Henry Brinton: Do-it-yourself Christianity

As a Presbyterian pastor, I’m often approached by people who are on a search for truth, and as I attempt to help them, I draw on my religious tradition, sacred Scriptures and theological training. Unfortunately, more and more people are taking their quest directly to the Internet, surfing for religious as well as political insights.

I’m convinced that the Christian faith is becoming more like Wikipedia and less like Encyclopedia Britannica. Instead of time-tested religious insights, people are accepting “what others are saying.”

A generation ago, people turned to trusted authorities such as newspapers and mainline churches to get information. But trust in such institutions has fallen over the past 30 years, eroding the relationship between Americans and a number of traditional sources of trust. A poll called the General Social Survey has asked people whether they have “a great deal of confidence” in social institutions, and their answers reveal a clear decline.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

5 comments on “Henry Brinton: Do-it-yourself Christianity

  1. Katherine says:

    Some of his points are certainly valid. He says that independent congregations cannot be depended upon to maintain and teach traditional Christianity. But of course that is exactly what the erstwhile mainline churches are failing to do.

    In the secular sphere, he suggests the loss of trust in the old institutions may be “Watergate or Enron or clergy sexual misconduct.” Yes, but also the old news sources are failing time and again to present even an attempt at “objective” reporting. As he says, Wikipedia is no better.

    News organizations, corporations, and churches can repair their credibility by being credible.

  2. RoyIII says:

    Good article

  3. DonGander says:

    It is specifically because trusted authorities such as newspapers and mainline churches were, for the most part, failing a generation ago that we have the problems that we have today.

  4. Chris says:

    “Isolated congregations can certainly meet the spiritual needs of individuals, but they cannot do the work of denominations in supporting thousands of missionaries around the world, creating seminaries for the training of clergy, or taking stands for peace, justice, and religious freedom on the national and international levels. In addition, independent congregations cannot be counted on to preserve a historically based understanding of the Christian faith, or to maintain the unity of the church across geographical or cultural boundaries.”

    I think that is right, and I hope that the ACN/FIF is ever mindful of it. You can have a biblically faithful church with a cohesive national structure (see ECUSA, pre 1965).

  5. Jim the Puritan says:

    The “mainline churches,” with a few exceptions, are the last place I would go to seek true Christianity. My own church downplays its connections with PCUSA, although it still uses the word “Presbyterian” in its name.

    I would also question the writer’s assertion that the mainline churches send out more missionaries. I highly doubt that, given the mainline denominations’ present orientation towards advancing homosexuality, promoting “social justice,” promoting unionization of agricultural workers, and advancing the phony U.N. “millenium development goals,” rather than doing real mission and evangelization. Sorry, having protest marchers and boycotts in favor of the “Immokalee Workers” and having paid lobbyists in Washington D.C. advocating spending more taxpayer dollars to support leftwing “peace and justice” or “liberation” causes is not “mission.”

    Most evangelical churches send out substantial numbers of their members as short-term missionaries around the world (they generally pay for everything out of their own pockets). Evangelicals, who generally tithe to start with, give far more money to missions, evangelism, and charity in general than the “mainlines.” There are also large parachurch organizations supported by evangelical churches, such as Compassion International, World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, that are putting far more dollars and people into the mission field than any of the mainlines.

    This is not unusual, but traditional. For example, the independent Park Street Church in Boston (founded in 1809 to counter Unitarianism), has sent out hundreds and hundreds of missionaries in its history. It is still alive and vibrant today, with many youg worshippers. http://www.parkstreet.org/. Ironically, the Park Street Church was formed by former members of the Old South Church, now a UCC bastion “mainline” church which just recently hosted a leftwing anti-semitic bash-Israel conference which is being condemned across the country. (See, e.g., articles at http://ucctruths.blogspot.com/ .)

    In January 2008, my church, in conjunction with three other local churches, one a non-denominational Bible church, one a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church and the last a LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) church, is hosting a 15-week non-denominational introduction to missions for potential part-time and full-time missionaries. http://www.perspectives.org/site/pp.aspx?c=eqLLI0OFKrF&b=2806295

    The mission field is exploding right now, especially in Africa. And the mainlines haven’t a clue what is going on.