Changing Faith

Research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently came out on the changing landscape of faith in America. I wasn’t surprised at all to see how many people reported changing their faith or having a personal belief system without any real loyalty to a denomination or systematic theology.

Being spiritual seems to be in vogue while being a doctrinal purest is clearly not something that appeals to Americans under 50. I believe this shows the impact of post modernism as well as the failure by institutional Christianity to encounter culture and people where they live.

Pew’s research showed a fluid and diverse religious framework in America.  The NY Times reported that the group with the largest gain was people without an affiliation. According to the Times, “More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest ‘religious group.'”

The number of people who declare themselves as unaffiliated increase as people age. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male (1 in 5 men fit this category). This is the demographic that does not fit into most churches and will struggle unless churches learn how to encounter them where they live.Higher levels of unaffiliated Americans does not mean people are any less religious in the past. It is just that they look at faith as a more personal thing with less allegiance to a specific church or doctrine. Interestingly, many of the unaffiliated are not atheists or agnostics. They just don’t like being put in any particular religious box. All of these changes coincide with the rise of house churches as well as non-traditional Christian fellowships.  I believe all of this sets the stage for dilution of traditional doctrine. New ways to be Christian will likely emerge. Views that were once thought irreconcilable may come closer together in the court of public opinion. That doesn’t necessarily change truth. But it may altar our understanding of it. I foresee the development of more mixtures of Christian thought with other worldviews and concepts. The buffet mentality toward Christian faith may just be taking off. This comes with pluses and minuses.

On the plus side, more people may actually take ownership of their faith and let it change how they live. On the downside, they may throw out some things that are essential or develop worldviews that blur necessary distinctions. Losing what makes one faith unique compared to another is kind of like having a painting with only one color.

2 responses to “Changing Faith

  1. I think you are already seeing this in some ways with the Emergent Village.

  2. I agree that some of the Emergent crowd carries things too far. But their views are not that different than what is taught at many seminaries around the country. The “mainline” seminaries dress it up in fancy language. But it all still boils down to individual religion based on personal beliefs that provides a level of freedom not followed by Americans one or two generations ago.

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