The Church's Death Is Greatly Exaggerated
by Alan Allegra

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Reporters confused Mark Twain with cousin James; the actual quotation is, “The report of my illness grew out of his illness, the report of my death was an exaggeration.” The report about Twain’s malady resulted from someone else’s malady.

Can Christianity Survive?, edited exactly 50 years ago by TIME, chronicles and predicts dire changes in the church, looking fearfully ahead to this century.

I could spare you further reading with this accurate quotation from the head of the church, Jesus: “[O]n this rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 6:18). Death has no shortage of weapons aimed at the church. TIME fretted the future of Christ’s church, and many issues facing their world face ours today.

Elson said, “Divided and fragmented, they yet remain the most durable of man’s institutions—together constituting the ‘ever-reforming church’ that in crisis finds within itself the means of rebirth and renewal.” The church has always been under fire — often literally — yet finds in its Lord the ability to grow. The wind of persecution that fans the flames also scatters the seeds of the gospel (Acts 8:1-4).

Bouffard predicted the world’s “Christian” population would drop to 20% in 2000; it is currently around 32% — No signs of death.

Science would doom Christianity. Man would no longer need God to explain or govern life. The church would no longer be in touch with real life. “God would have to go if ever man was to be free to shape and improve his destiny” (Elston). Two world wars arrested that philosophy, and the church lives on.

Redefining God began when the serpent portrayed God as an egomaniacal liar (Genesis 3). The Israelites turned Him into a golden calf (Exodus 32:4). Syrians tried to localize the omnipresent God (1 Kings 20:28). Idolaters tried to blind the eyes of the all-seeing God: “The Lord does not see us” (Ezekiel 8:12). Christ is redefined — some say there is no difference between Christians who believe Christ is God and those who believe he was just a great man — it’s more important to live by his teachings. However, Jesus, who knows best, said to his Father, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

Nietzsche’s weapon was his “God is dead” philosophy; then came the “God never existed” philosophy. Nietzsche’s dead, and Jesus says, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen” (Revelation 1:18).

In 1968, “Christians” were “searching, questioning, and critical — willing to challenge every doctrine and institution of the church.” In today’s Postmodern church, doctrine is unimportant, and old ways need to change because . . . they need to change. Retool ancient music, rip your jeans, reschedule services, redecorate buildings, reduce the sermon, redact the Bible.

Survive? states, “In the 21st century, liturgies may be celebrated . . . in homes or places of work, and rarely on the day of the Lord . . . the word of the Lord will be expressed by dialogue rather than monologue; instead of sermons, there will be study-group discussions.” The church will open up to humanism and secular philosophy and learn from non-Christian faiths and yield to unbelieving science when there is conflict. Wow.

Technology promises to connect the whole world. Humanity seeks meaning, value, fulfillment, in psychoanalysis, politics, and economics, because Facebook hasn’t met the need. Fear of the future still lives, fueled by nuclear weapons and instant news. Gods of success, power, and progress seem impotent.

Like James’s death was imputed to Mark, God’s “death” was imputed by someone else: us. Because mankind is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), we impute our deadness to “God, who gives life to the dead” (Romans 4:17).

Francis Schaeffer’s the God who is there, written the same year, shows how Christianity answers humanity’s eternal search — because of “the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Christianity has survived!

Alan is Content Coordinator for Lifestyles Over 50 (Thrive Media) and contributor to the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also an adult Sunday school teacher and Bible study leader. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology, and being a senior citizen!

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