The Process of Church Decline

Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith describes a fourfold theological movement: drama, doctrine, doxology, discipleship. Drama is the historical sweep of the Scriptures: creation, fall, promise, incarnation, church, consummation. From this drama arises Christian doctrine, the grammar of the Christian faith. Doctrine rightly grasped produces doxology, our joyful “Amen!” to God’s work. On the basis of the preceding three, we undergo discipleship, dying to sin and living anew in Christ.

This process is not merely for individuals, though. The Church as a whole either embraces or rejects this movement:

Typically, periods of reformation in both individuals and the church corporately arise from rediscovering this sweeping pattern from biblical drama to doctrine to doxology to discipleship. Periods of decline usually work their way in reverse.

First, we begin to question the reliability of the narrative. How can we find our own stories in the unfolding drama of God’s miraculous intervention in history for sinners when our world seems to be governed by nothing more than natural or humanly devised processes and causes? The doctrines may be true, but their historical narrative becomes questionable.

Second, the doctrines come under criticism as people recognize that the doctrines depend on the narrative. No one believes that Jesus rose from the dead because of any universal law of nature, reason, or morality. It is not a deliverance of universal religious experience. Therefore, if Christ was not actually raised bodily on the third day, then there is no basis for speculating about a “doctrine of resurrection.”

Third, worship loses its rationale. We may still express our inner experience or piety (at least for a while), but eventually this leads to burnout because it is self-referential. Our hearts are stirred by truth, not by vacuous exercises.

Finally, we become disciples more of the culture than of Christ. Instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds, we become conformed to the pattern of our non-Christian neighbors (Ro 12:1-2). In a last gasp for religious authenticity, the church tries to defend Judeo-Christian morality (discipleship), but it is a desperate attempt. The battle has already been lost at the earlier stages. Without the creeds, the deeds surrender to vague moralism. (25-6)

Advertisements
Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://sacredpage.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/the-process-of-church-decline/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: