Churches that are theologically conservative with beliefs based on a literal interpretation of the Bible grow faster than those with a liberal orientation, according to a five-year academic study.
Let me put some points in dialogue with this realisation:
- To begin with, the study is referring to Protestantism (about half of Christianity) – not Roman Catholicism (about the other half). And in Protestantism, denominations and congregations are increasing in number by breaking apart (every belief can find some “literal” Biblical justification!) at a much faster rate than new believers are joining Protestantism to fill them!
- If your aim is increasing numbers in the pew – then Biblical literalism may be your way forward. If your aim is finding and following the Truth – then maybe not so much…
- Biblical literalism (a 6,000-year-old universe, no evolution, a flood which covered the whole earth,…) increasingly disconnects from contemporary scholarship in science, literature, history,…
- Historically, most great scientists and scholars (at least in the West) were Christians. Biblical literalism, rather than standing on the shoulders of these giants, parts company with their methodology and their wedding of reason and religion.
- “The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text.” Biblical literalism regularly does not interpret the Bible in a literal sense.
- Certainly, churches and Christians “with a liberal orientation” often end up with small communities – some/many people prefer any answer to uncertainty. But I believe that a Christianity that respects reason; engages positively with science, history, and literature; lives justly, greenly, and compassionately; provides a welcoming, inclusive, supportive community; and has a worship life that is built on contemplative foundations – such a Christianity not only has a future, but is attractive and attracting. That’s the sort of Christianity I espouse and want to be part of.
What do you think?