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 Perhaps Christianity in America has been replaced by Scientism?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.