In his book What's So Great About Christianity?, Dinesh D'Souza discusses the explosive growth of what he calls "Traditional Christianity" (which he acknowledges is the same concept as C.S. Lewis called "mere Christianity" in his book by the same name) in much of the world. He compares it to the withdrawal that he sees in the mainstream churches in America which are rapidly shrinking. In the course of this discussion, he sets forth a quote that I found both interesting and accurate which I would like to share.
Here in the West, there are lots of liberal Christians. Some of them have assumed a kind of reverse mission: instead of being the church's missionaries to the world, they have become the world's missionaries to the church. They devote their moral energies to trying to make the church more democratic, to assure equal rights for women, to legitimize homosexual marriage, and so on. A small but influential segment of liberal Christianity rejects all the central doctrines of Christianity. H. Richard Hiebuhr famously summed up their credo: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."
I have met liberal Christians who are good and sincere people. But their version of Christianity is retreating, in two senses. Liberal Christians are distinguished by how much intellectual and moral ground they concede to the adversaries of Christianity: "Granted, no rational person today can believe in miracles, but..." "True, the Old Testament God seems a mighty vengeful fellow, but..." "Admittedly religion is responsible for most of the conflict and oppression in history, but..."
This yes-but Christianity in full intellectual withdrawal, and it is also becoming less relevant. * * *
Unfortunately, the central themes of some of the liberal churches have become indistinguishable from those of the American Civil Liberties Union, the national Organization for Women, and the homosexual rights movement. Why listen to Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong drone on when you can get the same message and much more interesting visuals at San Francisco's gay pride parade?
Having left a mainstream church where my views, which are clearly more in line with what D'Souza refers to as "traditional Christianity", had been marginalized, I can definitely see what he is saying. Christ's church is supposed to stand for the truths of God that are set forth in the Word of God. Yet, too many Christians attempt to bring the world's ideas of morality into the church under the guise of merely "trying to understand the original intention" better.
These mainline churches, whose pews are now largely empty, are paying the price for trying to maintain a semblance of Christianity while really preaching the anti-Gospel of the world.