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Requiem for Evangelicalism?

“Evangelicalism doesn’t need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral.”

So writes Michael Spencer in a sobering article in The Christian Science Monitor (“The Coming Evangelical Collapse,” Mar. 10). “We are on the verge — within 10 years — of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants…. Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end.” It will be, Spencer says, “the end of evangelicalism as we know it.”

Much has been made in the past year about the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s 2008 “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” which analyzed data culled from interviews with 35,000 Americans. The results were, to put it mildly, bleak. The news was particularly bad for Protestantism, which currently holds sway over roughly half the U.S. population, down from two-thirds in the 1970s. But not many of the forecasts based on the Survey’s findings have been as gloomy as Spencer’s. Half of all American Protestants currently identify themselves as evangelicals, accounting for some 25 percent of the entire U.S. population. Relative to other faiths, that’s a robust figure. By way of comparison, the Survey states that the Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses” in membership (a topic we covered in our May 2008 New Oxford Note “The U.S. Catholic Church Is Sinking Fast — Part III”), an exodus that has been characterized elsewhere as “unprecedented.” So why the dirge for evangelicalism?

Spencer identifies seven factors he sees contributing to evangelicalism’s collapse.

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