One big mistake sociologists make in commenting on the church is not understanding "the invisible church" or "the church triumphant".
Modernists predicted the decline of mainstream denominations and the numbers do represent a decline. Is this the weakening of faith?
It is a much tougher analysis than you might expect.
Yes, there seems to be a dimming of the light of Christ on culture. In a time where a record number of Americans proclaim faith, the evidence seems to be lacking. Why?
First, there is a gradual worldliness that impacts the church. We have lost influence because there is no real distinctiveness. This has had devastating efffects- addiction, broken homes, greed - can be found throughout the visible church.
Second, post modern culture has hurt the visible church through radical individualism. I see post modern thought and life having its biggest influence by encouraging selfishness. We are isolated. We pick and choose what parts of the faith we want and refuse to acknowledge any authority higher than our understanding. We submit to whoever we want, when we want, when we agree with the why. Hebrews encourages us to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together"- but we tend to travel in our own individual bubbles at our own pace- with no restrictor plates.
This does not take Scripture by surprise: 2 Timothy 3 speaks of the last days: "difficult times"-"people will love only themselves and their money"-"boastful and proud"- "scoffing at God"- disobedient to parents"- "ungrateful"-"They will consider nothing sacred"- "unloving"- "unforgiving"-"slander others"- "have no self control"-"cruel"- "no interest in good"- "betray their friends"-"reckless"- "love pleasure more than God"-"act religious but no real power"
BUT IT IS A MISTAKE to think of the Church as powerless and Jesus as defeated.
The Bible indicates that there is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism - it is the invisible, universal Church- it is hidden because it is mixed with the untrue Church. Wheat and Tares together.
So the big choice is to choose sides.
I love what Paul says later in 2 Timothy 3-
"You know what I teach...how I live...and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith and how long I have suffered... everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution... but you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. YOU KNOW THEY ARE TRUE and you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood and they have given you the wisdom to receive salvation that comes by trusting in Jesus. ALL SCRIPTURE is inspired by God and it is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong with our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for evey good thing God wants us to do."
There is faith among the fragmentation of this post modern world- the Sacred Canopy still stands- it was broken, but He rose from the grave!
The Canopy is Jesus.
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