Christians the cause of religious decline

In an article today in the National Post, a university professor lays the blame for religious decline squarely at the feet of Christians:

He said most people assume religious ignorance came about from the secularization of U.S. schools, particularly after the U.S. Supreme Court banned devotional Bible readings and prayer in the 1960s.

But he believes the problem can be traced back 100 years ago to changes in Christianity itself.

“It’s because the centre of religion has moved from the head to the heart,” he said.

“Religion used to be in America a combination of thinking and feeling. And since the rise of evangelicalism in the 19th century it’s gradually … become more about feeling. And so what’s important is loving Jesus rather than knowing what he had to say.”

“You can see this in the way Jesus is depicted,” added Prof. Prothero, whose earlier book is entitled American Jesus.

“He used to be depicted in a Bible story: on the cross, walking on the water or raising Lazarus from the dead,” he said.

“Now he’s depicted like a high-school photo — a head and shoulders shot that’s looking at you and kind of calling you into a relationship with him.”[1]

You can find the full article, ‘Knowledge of religion shallow, commitment deep’ in U.S., at today’s National Post site. It will only be available there for a couple of weeks.

This observation is connected to my ‘outrage’ series. As religion tends towards shallowness, the serious-minded react. The trendy reaction these days is to embrace Calvinism. One danger in joining the trend is a failure to notice that some of the serious are syncretists, embracing the shallow emotional forms of worldliness while holding to the mental seriousness of Reformed dogma.


[1] Charles Lewis, “‘Knowledge of religion shallow, commitment deep’ in U.S.: Religious Nation; Americans know little about Bible, author findsNational Post Published: Saturday, February 09, 2008


  1. Here’s a relevant quote that I just came across:

    The essence of evangelism is not merely to talk about the cross but to proclaim the true doctrine of the cross. There are people who talk about it, but they do so in a purely sentimental manner. They are like the daughters of Jerusalem, whom our Lord Himself rebuked, weeping as they thought of what they called the tragedy of the cross. That is not the right way to view it. There are those who regard the cross as something which exercises a kind of moral influence upon us. They say that its whole purpose is to break down our hard hearts. But that is not the biblical teaching as to its meaning. The purpose of the cross is not to arouse pity in us, neither is it merely some general display of the love of God. Not at all! It is finally understood only in terms of the law. What was happening upon the cross was that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was enduring in His own holy body the penalty prescribed by the holy law of God for the sin of man. The law condemns sin, and the condemnation that it produces is death. … Christ is fulfilling the law on the cross, and unless you interpret the cross, and Christ’s death upon it, in strict terms of the fulfilling of the law you have not the scriptural view of the death upon the cross.

    That was from a Lloyd-Jones book too, so it’s doubly valuable :) (Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, pp192-193).

  2. Hi Duncan

    I tried to reply last night but our server was down when I was on the computer.

    Lloyd-Jones is excellent, as usual. I am afraid we have a lot of professors but not possessors as the saying goes.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3