Post-Christian: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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39 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    The first thing we do is admit the situation exists and it’s a problem.

    Then we start working on theology…

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    …And being honest and admitting the situation exists will help us be honest in our theological formulations…

  3. Jean says:

    Duane,

    “A question, however, remains. Once we set aside the false religious rhetoric, the symbols and the folk religion of this era, how are we to navigate within a post-Christian society?”

    My answer, may not be popular, but I zealously believe it: I will begin with this quote from a 1522 sermon by Martin Luther, recalling his battles with Rome:

    “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

    Luther discovered that the Roman Church he was a part of was essentially post-Christian. It had the symbols of a church, but it was rotten to the core.

    To preserve and recover a faithful remnant, Luther deployed the **only** weapon he, as a pastor and theologian, was** authorized** to wield: The Word of God. This divine Word contains the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, it defeats the gates of hell, and it is the power of salvation to all who believe.

    As Luther, said: “I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

    First, Christians have to believe in the efficacy of the Word. Then we need to trust that when the Word is preached, that it does not return to God empty! Finally we have to guard our churches, pulpits and our own ears from the lying mouths of false shepherds to corrupt the Word and devour the sheep.

  4. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    It may seem simple, but it is also nuanced. During the Reformation there were, of course, numerous disagreements. There was, however, much that was agreed upon, both theologically and culturally. We are in the situation in which precious little agreement exists on either count. That’s a problem which has to be addressed as we move forward…

  5. filbertz says:

    I contributed to the decline when I walked out the door over 12 years ago. The poll doesn’t account for a significant number of people of faith, not lurking on the fringes of historic Christianity as identified in your article, but who hold orthodox beliefs and at the same time hold their noses over orthopraxy in the churches. I’ve also enumerated those over the years so I won’t belabor them at this point.

  6. Doulos says:

    We are supposed to encourage one another IN CHRIST. Focusing on what man is doing *might* be somewhat helpful, but not in the least bit encouraging. We must persevere in our purpose.

    Hebrews 12:1-3 (KJV)
    “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

  7. Nathan Priddis says:

    Part of me greets this with relief. Significant parts of the Church now scare me.
    Years ago I would have pointed to Dominionist or Reconstructionist as the terrible biological weapon wanting out of the laboratory. As long as I could mentally label my fears with vague tags like…NAR, it was manageable. That changed when people I know edge towards a war where Principalities are replaced with flesh and blood, as the ultimate enemy.

  8. Michael says:

    fil,

    I can’t document it…but sometimes it seems to me that the group you describe and are part of have the deepest faith of us all…

  9. Michael says:

    Doulos,

    What is the actual application of that passage?

  10. filbertz says:

    Michael, I am under no illusions that this state is best or even recommendable. It is fraught with pitfalls and struggles not common within the walls. It is a challenge to reenter even for funerals–but due to the frequency of those, I’m getting better at it. I am not opposed to joining a local assembly, yet understand the transition would be difficult and most there would be clueless as to my reasons. (not assigning blame, there) On the other hand, my faith is simplified and more robust.

  11. Duane Arnold says:

    Fil

    I suspect that there are many others like you. I will, however, offer a different construct on your situation. It’s entirely possible that you did not leave the church, the church left you…

  12. filbertz says:

    Duane, there may be merit to that view, yet the impersonal ‘organization’ offers little ownership & less inclination to consider change. Our departures were as noticeable as the proverbial finger lifted from a bucket of water. There are many outside the walls–some camping nearby, others broadly roaming. The poll will never account for us and therefore the results are skewed.

  13. Em says:

    Dr. Duane, not THE Church. Rather, as the late Adrian Rogers pointed out, the cowardly shepherds-so-called that are more concerned with pleasing people than with pleasing God.
    just sayin’…… 😏

  14. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    Unfortunately, the wheat and the tares are planted together…

  15. Em says:

    Point taken, Dr. Duane… point taken…..
    Thinking on it some more and wondering IF some of these shallow ( underfed souls) are part of THE Church? ? ?

  16. Kevin H says:

    I would imagine the Early Church was much more concerned and focused on their own ways and conduct as opposed to obsessing with everything wrong with the culture around them. Such focus seemingly helped the church to grow and spread instead of experiencing a shrinking like we see in our culture today.

  17. Em says:

    Ahhh, Kevin H, good ponder! ! !

  18. Duane Arnold says:

    Kevin H

    It is clear when you read the Church Fathers, they expected a pagan society to conduct itself as… wait for it… a pagan society! As you rightly point out, they were focused on their conduct as the Church. Augustine saw Rome as a mixed Christian/Pagan society. In politics he thought the best you could hope and pray for was leaders with character who would exercise justice.

  19. Doulos says:

    Michael,

    In response to your question regarding my sharing the passage from Hebrews… No matter what is going on in the world or in our respective lives, we are to continue IN CHRIST (cf. JN 15:1-14)

    The fact that you are using the term “POST Christian” tells me your eyes are on what people are doing and saying, rather than on what GOD has said, has done, and continues to do.

    There is no flaw, no POST Christianity in the Church that Christ founded and is continuing to build through those whom the Father has given him and through those who believe through their word (cf. John 17:1-25)

    Hope that helps to clarify.

  20. Michael says:

    Doulos,

    That is Christianeze that makes no sense in light of the actual discussion.
    “Post Christian” is a sociological descriptor that is verified with actual data.
    It requires a response.

  21. Em says:

    Michael, good point, but.. … 😇
    Attempts to clarify can’t hurt, can they? ? ?

  22. Michael says:

    Em,

    There are few things that get my dander up more than redefining terms…and intentions.

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    I really thought people were beyond this… apparently I was mistaken.

  24. Doulos says:

    Okay, sorry you feel that way.

  25. EricL says:

    This is a complex issue, Duane, and not easily dissected. Some of the factors influencing this probably includes
    1. Changes in immigration patterns (rise of Asian and decline of European immigrants),
    2. Redefinition/ changing importance of religious terms (“membership” is a loaded term to those exposed to Neo Calvinism as opposed to past decades when church membership was more of an identity badge like Irish are Catholic and English are Anglicans, “born again” is a term far more familiar to older Americans),
    3. Questions about church attendance in 2020 are likely skewed by the pandemic and whether folks considered online services as actual church attendance. I’m surprised the numbers only dropped 4% from 2019.

    https://news.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx

    It is a sobering thing to consider how we are failing to connect with many of our neighbors, maybe due to age difference or cultural diversity.

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    EricL

    It is complex. When it started on the continent following WWII, my friends in the UK thought they were “safe”… they were not. I saw the decline in the UK in the 80s and 90s, but found it hard to believe such a shift could happen in the US… Part is demographics, part is generational and part is alignment with politics. As they say, we live in interesting times.

  27. Jean says:

    In a democratic society, Christians have an obligation, in the exercise of their participation in electorate, to speak out in favor of the truth out of love for our neighbors. The crux of the problem, then, is the question: What is truth?

    It is true that the world despises the truth, so an advocacy for the truth would not be popular in our country. On the other hand, an advocacy for the truth which is popular, is a sign that it is not the truth at all.

  28. Em says:

    Not sure the world despises truth, they just like to make up their own version and despise you, if you don’t go along..

  29. Jean says:

    When a church objects to the lies that are held as truth by the society, the people in the pews who are worldly, will leave the church.

    If a church promotes as truth or godly, that which people in the pews see as a lie or ungodly, they will leave the church.

  30. Em says:

    Jean, looks like it all depends on a God fearing pastor with integrity……..

  31. Jean says:

    There are 3 essential ingredients: God fearing; integrity; and knowledge.

  32. CM says:

    A couple of observations….

    As I have stated earlier that the Evangelical and Christian Right is now experiencing the decline and slide into irreverence that the mainlines and Christian Left has experienced in the decades following WWII. Perhaps those in the first groups thought they were immune for whatever reason.

    Another thing is the anti-science, anti-intellectual, political posturing, conspiracy theories and so on over the past 20-25 years has turned a LOT of people off. The implosion of the Evangelicals mirrors the implosion of the Fundies several decades earlier. Maybe the earlier Fundie survivors found refuge in current Evangelicalism.

    The election of Trump was in many ways watershed moment in the Evangelical church in the US. By hitching their wagons to Trump in the vain hope of stemming their slide into irrelevance and lack of influence in politics, culture, and society, they only hastened the result. They tried to avoid this destiny by selling their birthright for a bowl of political porridge (and we know how well those deals turn out). It will be interesting to see if the decline accelerates in the years after Trump. I would not surprised if it does.

    “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”

    – Jean La Fountaine.

  33. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Pastoral competence, in my opinion, has much to do with the decline… the seminaries have much to answer for over the last several decades…

  34. Em says:

    “A person often meets his destiny…..”
    or boat? Jonah?
    Just because we don’t see Him, doesn’t mean God doesn’t see us ….. 😇

  35. Jean says:

    Duane,

    “Pastoral competence, in my opinion, has much to do with the decline”

    I couldn’t agree more, Duane. Since you have been following the education of pastors for a lot longer than me, would you say that there was a time when a seminary education was the norm for a pastor and whether or when that norm became the exception?

    In addition, has the curriculum of the seminaries been dumbed down significantly over a period of time. For example, are the requirements for competency in both biblical languages the same as it was 40 years ago?

    I do not get the sense that many of today’s pastors are competent in biblical Greek and Hebrew. I also question what kind of hermaneutics are being taught in seminaries today, based on the content of the preaching I hear and read in some of the traditions and non-traditions.

    If the pastors are not properly educated, they can be more easily deceived by errant “scholars” who come across sophisticated, polished and/or charismatic. This then trickles down to the laity through the clergy.

  36. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Things have changed! Many seminaries no longer require either Greek or Hebrew. In fact, I don’t believe it is part of the ATS accreditation process for either the MDiv or the DMin. Likewise, Church History has been truncated. One is likely to go from the cooling of the earth to the Parousia in a single course. All of this has consequences. Moreover, many seminaries are short of qualified students applying. I know this is true among both of our tribes, as well as many others. Owing to this, there is a tendency not to disqualify those who do apply.

    This, of course, is speaking of those who attend an accredited seminary… many do not.

  37. Em says:

    My disillusionment came in the early 70s. My late husband and i were involved i a movement tat required an informal dinner meeting with a large segment of pastors in an area i won’t identify…
    Pastors from a variety of denominations (including Presbys, Baptists and Lutes) and all they would talk about were the head counts of their congrgations!

  38. Jean says:

    “Pastors from a variety of denominations (including Presbys, Baptists and Lutes) and all they would talk about were the head counts of their congrgations!”

    Genuine Lutherans do not join movements. They don’t spend their time talking about the head counts of their congregations either. Those two things are antithetical to Lutheran theology.

  39. Em says:

    Weeel, Jean, one of the driving forces, a sincere Lutheran Christian pastor from Idaho, had many conversations with my late husband…. their concern? the strong, but false dichotomy, between science and Scripture
    Guess he put God’s. Integrity ahead of church doctrines…. 😇

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