What We Lose in the Decline of Cultural Christianity

May 5, 2021 by

by Andrew T Walker, The Gospel Coalition:

With the news of the Gallup Poll indicating dramatic two-decade decline in church membership, there is no shortage of opinion and commentary on what those figures portend for the future of Christianity in America.

The poll’s findings could be interpreted in a number of ways. One is to see the reality of secularism making serious inroads into large swaths of American life. Another is to lament the loss of a Christian consensus that, despite grievous historical sins, laid the foundation for America’s moral ecosystem at its founding.

Yet another way is to celebrate the loss of “cultural Christianity” as a gain for gospel purity. According to this viewpoint, the dross of cultural Christianity needs to be exposed for what it truly is: a framework that misappropriated Christianity to consolidate cultural power.

Without a doubt, there are elements of truth to this last interpretation. Everyone reading this article could point to myriad examples of Christianity being used for something other than its promise of salvation. Whether the church’s support of white supremacy, the public figure using Jesus as a political dogwhistle, or the local candidate kowtowing to the large church in town in order to make all the proper appearances, the criticism is valid. Desiring the morality or cultural status that may result from Christianity—while ignoring the gospel at the heart of it—is worth critiquing.

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