Who is Winning?

I have been reading Timothy Keller's The Reason for God. Although I might not classify him as an academic heavy hitter apologetically speaking, he has a knack -- somewhat like C.S. Lewis -- of putting his finger on important points and evaluating claims and evidences from a novel perspective.

In the Introduction, Pastor Keller has a section titled, "The Enemies are Both Right." He points out that many skeptics would claim that the fundamentalists are a rising threat, gaining ever more political power and growing mega-churches. On the other hand, conservative Christians see ever increasing skepticism and hostility in major universities and media companies. So Pastor Keller asks the question, "Is skepticism or faith on the ascendancy in the world today?" As the section title suggests, he thinks both are right. "Skepticism, fear, and anger toward traditional religion is growing in power and influence. But at the same time, robust, orthodox belief in the traditional faiths is growing as well."

It is undisputed that church attendance has declined somewhat in the United States. Those marking "no religion" to poll questions has increased more significantly. Chalk those up for the "skeptics are winning" column. On the other hand, the share of conservative religious believers among those who go to church has dramatically increased. Belief in miracles and charismatic expressions of Christianity are growing in the United States and exploding in other parts of the world. In academia, all is not lost to secularists. "It is estimated that 10 to 25 percent of all the teachers and professors of philosophy in the country are orthodox Christians." Leading Christian scholars, such as Richard Swinburne, N.T. Wright, and Alvin Plantinga are recognized leaders in their fields, not just in the Christian Churches.

In short, the world is polarizing over religion. It is getting both more religious and less religious at the same time. There was once a confident belief that secular European countries were the harbingers for the rest of the world. Religion, it was thought, would think out from its more robust, supernaturalist forms or die out altogether. But the theory that technological advancement brings inevitable secularization is now being scrapped or radically rethought. Even Europe may not face a secular future, with Christianity growing modestly and Islam growing exponentially.

Keller, op. cit., at x.

So whether we like it or not, it appears that the Skepticism versus Christianity divide is in for the long haul.


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