X Close

Has the Church stopped working? Religion is more than just a business model

In the name of Father.(Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty)

In the name of Father.(Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty)


August 31, 2023   4 mins

Ever since the Enlightenment — in fact, ever since the ancient philosophers complained about the young and their lack of morals — religion has feared for its future. So the front page of The Times yesterday was hardly a scoop.

“Britain isn’t a Christian country now, say clergy,” read the splash — to the surprise of absolutely no one. It’s hard to think of a story that comes around with such regularity and which is so singularly unchanged, apart from maybe the Easter one. But I’m not packing up my surplice. For accompanying that intimation of Church mortality is the human longing for something beyond oneself that nibbles away at the soul. And this is the great paradox of religion: while dying out, it also has endless capacity for reinvention. Take the re-emergence of Hasidism after its near extinction during the Holocaust, or the rise of Christianity in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The tide was going out on religion back in 1867, when Matthew Arnold wrote: “The sea of faith was once, too, at the full … But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.” But tides ebb and flow. As that wise old atheistic cynic Philip Larkin put it, people will always surprise themselves with their yearning for something “more serious”, seeking it in “a serious house on serious earth” — which is how he describes the church.

What is new in The Times‘s “story”, however, is the particularly high level of pessimism among my colleagues. Declining numbers, churches closing, exhaustion at trying to hold things together… But I greet that “news” with something of a shrug. The tide comes in, the tide goes out. Because, if it is true that there is a God, then none of this really matters at all. Unpopularity doesn’t make the creeds false just as (another huge mistake) popularity doesn’t make them true.

But a nervous church leadership doesn’t like the ebb to happen on their watch. And so, spooked by these dismal stories of decline, they seek a very secular model of success. Borrowing their thinking from management consultants trying to revive ailing companies like Wilko and Pizza Hut, the leadership focuses on what the customer wants, sets sales targets, closes down underused outlets, and re-energises the sales team for greater, more frenetic activity. But the more we run around like headless chickens, the more desperate, and less attractive we look. Inevitably, the job becomes impossible and the workers in the vineyard become drained of motivation. As The Times reveals, a third of clergy have considered quitting in the past five years. This, then, is what’s new about the Church of England’s current death spiral. “All of the church’s problems stem from the clergy’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” as Pascal almost wrote.

The latest, and most ridiculous of these corporate reinventions of the Church is the idea that the clergy no longer has to work on Sundays – because other people are busy on that day. One deanery in Cornwall will have 23 churches, and only two full-time clergy. One of these “will work primarily in the community, looking for exciting opportunities to grow churches for people who have never been to church,” the area dean bubbled enthusiastically. He went on: “I’ve heard it has come as a bit of a shock that she won’t be working regularly on Sunday mornings.” But this is just another example of the “exciting opportunities” that await us as the Church is dismantled from within by those who are supposed to be protecting it.

A couple of years ago, the parish clergy were notoriously described as “limiting factors” by one of the architects of this new thinking, who imaged a church without its buildings, without paid clergy or their expensive theological training. And, unfortunately, this kind of nonsense comes from the very top. Perhaps that’s why so many of us want to quit.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about this busily secular model of religious success is how clumsy the church is at delivering it. As the business model would have it: if Sunday morning church is being out-competed for children’s attention — by Sunday morning football or cricket — then we need to become more entertaining to bring in the punters. We need fun church, messy church, relaxed modern church, chino-wearing cappuccino church — anything but serious church. So, this summer, Peterborough Cathedral has had a Star Wars theme, with Darth Vader wandering up and down the nave and Rowan Williams leading “‘I am your Father’ — Alternative Worship”. Larkins like me would not pause even to take off our cycle clips. O Lord, save us from entertaining church.

Nor will the Church be rescued by more liberal values. The Times states that the majority of us want same-sex blessings and would be happy with a female Archbishop of Canterbury. I, too, am enthusiastic about both of these things, as it happens. But such changes won’t reverse our decline. We are living through a period of unprecedented scepticism and indifference about the core message of the church: that God exists, that God is love, and that he came among us to save a broken humanity from its self-destructive sinfulness.

As the theologians Andrew Root and Blair Bertrand write in their latest book, When the Church Stops Working: “Your church is sick. But that isn’t the worst part of it. We believe that someone has misdiagnosed it. The treatment plan commonly prescribed — effective innovation — will only cause your church to remain sick… The problem is not decline. The problem is that the secular age has infected it.”

But the job of the clergy is to hold out in difficult times. To say their prayers, to celebrate the sacraments, to look after their parish. Faithfulness to this, rather than frenetic and nervous reinvention, is the order of the day.

The Church authority must stop being so pathetically needy and quit chasing around after congregations as if they justify what it is that we do. We have something life-changing and wonderful to offer. More precious than gold. We have to stop selling it cheap just for a temporary moment of appreciation. “Do less, and know God better” is Andrew Root’s advice to clergy. And the funny thing is, when we do that, the tide often turns.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

giles_fraser

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

117 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago

“We are living through a period of unprecedented scepticism and indifference about the core message of the church: that God exists, that God is love, and that he came among us to save a broken humanity from its self-destructive sinfulness.”
I am always intrigued by Fraser’s articles… I wonder, how can he so often use words I agree with, while coming to conclusions and taking actions I disagree with? It says something profound and interesting about theological language and the religious impulse.
In this case, he’s exactly right that preaching the Gospel – i.e., that humanity’s primordial brokenness can only be fixed through the divine intervention of Christ – is the essential task of the church. It converts skeptics, sustains believers, and changes communities.
But notice this bit… “to save a broken humanity from its self-destructive sinfulness.” Ah – here’s the rub. He and I probably have very different views about what “self-destructive sinfulness” consists of. For all people, in all times, it has largely boiled down to those basic elements of human desire… sex, money, power, etc. So here’s where the nitty-gritty details become so important. What exactly am I supposed to feel bad about?
Because a person will feel the need to “get right with God” in direct proportion to how much he feels that he’s not right with God. And if people believe that their sin consists in… insufficient action on climate change, inadequate apology for the racism of their forebears, meager contrition for social conditions they played little role in creating… then of course they feel that on the whole they are pretty right with God.
If the sin you preach against mimics the half-hearted social tut-tutting of the world around you, then you will reach no one. No, the first step to reinvigorating the Church is to reinvigorate its belief that it has Good News to heal the broken… and that means to reinvigorate its belief that it is preaching something different than people already get anyhow on the evening news. If your Good News sounds like the editorial page of the newspaper, no one will turn into the church when they walk past. They’ll just keep patting themselves on the back and sending a check periodically to a charity somewhere.
So I wonder… Vicar, what sin do you preach against that the Guardian does not also preach against?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

This was a brilliant comment, KS. The messaging coming from the CoE is pretty indistinguishable from a Guardian editorial.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I have seen God and She is Polly Toynbee.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

CisGod anyone?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

These days it is probably preferable to be seen entering a brothel rather than a church

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

Depends on the friends you hang with, innit?

Alison R Tyler
Alison R Tyler
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

My preaching is nothing like the Guardian nor any of its editorials. It does require radically different and changed attitudes and has never been popular or trendy, but I persevere.

Claire D
Claire D
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Excellent comment.
It seems to me that Marxism has succeeded in overwhelming Christianity in Britain with it’s similar visions : equality; money evenly distributed amongst all; explanations for crime and wrongdoing that make criminals the innocent victims of a society not equal or kind enough (unless you are rich in which case there is no excuse).
It is as if the New Testament has been offered on a plate, but with no personal responsibilities required providing you pay lip service to the current orthodoxies. The idea of Original Sin, or any sin, is anathema in our secular liberal world. No wonder Marxism/Neo-Marxism is so tempting. How clever Satan is.
Giles Fraser has spoken before about his “inner Marxist”, perhaps that explains the dissonance between his words and his conclusions, in the final instance his “inner Marxist” sometimes wins the day.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

Certainly there is original sin. You can never be quite forgiven for being white and male.

Try raising doubts about LGBTQ and see how long you’re on the Naughty Step for then.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I don’t think the Vicar is aware of Romans 1:24-28.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Yeah, you keep saying that.

Behavioral tic ?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

If you call a tic the honest truth, your place is the Unitarian Church where people babble on endlessly about this and that.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

It is one of the dishes the priest passed on in the cafeteria where he sups.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

Liberation Theology that originated in South America is the fusion between Marxism and Christianity. You can figure out which one is primary. They take a unique view of the “Preferential Option for the Poor” holding the poor as a sacred people that can be used as a symbol for revolutionary struggle.

I estimate half of western Christian churches are captured at this point. I’m not sure it’s all that uncommon historically. You can see it all throughout the Byzantine Empire and the Western Church. One of the reasons that America detached Church and State was to decentralize and prevent capture by a magisterial Orthodoxy. So while America has Woke churches, it’s all pretty easy to identify and escape. I’m not sure that’s the case in larger institutions.

I know there are plenty of good bishops in the Anglican church just like there are plenty of good Priests in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches but the institutions are especially prone to capture. All these Gnostic heresies need is a stable host to infiltrate.

Last edited 8 months ago by T Bone
Claire D
Claire D
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Good point.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

When Liberation Theology entered the Latin American Catholic Church and they started going on about the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’, the Poor started heading to the Pentecostal churches in response.

David Giles
David Giles
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

And the Catholic Church in Latin America can’t understand why. Meanwhile European Catholics aren’t even aware it’s happening, so.much do they really believe in a genuine preferential option for the poo..

Andrew D
Andrew D
8 months ago
Reply to  David Giles

Need to finish that sentence?

Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

“It is as if the New Testament has been offered on a plate, but with no personal responsibilities required providing you pay lip service to the current orthodoxies.” That, my dear, is American Christianity to a “T”. Jump on the John 3:16 bandwagon and you can behave however you want…touting that ultimately you are imperfect…but you owe no apologies anywhere.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

And indeed the fashionable ‘sins’ you list that lead them to ‘feel that on the whole they are pretty right with God’ constitute the sin of pride. The essence of Christianity is that the broken aren’t the other, they’re us, they’re me. Converts have come face to face with their own brokenness and know it’s part of being human. It shreds pride and self-righteousness and knocks them back whenever they inevitably re-surface.

Last edited 8 months ago by Judy Englander
Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Indeed, an excellent comment. From my own observations and experience, the main problem with the CofE style of Christianity is its modern clergy, starting right at the top and extending all the way down. Modern CofE clergy seem to be overcome with the need to justify themselves intellectually, and to demonstrate their immense intelligence. But the acquisition of doctorates and the like seems to come at the expense of Faith. And however you slice it, the Bible, and the story of creation and so on do not stand up to rigorous scientific examination. All the congregation wants is something to live by, that can be sustained by faith, hope, belief or whatever you want to call it. From Archbishops to local Vicars, if you intellectualise the Church to the point where you can no longer believe it yourself, then you no longer deserve to have a flock to lead and to cherish…

Claire D
Claire D
8 months ago

I just read this the other day,
“We seek a rational explanation, but the highest reason is to trust God’s will and word.”
Herbert de Losinga c.1090

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

So what? What does he (whoever he is) think he knows that you, or I, don’t?

I do wish people would stop using quotes and biblical references, stand on their own two feet and make their own arguments

Claire D
Claire D
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I think if you reread Stephen Barnard’s comment then mine, you should be able to understand why the quote is apposite.

I’m sorry you don’t appreciate it but some other people might.

Herbert de Losinga was the first Bishop of Norwich after the Norman Conquest, he instigated and oversaw the building of Norwich Cathedral. I like the quote because it sounds modern but was written nearly a thousand years ago, and because I think it is true.

Last edited 8 months ago by Claire D
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The proud atheist steps forward. He has read many books and articles and thirsts for the opportunity to show you how much he knows.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
8 months ago

What you say is true, Stephen, but I’d replace the word “intellectualize” with “secularize.” To say that would be accurate but would still leave something vital unsaid, because even truly religious ideas (as distinct from secular ones) are not synonymous with religion. I address the following comment, however, not only to you.
What Fraser lacks (along with so many of his fellow clerics in our time, including the ones who so disappoint him) is an adequate phenomenology of religion. He seems to assume that religion is entirely about ideas (a.k.a. beliefs, doctrines, creeds and so on). I suggest that the primary feature of religion, both historically and developmentally, is intimacy with the ineffable (which is why words are so inadequate): the experience of holiness (a.k.a. the sacred), the sense of wonder.
The myths, rituals, theologies, moral philosophies and institutions–which often dominate organized religions–are important but secondary phenomena. Alone, they have no potency, let alone durability, except in purely cognitive terms–which are easily replaced by secular equivalents.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I agree with your wider point, but from previous articles by Giles i think you might be doing him an injustice. At the same time, it appears he’s lost his nerve, which is what comes across in his more recent contributions. As you say, some of our humanity remains beyond words, and i suspect always will do.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Janet G
Janet G
8 months ago

“the Bible, and the story of creation and so on do not stand up to rigorous scientific examination. ” Of course they don’t because they were not written as scientific theses.

Ian Cory
Ian Cory
8 months ago

“And however you slice it, the Bible, and the story of creation and so on do not stand up to rigorous scientific examination.”
There are eminent scientists who disagree with you. You might perhaps find this interesting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXexaVsvhCM

Richard Maslen
Richard Maslen
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

The trouble is that the CofE insists on ‘modernising’ a gospel, institution, and people/parishes that do not want to be ‘modernised’. If you slash the number of parish priests and at the same time allow trendy/lazy vicars (not the majority) to cut more than half the services, including cherished church highlights, then the congregations will plummet. If you provide proper pastoral care, by loving priests prepared to put their people’s welfare ahead of their own if need be, and regular well prepared services every Sunday, at the same time, the congregations will recover, in time. The Church must serve the people, and the people will serve the Church if it keeps a faith they understand, preaches a gospel they can grasp, and does not expect them to come every Sunday to try to understand a liturgy they do not remember and dislike, led by ‘one of them’ in jeans and a tee-shirt.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Superb comment. The CofE is now the Guardian at prayer and of course the Guardian does not, on the whole, pray at all, and where it does it’s mostly 5 times a day…

Last edited 8 months ago by Martin Smith
Janet G
Janet G
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

and the Guardian is beholden to those who fund it, including gender ideologists and Bill Gates.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

To get married in our village church I had to attend six months of religious workship. Most of it was ok but I just couldn’t get over the sin bit. A beautiful baby born of sin from day one, needed the church to continue a decent life… Zzzzz! Simply one mans power over another. The day the church hand over it’s huge wealth to take people out of poverty, is the day I consider converting… once they clean up the language a bit.

Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

Bingo. America is horrid right now.
John 3:16 rules and offers salvation without needing a conscience on earth at all.

Last edited 8 months ago by Marissa M
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

The answer is to start your own religion. With luck it might someday grow into a cult.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Exactly right. Liberal Christianity has been replaced by another religion, “Wokism”. It doesn’t teach anything different, so why would people stick to it? The only Christianity that will survive is the that teaches the hard truths about our universal sinfulness and the need of Christ for salvation. A Christian Church that doesn’t teach the Four Last Things (death, judgement, Heaven, and Hell) isn’t fit for purpose.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

There have been times in history when Marxism has actually turned into a real religion or a cult. Even once in London, I think. The results were not good.

Jeremy Eves
Jeremy Eves
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Such a succinct and insightful comment, Thank you

John Harvey
John Harvey
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Beautifully done!

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

“The Times states that the majority of us want same-sex blessings and would be happy with a female Archbishop of Canterbury. I, too, am enthusiastic about both of these things, as it happens.”
From an article by a compromiser about the pathetic state of the church because of a bunch of compromisers. 

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Neither of these things has worked out well for any church that embraced them.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

My question is when will the CoE admit devil worshippers either in an attempt to burnish its DEI credentials or boast falling numbers?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago

Don’t give them ideas!

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

He apparently choses to ignore Romans 1:24-28.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
8 months ago

I have to apologise because I will say the same thing about the Church today as I did about the NHS yesterday.
It seems to me that the Church sees itself more about keeping the staff happy than it does about looking after the customers.
Older people turn to religion because they begin to appreciate their own mortality (compare with soldiers turning to religion during battles). In our local church, as numbers have dwindled, the new vicar has decided that we need to get more young people involved. So one day she brought a guitar into the service (guitar = young??) and sang a couple of songs. The wardens quickly told her to stop. Then she decided to get rid of hymn books and have screens in the aisles. Unfortunately, the older congregation can’t see the screens properly so the hymnbooks had to be retrieved from the rubbish – after spending the money on the screens.
Then there is the Bishop, who only speaks in public when he has something to say about the evil people in the Conservative party. He was sent on (long) sick leave. Then there is the Archbishop of Canterbury who sees himself as the next PM.
Why is the Church in existence now? As all these new ideas are tried as an attempt to boost congregations, the Catholic churches are more popular than ever, as are the various chapels.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
8 months ago

“British Christians no longer attend the Church of England” would be a more accurate headline. The chapel next door to me in London, which is run by a US evangelical organisation, is packed every Sunday and appears to be growing.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

This was the first thing that occured to me. The Evangelicals down the road from where I work in South London have bought and renovated an old C of E church and it is full of worshippers. They are innovative in terms of the WAY they worship, but their faith is anything but – it is rooted in scripture and biblical tradition.

Julie Curwin
Julie Curwin
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

That is exactly what is needed. We don’t necessarily have to cling to the old hymns and “ways of worship”, but we do need to keep God at the centre of things. This is what the evangelicals GET– while Anglican priests seem to be almost embarrassed by the whole “God” thing.

Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Curwin

The problem with the Evangelicals, especially in the US, is there is no conscience involved, even on a personal level.John 3:16, just believe and don’t worry about how you treat others. They desperately want a return to the 1950’s, which on some level is appealing…but overall? No recognition of other faiths and beliefs and this persistent desire to CONVERT.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Marissa M

Not all Evangelicals are alike. John 3:16 is a good summary, but ‘believe’ does not mean merely ‘mentally agree with Jesus’ – it means to do what he says. That is the big problem with that particular branch of American Christianity – all talk no action, as you say.

As for a need to convert, well that’s baked into the Christian cake, so to speak. If Jesus really is who he says he is, then a universal call to Christian discipleship is totally non-negotiable.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
8 months ago

“… something beyond oneself that nibbles away at the soul.” I think Giles is closer here than when referencing sin.

“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all,” was the Catholic theogian, Karl Rahner’s, way of putting it.

Rustan Smart
Rustan Smart
8 months ago

Modernity is exhausting, and its logic unbounded. Modern thought seeks to permeate every facet of life, and refuses to permit the existence of non-modern spaces.
For the individual, this is exhausting. We are forced to comply and keep up to date with moral, technological, and demographic developments which all but twenty years ago were wholly alien to us.
In this context, the value the church has to offer in the modern age is to be a place of rest, a setting which intentionally is un-modern in the sense that it is timeless. More than ever before, people are in need of being anchored to something which precedes them, and outlasts them. It is no surprise therefore that modern converts to the church flock to Catholicism, with all its bells and whistles, rather than to the CofE. What possibly is the point of going to church to hear about how woke Jesus would have been should he have been born in our current predicament.

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

Because, if it is true that there is a God, then none of this really matters at all.

But if more and more people find the idea of God unnecessary, or perhaps that the idea of organised religion rests too heavily on human failings, then they will turn away.
The ‘God is Love’ crowd have inadvertently dropped the ‘God is eternal punishment for sinners’ theme. They have undermined their own Unique Selling Point, their branding.

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
8 months ago

Of all the things that don’t lend themselves to modernisation, surely religion should be one of the most intransigent. Surely the church either believes this stuff or it doesn’t?

Joe Holder
Joe Holder
8 months ago

I agree, keep it serious and don’t worry about the numbers. The Catholics offer Saturday evening as well as two on Sunday mornings and one on Sunday evening. This flexibility is great and makes it possible to attend at least once a week. The Catholic church doors are normally open (unlocked) during the day too so you can go in and pray should you feel the need. Too many C of E churches are shut up, limited services or given over to commerce during the week. The Catholics don’t allow remarried people to take communion hence I am now attending a C of E church and hoping to get more involved there.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Joe Holder

If I was in charge I would make every service a Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion (with the 10 commandments at the start) and use the KJV for the Gospel and Epistle. And I would build great choirs (which is also a good way to involve the local community). Obviously I would invest in more parish priests (the £100M earmarked for “reparations” would make a decent start.
The more holy, the more serious, the better.
And I would ensure that all C of E schools stopped teaching woke nonsense – in fact I would develop sex education courses which emphasised the importance of marriage and the problems of leaving it too late (involuntary childlessness) and make sure they were followed at all schools.

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I mostly agree, but wouldn’t go with KJV because its language is, sadly perhaps, a barrier to communication. Also, it has some textual limitations–but that rarely becomes an issue in a church service.

Susie Bell
Susie Bell
8 months ago

There is a lot to complain about: single clergy with numerous churches to look after, the dreadful parish share hanging like a sword of Damocles above the heads of PCCs while we battle the lack of funds for leaking roofs, soaring heating bills, insurance, patching up, raising money for the community etc etc……. And still the management speak goes on, costly diocesan appointments are made to measure us and set us targets. This is rather wearing for the volunteers who keep the churches going. Where we wonder are the addresses of the Archbishops? Where are the press releases about love and morality? Why do the management engage in politics, contributing to the chaos of the World? Where is the invitation to come and rest and take comfort in His places and be free of the issues of the day? People would like to hear the scriptures and take solace from them. As a Verger I know how many people want to be laid to rest in consecrated ground; and yet our church yards are full and the church does not provide an alternative by making new Christian burial grounds. Some council cemeteries I know of specifically forbid any reference or symbols of faith. We need far fewer bishops and their attendant staffs, more coal face clergy and less pickpocketing by the management.
The Church can and does offer great solace in difficult times for many people. It offers love and friendship to very many in the community, let’s talk about that, not social justice and environmentalism, people can reach their own conclusions on those issues. Our priority as a Church should be teaching the Word, spreading the good news, arming people with the back up to do the right thing. If no one knows any more what the ‘right thing’ is why would they care about yet another eye catching initiative from the Bishops house?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

Reckon Christianity has more chance of re-inventing itself than the other candidates have a chance of picking up the disaffected.

Hinduism :
you can’t convert. That’s why Hindus start so many cults in the West.

From the silly – Hare Krishna, to the creepy – School of Economic Science, to the full-on-crazy-8-bonkers – Rajneesh / Orange People. These cause it severe reputational problems.

Judaism :
you can convert, but they don’t particularly want you.

Islam :
is easy & yeah they want you, but comes with smelly baggage – violence, terrorism, misogyny, and is currently in upheaval internally in the West.

The Koran is central to Islam in a particular way that the Bible isn’t for Christianity.

And it has failed the historicity examination that Christianity passed – meaning its compelling selling point – the idea of it being the uncreated ‘literal word of God’ – is now in retreat even among Muslims as no less than 30 versions have been discovered with different words & often radically different meanings – think they call it ‘the Qira’at problem.’

Even the existence of Muhammad himself is contested, at the same time as moderate atheism is championing Jesus’ historical existence in their own battle with the whackjob ‘Jesus Mythicist’ atheist faction.

We live in very weird religious / anti-religious times.

Western Buddhism :
I’d give a shot as about the only other contender.

But in the West it seems to have the same issues of sexually predatory clergy as Christianity.

And many Westerners have East Asian friends & partners, and travel to the Far East. They know Western Buddhism simply isn’t the real deal.

There’s various New Age options and other smaller faiths that might seem attractive, Allawites, Sikhs, but they are too ‘fringe’, IMHO.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Jim Bocho
Jim Bocho
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Christianity has passed no historicity examinations. Philosophical Taoism & Zen Buddhism have the best chance of filling the gap left by the death of Christianity. The problem is they can’t provide the infantile comforting myths that Christianity used to and that some people so desperately need.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Bocho

LOL.

It certainly has.

Half of atheism is now so busy arguing that Jesus physically lived, with the other half of atheism, and winning that argument, that Christians need not bother themselves with the topic at all.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Denis Stone
Denis Stone
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Bocho

I hear Mark Twain in the background: “The reports of my death…”.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Bocho

What infantile comforting myths?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

He doesn’t understand the historicity stuff, so I wouldn’t bet on your getting an answer to that part of his comment either,

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

I mean….I consider myself a Christian but…Virgin Birth?

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Bocho

“The death of Christianity”? Hah. Hardly.
“According to various scholars and sources Pentecostalism – a Protestant Christian movement – is the fastest growing religion in the world, this growth is primarily due to religious conversion. According to Pulitzer Center 35,000 people become Pentecostal or “Born again” every day.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_religion

More like the death of the West, without Christ.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

That darn Wikipedia! Pentecostal ≠ ‘born again’
The former is a sub-set of Christians who place significant emphasis on ‘signs and wonders’. The latter is a sub-set of Christians who have adopted Christ’s description of being born a second time to describe the profundity of their conversion experience. Most Pentecostals would say they are ‘born again,’ but most ‘born again’ Christians are not Pentecostals.

Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I don’t know what your argument is with her statement.
Pentecostalism and Evangelicals are both fundamentalist religions. Evangelicals just aren’t speaking in tongues these days. And….they both use the term “born again”.
And she’s right, as is Wikipedia this time, Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religion in the world. Remember, the West is not the only part of the world desperate for conversion of some sort. Western Evangelicals are not the only born-agains in the game.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I looked into this a while ago and the ‘born again’ line is contentious at best, with the best sense being that it doesn’t mean ‘born again’ at all, but ‘born from above’, since ‘from above’ or ‘from the top’ is what the Greek word means, in all the other places in the text that it is used.

The ‘from above’ might seem to imply the event of Pentecost in the upper room, but the word Pentekoste was used in the early church to refer to Moses receiving the law on Mt Sinai fifty days after Passover.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Bocho

Happy to be infant of Christ.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Fraser: “And this is the great paradox of religion: while dying out, it also has endless capacity for reinvention.”

“Religion”? Not usually, no. Zoroastrianism is not making a comeback. The cult of Molech is dead forever, praise heaven.

Jesus? Ever heard of him, Fr. Fraser? No mention of his name here.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

Molech? The Patron deity of very very late Abortions? His religion seems to be thriving.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Tumblr”; for many gender identities had fallen unto him.

31 They begged him not to order them to go back to the Gender Studies Department.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the genders begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them validation.

33 Then the 276 genders came out of the cisman and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down through the non-binary safe space into the lake and was drowned.

Amen.

Luke 8:30-33

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago

Rowan Williams leading “‘I am your Father’ — Alternative Worship”. 

I dropped my coffee cup when I read that, but no, it’s not him.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Pathetic, Rowan Williams. A blasphemous farce.

John Solomon
John Solomon
8 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

You spelled ‘arse’ incorrectly.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
8 months ago

Just another institution captured and destroyed by the Left. It’s in the final stages of celebrating its own self-extinction. (Note: This doesn’t mean that religion is dying, just the empty shell of what used to be the Church.)

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Perhaps the C of E, but definitely not the Church.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago

That Giles Fraser is worried about commercialism in the church ignores the elephant in the room; the church is no longer a faith institution. Its embrace of cultural wokeism has moved it beyond any possible interpetation of doctrine. The church is in Uri Geller territory; charlatan commercialism suits it remarkably well in this regard.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

That Times survey was pretty much self-selecting. They contacted 5000 clergy, 1000 replied and they published the results. This is not how serious polling is done. Clearly only the most motivated reply and in this case it seems to be the liberals and the weary defeatists. I don’t think you can take anything from their figures.

DA Johnson
DA Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you for pointing out how the referenced survey was conducted. It was dishonest and very misleading for Giles Fraser to write that “the majority of us” want same-sex blessings and a female Archbishop without disclosing that the “us” was a small, self-selected group of clergy.

Denis Stone
Denis Stone
8 months ago

Always worth reading GF, and lots of good stuff; but I also see the myopic Church of England mindset that “religion” equates to the C of E. So decline in the C of E must mean a decline in religion. But the same Times article notes that for every C of E church that has recently closed three Pentecostal churches (and ‘nearly’ (?) two mosques) have opened. With the C of E surely on the point of splitting into ‘evangelical’ and ‘traditional’ churches, we see congregations on the evangelical side thriving. Only the traditional wing is set on self-destruction. Otherwise, GF’s final paragraph hits the nail.

Sean Brennan
Sean Brennan
8 months ago

“But the job of the clergy is to hold out in difficult times. To say their prayers, to celebrate the sacraments, to look after their parish…” – and, perhaps, preach the word? That way you hold true the gospel, to gospel values, and avoid liberal “progressivism”.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago

Fraser: “The Church authority must stop being so pathetically needy and quit chasing around after congregations as if they justify what it is that we do.”

Yep.

“We have something life-changing and wonderful to offer.”

And what is that, exactly? Or rather, who?

The first creed of the church was and is: “Jesus is Lord.” 

That is the point of contention—the stumbling block—in the end. What say you, Fr. Fraser?

David Yetter
David Yetter
8 months ago

The Church of England (and Anglicanism in the white Anglosphere generally) has made itself largely pointless by embracing all manner of “progressive” enthusiasms at the expense of traditional morals and the Gospel itself. Not all of those departing the CoE have been bound for secularism (indeed, so little faith is demanded to be an adherent of the CoE, that a lot of secularists will stay for the music) or neo-paganism. Many have been for the Latin church or for the Orthodox Church.
I understand that the largest religious community in Walsingham, where the principal English shrine to the Virgin Mary is located, is now Orthodox.
On my side of the Pond, most of the Anglican (or Episcopalian as we call them in the States) priests who had been firm Oxford Movement Anglo-Catholics have long since converted to Orthodoxy, including my old parish priest, Fr. Chad Hatfield, who is now the President of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, one of the principal Orthodox seminaries in the U.S. When I used to get to the U.K. to visit my daughter before she moved back to the states, I used to worship with The Community of Sts.Constantine & Helen in York, whose priest, Fr. Michael, had made the same journey. (I see they are now serve by a Fr. David — most likely another ex-Anglican, to judge from his having taken the same patron saint I chose, St. David of Wales.)
The CoE didn’t fall out of fashion because the faith once delivered to the saints fell out of fashion, but because it stopped proclaiming that faith unashamedly and tried to become the “church of what’s happening” instead.

Last edited 8 months ago by David Yetter
Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
8 months ago

Does Darth Vader say ‘I am your Father – Luke’ ?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Or possibly “Mark my words: Matthew has gone to the John”?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

. . . .or even, ‘Mark my words, Luke; Matthew has gone to the John.”

Andrew Carr
Andrew Carr
8 months ago

Wokeness is destroying the church, when bishops took the knee that was the end for me. Now seeking to change the Lord’s Prayer to accompany a non binary God.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
8 months ago

Rev Fraser says “I, too, am enthusiastic about both of these things, as it happens.” when talking about same sex blessings and a female Archbishop of Canterbury. Why would a practising Minister approve of non biblical scripture and the blessing of a sin. We need to reinforce the scriptures not dumb them down in order that we can appease the secular thinking of the public.
Authenticity and a meaningful faith based doctrine should be the way forward so that more of the public can be berought to God’s good graces. Is the author actually a Christian or just a Guardian apparatchik?

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

All the Times’ survey demonstrated to me was that Anglicanism as a coherent entity in the UK is beyond saving, that the Church’s upper management needs the Augean stables treatment and that the parish vicars need a purge to clear out the defeatist dead wood.

G K
G K
8 months ago

It’s not the business model but the bad business model.
The good business model is to offer some thing that people don’t know they need.

Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago

Christianity in the US is also on the downfall. It is represented by a cliquey group that only pushes its type of Christianity with a very thinly veiled political veneer. Gone is the Catholic Church, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians….their pews are mostly empty. And in their place is this Americana Christian Nationalist bunch with their judgment. Believe what you want, but keep it out of the government.
Personally? I am thrilled to see the new decline of them.

William Miller
William Miller
8 months ago
Reply to  Marissa M

Well, that’s sad.

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  William Miller

…and is not the lived experience of huge numbers of Americans.

Last edited 8 months ago by philip kern
Marissa M
Marissa M
8 months ago
Reply to  philip kern

Possibly because they are part of the problem.

Sam Agnew
Sam Agnew
8 months ago

As some famous biblical person once said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
I mean, honestly…

Doug Bodde
Doug Bodde
8 months ago

Go North (Bishop Philip North) and preach good news to the poor. It’s the only way forward at this point, every other way is blocked. #Matthew22

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

The world does indeed have a god: the internet. And it has made us unhappy, lonely and hateful.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
8 months ago

The Pizza Hut church being run by consultants (the great majority of those suck) is not a recipe for success and the priests gobble it up. The secular world is challenging long-held beliefs throughout our society, especially our idea of a community. It seems to me the uber progressives have morphed into isolated pockets where everyone has to swear fealty to the dogma and agenda or be cast out. That includes losing jobs, being canceled, not being able to attend an “it function”, and social banishment. The lemmings, those without real critical thinking skills but a lot of emotion, will go along every time and we have the 50/50 society where compromise is not on the table. Not even discussion.
The Chuch needs to go back to serving their communities by providing a safe harbor, outreach for the needy, and be welcoming to all. It is going to be a long hard road but the saying “there are no atheists in a foxhole” still is true. We have abandoned our neighbor for the worst of all reasons and will slowly circle the drain while we enjoy our Latte’s, trash the folks who don’t agree with us, and not consider religion because it resembles a trip to Pizza Hut.

William Miller
William Miller
8 months ago

A banal and inconsequential editorial. Neither engaging, not demanding, and therein is the reason the modern church is failing.

0 0
0 0
8 months ago

The church is a long human conflict ,is today a bankruptcy business,God is not a company that have clients every Sunday,is a God temple,,no more.
The small home community is the only salvation,were each individual is God temple himself.
This are his promise,to have him with us 7/24 ,eternally .
(Im a Jew, belive in a jewish God, for everyone .

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

Late-capitalist Protestant Christianity was a weak formula. It seemed to have been entirely abandoned by the Germans and Scandinavians, having replaced it administratively with a social democratic system of moral governance.
Now, where other Western societies have struggled with neoliberalism to revive their market economies, woke progressivism is a far preferable ethical system for the younger demographic. It chimes precisely with their resentment of the current economic conditions that belie generational equality.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Thinking Christianity was ‘a system of moral governance’ takes a studied indifference to what the Bible actually says, and to what Christians have preached for centuries. Ever heard of the Parable of the Worker and His Wages? Ever read Galatians?
The entire point of large swathes of the Bible is that ‘being moral’ ain’t much use in the end – not only is it impossible to achieve, but trying to achieve it is back-breaking, soul-crushing work. And yet, somehow people still think the Bible exists to exhort people to ‘do right’ or some such blather.
To his credit, Fraser seems to understand that’s not what the Bible is saying.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I can’t see where we get the ethical basis for our Western order other than from the New Testament. Our basic legal principles – property etc – even appear to derive from the Old Testament before that. And the parable you mention crosses over into economic contracts to based upon universal cultural-legal norms.
I’m not sure what you understand by ‘moral; then – we still have moral philosophy, after all, which deals with the foundation of an ethical life and social order. Christianity provides a much clearer foundation for said social order than Kant’s self-reproducing ethical norms, or even the socio-economic assumptions English utilitarians. Let’s not even go to the consequentialists like Singer who stray into Marxism.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Huh? Christianity definitely brought a new focus to the moral order – the ‘least of these’ ethos was much stronger in Christendom than anywhere else. That said, you’d be hard pressed to find a reasonably successful and advanced society on earth that didn’t have its own moral code preaching the kinds of things we think of as ‘universal human values’ – against murder, robbery, adultery, etc. The ‘Golden Rule’ (‘do unto others’) long predates the Sermon on the Mount. The Stoics and many others had sophisticated ethical codes which are similar in many ways to ‘Western’ values today. I do want to acknowledge many differences, too! But the moral order we live in has come from many sources, Christianity prominently among them.
All that is completely separate from what the Bible actually teaches about morality. It says, ‘you’ve got to live morally. you can’t live morally. now what?’ (In the words of Paul, “I do not do the good I want to do.”)

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
8 months ago

In 1656 the Portuguese-Jewish congregation of Amsterdam issued a writ of herem – excommunication – against the 23-year-old Baruch Spinoza:
Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down, and cursed be he when he rises up; cursed be he when he goes out, and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not pardon him; the anger and wrath of the Lord will rage against this man, and bring upon him all the curses which are written in the Book of the Law, and the Lord will destroy his name from under the Heavens, and the Lord will separate him to his injury from all the tribes of Israel with all the curses of the firmament, which are written in the Book of the Law. But you who cleave unto the Lord God are all alive this day. We order that nobody should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favor, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed or written by him.
In 2015 a suggestion was made that this condemnation of one of the seminal thinkers of the modern era and pioneer of religious toleration might, three and a half centuries later, be rescinded. Four respected Spinoza scholars were charged with considering the issue, and the matter was finally reviewed by the 21st century successors to the congregation. It was decided that they had neither authority nor reason to reverse the original judgement. Amsterdam’s Chief Rabbi wrote
How on earth can we even consider removing the herem from a person with such preposterous ideas, where he was tearing apart the very fundaments of our religion… The moment we rescind the herem…it would imply that we share his heretic views.
It is difficult to imagine the Church of England taking a similarly robust attitude to [what were once considered] its traditions.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
8 months ago

‘the architects of this new thinking, who imaged a church without its buildings, without paid clergy or their expensive theological training.’ Sounds a bit like Jesus and the disciples?
‘ And, unfortunately, this kind of nonsense comes from the very top.’ God? ‘Perhaps that’s why so many of us want to quit.’ You might want to rethink all that, Giles.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

Like many other professional priests as the tide roars out for the Church of England, the writer chooses which part of the Scriptures he choose to believe, rather like someone selecting dishes in a cafeteria. Homosexuality is expressly forbidden several times in both the Old and New Testaments, yet this consumer overlooks this in the all-consuming scramble to seem modern, woke and with it.

Andrew Daws
Andrew Daws
8 months ago

The trouble with that logic is that it can be seized upon by the homophobes and misogynists to justify sticking with the tried and tested, under the guise of being faithful to the Bible and Church tradition.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
8 months ago

The Christian God, and the manufactured King figure of Jesus, which meant something quite different in ancient Palestine and for which the only ‘evidence’ is the contrived genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel, have until recently represented power and authority.
With these gone, and their missionary and apocalyptic tendencies repudiated, there remain only the anecdotes about Jesus’ teachings, some of which reflected existing Jewish mores or were prompted by the Roman occupation.
Churches, as sanctuaries of wood and stone, served not only as places to bow down, and be seen to bow down, to authority, but as centres of community as many still do.
These elements: authority, communality, and social mores, are really quite separate even if they tend to become entangled in practice. They came together under the Christian hegemony, and now they drift apart naturally. It is evident that none of them is settled, and there is a strong case for examining each.
The last two at least are indeed ‘more precious than gold’, and arguably all three are needed to give gold any exchange value at all. However, it is no good trying to maintain civilisation – and now the entire biosphere – on the basis of tribal myths, fairy tales rather nakedly targeted at children, and arcane priestly rites.
In one respect I agree: these are serious matters, not to be reduced to entertainment or ‘alternative’ styles.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago

Please see my comment above. People who insist that Christianity can best be understood as an authority system for moral governance, embarrass themselves with their profound ignorance of what Christianity actually teaches. Get a Bible and read (say) Romans. It’ll take two seconds to realize that ‘an authority system for moral governance’ is the opposite of what Paul teaches – which indeed is why Christians were, in the early Church, often accused by Roman heathens of being Godless and lawless. They preached not that you had to be moral to obtain union with God, but that trying to be moral would prevent you from obtaining union with God. Look it up… it’s only the most widely printed and distributed text in the history of mankind – I’m sure you can find a copy somewhere!

Last edited 8 months ago by Kirk Susong
Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I do indeed have a copy of the Bible, a very fine old one that once shook the foundations of a pulpit. I am sceptical that the activities and writings of Paul (or ‘John’) count for more as a definition of Christianity than the contents of at least the first two Gospels plus the historical record of the behaviour of the Christian Church.
Furthermore there is a time order, which introduces the possibility of the unexpected and unpredictable. For example, consider that while Jesus may have entered Jerusalem thinking to fulfil prophecies like Zechariah 9 ‘king … riding upon an ass’ and believing himself to be ‘Son of Man’ – ie in direct contact with God, he did not plan to be crucified. The story then takes a new course, carried forth by Paul, and codified somewhat inconsistently by the Gospels.
Three hundred years later, Emperor Constantine comes along and, for whatever reason, elevates Jesus to a celestial super-Emperor, and so we gravitate from an itinerant preacher to a divinely sanctioned hierarchy. Seventeen hundred years later, we have a result that has evolved somewhat, held a large portion of the world in its grip for one and a half millennia, and now the world around is slipping out of that grip as it evolves quicker than the church, which is essentially founded on inertia, can adapt. What Paul preached to the Romans, or anything in the Bible, is rooted in its time and not automatically relevant.

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago

Do you think the Book of Revelation was written after Constantine’s elevation of Jesus? John’s gospel and Colossians also appear to have a pretty high ‘celestial super-Emperor’ Christology–even the parts written before Constantine.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago

Thinking that Constantine is responsible for Christ’s theophany requires ignoring three centuries of historical writing, martyrdom, theological debate, etc. in the early church. If that’s where your analysis is at, then I acknowledge there’s not much point in me saying anything further here. Peace to you –
PS. Point well taken as to who gets to define what ‘Christianity’ is. At a sufficiently abstract level, all these broad terms for historical movements and trends can be hijacked and coopted by fringe groups, skeptics, true believers, etc. But it should be of interest that your definition of ‘Christianity’ is not adopted by people who self-identify as Christians; whereas, mine is. Seems relevant.

William Miller
William Miller
8 months ago

Wow. You are so edgy!