been declining for so long.