Why are American Churches Growing Smaller?

Peace Dove

By Jon Kauffman

In the June 18, 2021 addition of “Anabaptist World,” Professor John D. Roth in “The Courage to Admit Failure,” page 32 explored the difference between the Amish and Mennonite concepts of failure to grow churches. Roth tells us the membership of the Mennonite Church USA has been reduced by nearly half in the last two decades.

Falling church membership is also a problem in other church denominations across the United States. What is the root cause of the shrinking church in America? Perhaps Christianity in America has been replaced by Scientism?

I recently read the book, “Scientism and Secularism,” by J. P. Moreland. What is scientism?

According to philosopher of science Tom Sorell, “Scientism is the belief that science, especially natural science, is . . . the most valuable part of human learning . . . because it is much the most [sic] authoritative, or serious, or beneficial. Other beliefs related to this one may also be regarded as scientistic, e.g., the belief that science is the only valuable part of human learning. . . .”1.

Would you agree with the statement below?

“Only what is testable by science can be true.”2.

If we agree with this statement, we may have accepted the philosophy of scientism that is permeating America at this time.

Moreland explains that this statement is self-refuting. He says:

Let’s check it against the three criteria we saw for a self-refuting statement.

1. Does this statement establish a requirement of acceptability? Yes: it says that something must be testable to be true.

2. Does this statement place itself in subjection to the requirement? Yes: it purports to convey truth.

3. Does this statement fall short of satisfying its own requirement? Yes: this is a philosophical statement about science that cannot itself be tested by science.

So, not only is strong scientism false, but it is self-refuting. In addition, nothing will ever be discovered that can change this. No amount of future research or blockbuster discoveries can show that a self-refuting statement was true after all. Since the statement “Only what is testable by science can be true” will never itself be testable by science, a skeptic cannot respond by saying, “There may be no current evidence for its truth, but someday science will advance to the point of proving that it is true after all.” In other words, it is not only false and self-refuting, but it is necessarily so. No further scientific discoveries could make the statement true, so the skeptic’s response expresses a misunderstanding that the statement and others like it (see above) are necessarily false.3.

Moreland gives a few examples of truth that science cannot explain.

Examples: science cannot explain the origin of the universe; the origin of the fundamental laws of nature; the fine-tuning of the universe; the origin of consciousness; and the existence of moral, rational, and aesthetic objective laws and intrinsically valuable properties. And these are all topics that theism can adequately address.4.

After reading “Scientism and Secularism,” I see three valuable tools available for us in the search for truth. Science, Philosophy and Theology.

If I think about the resurrection of Jesus, I can see that science can help us explore the evidence that the resurrection of Jesus occurred. Philosophy can help us understand the importance of following the teachings of Jesus. Theology can help us explore the truth of God reaching into our universe and can help us understand how to apply the teaching of Jesus to our lives.

J. P. Morland’s book “Scientism and Secularism” may be purchased at Amazon. Click here.

1. Moreland, J. P.. Scientism and Secularism (p. 29). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

2. Ibid., (p. 51).

3. Ibid., (pp. 51-52).

4. Ibid., (pp. 16-18).

Copyright © 2021 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Author: Jon

Jon Kauffman graduated from Goshen College, earning a BA in Religion. Jon attended a Mennonite Church while growing up and currently attends the Salvation Army Church. Jon works as a drafter at TrueNorth Steel, Fargo, ND.

2 thoughts on “Why are American Churches Growing Smaller?”

  1. Good stuff! Jon.

    As you do with some frequency, you manage to dive into material I find interesting but which I have not formally studied – at least not head on. I have devoted some (sometimes much) thought to these things or more especially to matters on the periphery. And so, you bring new thoughts to bear in my world of interest.

    Thanx

    I don’t know who said it first, and so I cannot give proper credit, though I suspect the person I got it from was likely echoing Yoder, but there is an aspect of this not covered here (probably more than one, but one I see at least). That is this: We don’t adopt the things we believe in some vacuum of desire. We gravitate toward the things we LOVE and believe what we find based on that. No one is sitting around in some pure logical vacuum of reason (except maybe Spock).

    Some years ago, working this out while reading N.T. Wright, btw, I came to terms with the thought that TRUTH is after all RELATIVE.

    This after an early adulthood with my thoughts shaped by popular conservative preaching and philosophizing about ABSOLUTE TRUTH vs. RELATIVITY. But, I have come to see that as a false dichotomy. There may well be an absolute God and his TRUTH, but we will never know him outside of our LOVE for him, and that implicates relations.

    I hope I have said enough to make my point without being too vague. Because the part I really want to observe here is the consumerist aspect of our culture. We are consumers consuming, almost at root. We are bigger into our consumerism than in our faith, and we have bent our faith to suite our consumerist whims too. But science is easier to manipulate (historically) than God.

    Both divinity and science venture into the mythical edges of human understanding and attempt to peer into the mist. But with science as our lens, we are our own master – at least we present it that way. And that means we remake the world into whatever consumerist image we desire. And we LOVE that.

    Science does not exist in some consumerist vacuum either. In fact, it has become quite a pillar our consumerist world relies on. There is an incestuous relationship there which we do not like to talk about.

    Oh… hey. One more thing.

    I am probably bowing out of the blog-O-sphere soon. My blog is imploding, and I have not figured out how to save it. I would like to continue relating with you, if possible, and would find that much facilitated by email at this point. If you are willing, please leave an email address in a comment on my blog which I can use. I will not publish it, but will definitely reach out in that way soon. IF YOU consent.

    Thanx!

    X

    Like

    1. Thank you for your kind words Agent X. Yes I agree, truth is relative from our perspective. When we see Jesus face to face, then we will know truth.

      You might be interested. My company TrueNorth Steel purchased Beck Steel in Lubbock.

      Maybe the best way to contact me would be my personal Facebook page. I usually look at it about once a week.

      If you revive your blog or start a new one, please keep me in the loop. I like reading your perspective.

      Like

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