I Raised my Children in the Church and They No Longer Attend. Did I Do Something Wrong?

Church and Secularism

An Interlude in Our Series on Lessons of the 20th Century      

Answer: No, probably not. (Of course, I don’t know your situation, but I find most people do the best they can in the situation they’re in.)

Part of what I am trying to show in this series is that church in the 21st century is in a much different place than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, when most people went to church as children and kept going as adults. Why did this happen? Part of the reason I am writing this series is to show that this trend is the result of LOTS OF DIFFERENT EVENTS. The consequences of these different events all added up over time.

Continue reading “I Raised my Children in the Church and They No Longer Attend. Did I Do Something Wrong?”

The Roman Catholic Church and the Modernist Controversy

Modernism threatened the Roman Catholic Church in Europe

Most people understand vaguely that Christianity in the 21st century is in a different world than it was a hundred years ago. In this series of articles, I hope to highlight the story of how and why we find ourselves in a different world. These are meant to be short reflections about what I believe are key moments when we learned something new and important about the Gospel. Today, we’re looking at Modernism and the Catholic Church. I believe that the lessons learned are the tools we need to move forward in this odd time of being church.

Make it new!

Ezra Pound (1934)

We are living in a very singular moment of history. It is a moment of crisis, in the literal sense of that word. In every branch of our spiritual and material civilization we seem to have arrived at a critical turning-point. This spirit shows itself not only in the actual state of public affairs but also in the general attitude towards fundamental values in personal and social life.

Max Planck (1932)

Over the next two reflections, I want to talk about the reaction of the churches in the West to the phenomenon of Modernism. In this reflection, I will talk about the Catholic response, and the next one will be the Protestant response.

It is hard to overstate how important this moment in church history was. All of the big themes that we are talking about in the church today either come out of this era, or they come from responses to it. During this time, churches divided into groupings that are close to what we now call conservative and liberal. This is where the tendencies and trajectories of the next century begin. To understand ourselves in the 21st century, it is important to understand Modernism.

Continue reading “The Roman Catholic Church and the Modernist Controversy”

Biblical Criticism: Hard Questions about the Bible

Biblical Criticism and studying the Bible (photo: Unsplash)

Most people understand vaguely that Christianity in the 21st century is in a different world than it was a hundred years ago. In this series of articles, I hope to highlight the story of how and why we find ourselves in a different world. These are meant to be short reflections about what I believe are key moments when we learned something new and important about the Gospel. I believe that the lessons learned are the tools we need to move forward in this odd time of being church.

This crisis of Biblical criticism was a crisis of assumptions. People who start reading the Bible for the first time often express surprise at its messiness. Because the Bible is inspired by God, we often assume that the message of the Bible should be clear and straightforward, that the stories should be simple and full of wisdom, that the application to help people lead meaningful lives and answer their questions should be obvious.

When they crack open the cover of the scriptures, they express confusion and frustration. Inside, they find four different accounts of Jesus that sometimes match and sometimes don’t. There are long meandering genealogies, laws given by God that make no sense, seemingly interminable poems about other places, terms they haven’t heard of, and disagreement within the Bible about important things. If a perfect God were going to write a perfect book, it shouldn’t be this messy! When I talk to be people about this, I find they struggle with their assumptions about how God SHOULD write the Bible, rather than their acceptance about how God ACTUALLY wrote the Bible.

Continue reading “Biblical Criticism: Hard Questions about the Bible”

Galileo, James Hutton and Charles Darwin: Biblical Conversations with Science

Lessons of the 20th Century Series

Most people understand vaguely that Christianity in the 21st century is in a different world than it was a hundred years ago. My hope in this series of articles is to highlight the story of how and why we find ourselves in a different world. This is a fascinating story, and it is one that I am looking forward to telling. However, the story is not going to be an academic one, nor is it meant to present an argument. These are meant to be short reflections about what I believe are key moments when we learned something new and important about the Gospel.

I want to give Christians looking to the future of the church a better knowledge of how we have come to the place we are now. I believe that the lessons learned are the tools we need to move forward in this odd time of being church. I assume most readers do not know a lot about these events. If any of the reflections are particularly interesting to you, I link to some helpful resources so that you can learn more.

It is hard to pick a place to begin this story. There are many places to start, but for this one, I will start with the beginning. The very beginning… as told in the book of Genesis. “In the beginning…” Most Christians are deeply familiar with this symphonic story of Creation in six days, with a complex interweaving of time, space, light, creatures, humanity, and ultimately Sabbath rest. And all of it was pronounced good.

If you could have been there at the Creation, what would you have seen? Prior to the 19th Century, I think most Christians would have thought it took place exactly as Genesis chapter one describes it and would have thought that all of this happened about 6000 years ago.  In the 21st Century, most Mainline Christians do not think this. What happened for this change? That is a complex story, but the central player in that story is the rise of modern science.

Continue reading “Galileo, James Hutton and Charles Darwin: Biblical Conversations with Science”

Lessons of the 20th Century: A Series about Hard-Won Truths

20th Century Lessons

Over the past several weeks, I have been writing that Christianity at the beginning of the 21st century is in some ways profoundly different than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. This is because we have learned from the history of the 20th century. History is a hard teacher. We can talk about our ideal theology all day long, but once we try to live it out in our lives in the real world, we end up learning some hard truths. And yet these hard truths often turn out to be great gifts.

When I say that Christianity is different, I don’t mean that it is a different faith. I believe in the covenant that God made with Israel. I believe that Jesus is God’s Incarnate Son. In his death and resurrection for the sins of the world, he inaugurated the New Creation. I believe in the need for atonement, forgiveness, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Trinity. But I also believe that we have new insights into the Christian faith that our forebears did not have.

Continue reading “Lessons of the 20th Century: A Series about Hard-Won Truths”