Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ross Douthat Points Out Flaw In Diana Butler Bass Observations On " Conservative " Church Member Loss

Ross Douthat had a good resposne to Diana Butler Bass in their back and forth on "Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?"

He responded  in full here.

He hits on something that I was thought was a major flaw in her argument , and I too thought was a tad "stacking the deck". ( The bold is mine)

What’s more, Bass stacks the deck somewhat by comparing liberal and conservative denominations, since much of conservative evangelicalism’s post-1960s gains were concentrated in nondenominational churches rather than bodies like the SBC, and the growth of nondenominational congregations continues apace today. Some of these congregations, it’s true, are more theologically and politically liberal than the evangelical norm, in the style of “emergent church” figures like Brian McLaren and hip pastors like Rob Bell, and to the extent that liberal Christianity seems to have any kind of future at the moment it’s more likely to be found in the liberal wing of evangelicalism than in the faded Mainline. But overall, most of the vitality and growth in American Protestantism is still concentrated in congregations that are culturally and politically conservative, if not necessarily orthodox or theologically rigorous. And meanwhile, alongside the nondenominational category, the other fast-growing form of American Christianity is of course Mormonism — which obviously isn’t an orthodox form of the faith, but clearly isn’t anything like a self-consciously liberal or progressive form of Christianity either. (Per Stark’s numbers again: In 1940, there were roughly three Episcopalians for every Mormon; now it’s roughly the reverse.)

I think that is the case. Also as I pointed out as in the big scheme of things the rather small decline in the Southern Baptist numbers can often be attributed to defections to those groups. Groups that had a more charismatic flair and such. Add to that perhaps a lack of focus on BAPTIST ID and thus when the kids moved to the city there was just more options.

In the end both Bass and Butler agree on some things and trends that should not be overlooked. He hits on more points including the Catholic angle.

I am sadly in agreement with the paragraph of his piece by the way. Read it all.


1 comment:

Rick67 said...

Thanks for the post/link. I have tried to be respectful and generous in saying DBB is an "excellent sociologist and better scholar than I" but Douthat's response leaves me reevaluating my opinion of her.

His last paragraph was exquisite.