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Scotland's religious demise

Discussion in 'The Church Forum' started by OzSpen, Apr 6, 2016.

  1. OzSpen

    OzSpen Well-Known Member

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    Religion News Service has reported this week on a survey recently released on the state of religion in the land of Reformer, John Knox - Scotland. See: 'The majority of people in Scotland have no religion'.

    Before the release of this survey and without my knowledge of its content, a couple weeks ago I spoke with a Scotsman (still with a heavy accent) who attends my church and he spoke of the decline in the Church of Scotland (CoS). He said a person in leadership in that church told him that if William Barclay were alive today he would be regarded as a 'moderate' in the CoS. The CoS is the State church of Scotland.

    According to this survey, attendance at the CoS has declined to 20% of Scotland. What is contributing to a decline of this kind in the denomination?

    What were some of William Barclay's unorthodox doctrines (he died in 1978)? See 'The enigmatic William Barclay' (Christian Courier). He called himself a 'liberal evangelical', but he did not believe in the virgin birth nor hell as a place of torment. He was a universalist, i.e. all people will be saved.

    If a leader of the CoS regards Barclay as a 'moderate' compared with the teaching in the CoS today, have a guess what could be contributing to the demise of the CoS?

    Oz
     
  2. StanJ

    StanJ Lifelong student of God's Word.

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    Obviously State churches don't work very well. First the CoE, now the CoS. Is there a CoW?
     
  3. OzSpen

    OzSpen Well-Known Member

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    Stan,

    I don't think the issue is State Churches but the doctrines of any church. The CoE, as with the United Church of Canada, Uniting Church in Australia when they drift from and defy biblical integrity in relation to the authority of Scripture and the Gospel will inevitably cause that denomination to enter free fall.

    Look what happened with the Episcopal Diocese of Newark NJ when extremely liberal, John Shelby Spong, was bishop. It lost over 40% of its members during his 24-year bishopric. See: 'An evening with Bishop John Shelby Spong'. In fact, over the last 40 years, this article states that the Episcopalian Church USA has lost about 40% of its people.

    And it's not a State Church. The issue gets down to its theology. Dump the centrality of an authoritative Scripture and core Gospel requirements and the people leave in droves. Of course, many of these churches wrap their agenda in modernist or postmodernist worldviews and social perspectives.

    Luke Timothy Johnson, a scholar of NT & Christian origins, states that “having a bishop [Spong] with opinions like these is a bit like hiring a plumber who wants to ‘rethink pipes.’ Spong imagines that he has escaped his own fundamentalist past, but he has not. He remains defined by the literalism he so doggedly battles” (The Real Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996:33).

    Is your CoW meant to be Church of the West or Church in Wales? The Church in Wales is an Anglican Church while the Church of Scotland is a Presbyterian Church.

    Oz
     
  4. StanJ

    StanJ Lifelong student of God's Word.

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    I was going to say they've gone the way of the United Church in Canada. Except that in Canada we don't have a state Church. But yes I agree with your assessment.
    Yes I did mean Church of Wales and I had to laugh when I wrote it and it came up as cow! :D
     
  5. HammerStone

    HammerStone Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    Well, state churches will be subjected to increased pressure to conform to liberal (in the classical, more universal political sense) ideals and values over and above a church that is not tied to political entities. There may be some exceptions in the developing world or homogeneous nations that almost prove the rule, but all state churches have liberalized significantly to my knowledge. Even when taking the ECUSA example, this church was born of the CoE in colonial America and held many characteristics of being a state church. The ECUSA may not have been the de jure state religion, but it certainly was the de facto state religion, an example perhaps best characterized by this chart of Presidential religious affiliations:http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/12/almost-all-u-s-presidents-have-been-christians/

    The great problem of Christian liberalism in the theological sense is that it becomes increasingly difficult to point to what the liberal church does better than other civic organizations or individual charity work. While early social gospel reforms were not in of themselves a bad thing, the continued push of emphasis of love and service over and above or even without the gospel sent the gyre spinning further and further out in centrifugal force. Pretty soon love becomes the good feelings I get when helping someone versus a fuller understanding of God is love and what that means when you must reconcile the OT narratives with the NT ones.

    That said, the Conservative churches are doing the same here, albeit at a somewhat slower rate here in the US. I think many of these churches have done much of the same in quieter, slower, and often more subtle ways. And, for the record, I don't think it's just about musical styles or what pants your pastor wears. It's every bit as much what authority we actually give to the Bible in all matters. The church can survive bad interpretation if the Apostles are to be any example for us, but it simply will cease to exist for someone who has no regard for what it says, or treats it as a book of pithy sayings or generally nice things.

    I have a buddy who visits Scotland to help churches there and his reports were astounding what people would say on the ground. He termed it as an almost gamification of life for many of the younger souls there. When religion becomes Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, that's what happens. Michael Horton has a great article on this as well: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=917It's called the "Rise of the Nones" in the US, but we're just a step behind our European brethren and the wall that I thought was here is much more dilapidated that I had feared. The petards have gone off culturally and legally in the past few years, and thereby undermined much of the foundation already.

    I do believe in a God who could reverse this in a moment or a day. That said, we must learn from our mistakes and look to Him.
     
  6. OzSpen

    OzSpen Well-Known Member

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    Hammerstone,

    I'm not sure all is as bleak as you picture for the State Church in the UK. See, Conservative Evangelicals on the Rise in the Church of England. This article begins:
    I agree that the modernist and postmodernist, liberal churches have turned to extensive social service works where it is difficult to tell the difference between them and their secular counterparts. However, Australia's social service system would be in a mess without both of them operating. I was once employed as a counselling manager with one such organisation. However, while some evangelicals are involved in this ministry, it's not as noticeable a presence as with the liberals here in Australia. Down the road from where I live, the cult, the Christadelphians (doctrines parallel with the JWs), operate a retirement village, Maranatha Aged Care.

    However, as I preach my way through the Book of James, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the churches need to be involved in meeting human need. I preach on James 2:14-19 on 17 April.

    According to Eph 2:10 and James 2:14-26, Christians are created to do good works. We will be judged by our works (see Matt 25:31-46; John 5:28-29).

    You provided that excellent article by Michael Horton, Are churches secularizing America? Great exposure and exhortation. I was a guest at one such Baptist church last Sunday.

    See also the article by Mike Gilbart-Smith, Is Christianity in Britain in Terminal Decline?

    Oz
     
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