The American church is quickly “morphing into something new.” This is the conclusion the Barna group drew after analyzing 5,000 interviews conducted in 2010 and identifying the following 6 patterns or “megathemes” from the research. (HT Charles Savelle)
- The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
- Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
- Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
- Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
- The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
- The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
Although I think the research done by the Barna Group is always worth noting, I do worry that their interpretation of the data tends to skew in a notably negative/pessimistic direction. As Bradley Wright argues in his book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, we need to be much more careful with how we use statistical analysis to draw conclusions about the health of God’s people. So, we may need a more nuanced look at some of these megathemes (particularly the last one).
I’d also like a little more explanation of what it means to say that the church is both “more ingrown” and more “interested in participating in community action” at the same time. Or, how the church can have a greater role in community action and yet still have a largely invisible impact on society. That’s an interesting juxtaposition of themes.
And, I’m a bit surprised by #2. Based solely on the churches that I’m involved with, I would have said that there’s a growing trend toward greater outreach (mainly “soft” evangelism and community action). But, that could be just my limited exposure to the church as a whole.
Nonetheless, these themes are worth reflecting on and clearly identify a number of “systemic” issues that we need to wrestle with today.
Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?
- Thomas Kidd asks Is Evangelicalism Standing the Test of Time? The “Fundamentals” at 100.
How much has the evangelical movement changed in the past 100 years? A quick review of The Fundamentals suggests that evangelicals 1) have shed some unfortunate biases of those bygone days, 2) continue to struggle with similar intellectual issues, most notably evolution, and 3) retain a common message of grace through Christ.
- In a Wired editorial, “Wake Up Geek Culture. Time to Die,” Patton Oswalt argues that the internet makes it to easy to be a geek and that is detrimental for creativity and culture.
I’m not a nerd. I used to be one, back 30 years ago when nerd meant something.
- In a NYT piece, Charles Griswold discusses the nature of forgiveness.
forgiveness is neither just a therapeutic technique nor simply self-regarding in its motivation; it is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.
- Denny Burk offers a few plans for reading through the Greek NT in one year.
- And, if you’re looking for help with your resume, apparently RezScore is a webapp that will grade your resume and offer free advice for improving it. It sounds like it’s worth checking out.
- iMonk has begun what looks like a very interesting series on spiritual formation. They started with a reflection on J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and followed up today with some comments on what “spiritual formation” means.
- Richard Beck uses some principles from statistical analysis to comment on the two kinds of errors we can make when saying who is/isn’t going to hell, and which kind he thinks we should lean toward.
- Brian Fulthorp has had an interesting discussion on confusing interpretation of the Bible with the Bible itself.
- James McGrath reviews Dale Allison’s forthcoming book, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. He also points out the new Big Tent Christianity ebook.
- NYT had an interesting article last week, “Fibbing with Numbers,” discussing Charles Seife’s Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception.
- Here’s a slide show from HuffPo explaining how unnecessary quotations marks are infecting the nation.
- And, here’s a slideshow of 23 impressive science fiction LEGO creations. Some people have a lot of time on their hands.
In a recent Wired magazine article, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff argued that the Web is dead, but the Internet is alive and well. To support their argument, they pointed to the growing popularity of self-contained “apps” as opposed to the more free-form web browser. Although these apps still access the internet, they do so in a more focused way. And, these authors argue that the rise of the apps is having a dramatic impact on our overall internet usage, supporting their point with the following graph.
Based on this graph, one would definitely get the impression that web traffic has decreased significantly over the last few years. However, Rob Beschizza points out (“Is the Web Really Dead?“) that since the graph focuses on the relative proportions of various kinds of traffic, it really doesn’t say anything about whether web browsing is on the decline. It only indicates that its “market share” is declining. If you like at actually usage, you get a very different graph.
To me, this was an excellent example of looking closely at the data to see what it’s really telling you. Graphs, pictures, statistics, and other kinds of data are great, but only when they’re interpreted carefully. I also thought the first graph was very interesting once I realized what it was saying. I knew internet video was growing rapidly, but I hadn’t realized what a large slice of the pie it had become.
Some really good links for your Saturday reading pleasure.
- Paul Helm has an excellent discussion of Bob Letham’s The Westminster Assembly, Reading its Theology in Historical Context. Helm’s review itself is a helpful discussion of the Assembly and its historical context.
- Kevin DeYoung also has an excellent warning about the ambiguity and misuse of statistics.
- Carl Trueman responds to criticisms about the level of polemic in evangelical Reformed circles.
- Justin Taylor offers the 9 questions to ask in theological interpretation.
- James K.A. Smith argues that theological and ethical writing needs to engage a broader range of literary genres.
- Michael Jensen discusses the loss of a literary canon in western culture.
- Diglot reviews John Sailhammer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch.
- And, here’s a list of the 50 Greatest Saturday Morning Cartoons.
- James McGrath will be reviewing The Historical Jesus: Five Views over at Exploring Our Matrix. He’ll be starting with Robert Price, who holds to a Christ-Myth position – i.e. there was no Jesus of Nazareth. That should be an interesting discussion.
- Nijay Gupta has published an 8-page review of Douglas Campbell’s Deliverance of God. The short version is that he enjoyed the book, but in the end did not find Campbell’s reconstruction of justification convincing.
- The SBL conversation continues. John Hobbins and James Crossley have both posted their thoughts on Ron Hendel’s criticism of SBL for allowing “faith” to trump “reason” in biblical scholarship. And, Hendel has now responded to Crossley with a post of his own.
- A recent Gallup poll suggests that church attendance is on the rise on America. I think this would be a good example of why we need to be careful with statistics. As I heard at a recent conference, although it is true that we’ve seen a slight increase in the percentage of people attending church weekly, the percentage of people who never attend church has increased much more quickly. So, although we’re seeing a few more people attend regularly, we’re seeing far more people choose to stay away altogether.
- And, here’s a You Tube clip of Elena Kagan responding to a question about whether the commerce clause gives congress the authority to require all Americans to eat vegetables three times a day.