Is Christianity Dying in the West?It is true that many are rejecting Christianity, but the Bible reveals that the teaching concerning Christ and God’s kingdom will prevail.
Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you pull the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind (General Richard Dannatt in Christopher Caldwell’s, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, p.185).
It is now commonplace to assume that Christianity is a dwindling force in the West. And rapidly declining numbers of adherents and church attendees confirm that assumption. James P. Gannon, writing in USA Today, headlines his article “Is God Dead in Europe? He begins:
“If we ignore out pasts and try to create a godless society...then the society loses...
We are in Prague, the lovely and lively capital of the Czech Republic, where the bars and cafes are full, the glitzy crystal and art shops are busy, and the dozens of historic cathedrals and churches are largely empty – except for gawking tourists snapping photos. In The Prague Post…a front-page article reports, in titillating detail, how the city has become Europe’s new capital for pornographic filmmaking while an op-ed examines why only 19 percent of the people in this once-religious country believe that God exists.
This brief paragraph brilliantly connects the dots between civilizational decadence and the loss of faith in God.
Politics in the “Naked Public Square”
Gannon points out that many surveys in Europe show that there is a sharp drop-off in church attendance and religious practice. In five key countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy) regular church attendance since 1970 dropped from about 40 percent to about half that.
George Weigel, author of The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics without God, writes that Western Europe has become a “post-Christian” society in which many of the leading elite are anti-religious or “Christophobic.” When the new constitution for the 25-nation European Union was debated, the drafters rejected all proposals to include a reference to the Christian faith, on the ground that such mention would be exclusionary and offensive to non-Christians.
Former French president Valery Giscard Estaing, who presided over the drafting process, explained: "Europeans live in a purely secular political system, where religion does not play an important role. The final text of the constitution made mention of Europe's Religious and Humanist inheritance."
Subsequently, Italy’s nominee for justice minister of the EU, Rocco Buttiglione, was rejected because of his Christian faith. He warned: “If we ignore out pasts and try to create a godless society where things like money or ambition or property are worshiped, then the society loses…. It is a battle we are fighting at the current time.”
Suicide, not murder
In a 2005 USA Today article, Noelle Knox quotes a study of a Center at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which states that every major religion except Islam is declining in Western Europe. This study finds that this decline is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance has dropped to less than ten percent in some regions.
Pope Benedict XVI has lamented the weakening of the churches in Europe, Australia and the U.S. Addressing Italian priests, the Pope said: “There is no longer evidence for a need of God, even less of Christ. The so-called traditional churches look like they are dying.”
The catchall term for the de-Christianization of Europe is secularization – the belief that there is no God. There are a host of indicators that life in Europe has become more and more secularized, with devastating effects on social structures, especially the family. (For the complete story – confirming Arnold Toynbee’s credo, "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder,” see Mark Steyn’s America Alone).
Rev. David Feddes of the Back to God radio broadcast described this phenomenon in his message on January 23, 2005. He explained that Europe has been committing suicide and is leaving itself wide open for the rise of Islam as a dominant new religion in Europe. He said:
Much of Europe has abandoned Christianity and has nothing to replace it. Secularism can’t satisfy souls and unify society. Many Europeans have no vision of life or ultimate purpose, no faith to pass on to their children, no gospel to spread to new immigrants or other neighbors, no cultural worldview they want to reproduce.
We can easily be disheartened by the decline of Christianity, especially when we are confronted with a confident and fanatical Islam’s boasting of its superiority and ultimate victory. Here is Colonel Gaddafi’s prediction: “There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims in Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.”
So let me answer the question in the title of this article. It is lamentably true that many are turning their backs on Christianity. But the truth of that faith, as revealed in the Bible and foremost in the life and teaching of Jesus, will never be defeated. If we have eyes to see, we can see signs of Christ’s present and coming kingdom everywhere. Let me conclude with an amazing, living proof of that kingdom bringing peace and reconciliation in the most unlikely places.
Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, a founding member of the terrorist organization Hamas. He became deeply involved in the activities of this organization, then changed sides and worked for the Israelis, always at great risk to his life. But the most wrenching yet liberating change came when he turned his heart over to Jesus. He now lives in America, and published his book Son of Hamas. This is a riveting story of intrigue and danger, but above all of turning away from a life of hatred and violence to one marked by love and peace. Here is a small sample of the author’s powerful testimony:
Freedom, a deep longing for freedom, is really at the heart of my story.
I am the son of a people who have been enslaved by corrupt systems for many centuries….
The message of Jesus – love your enemies – is what finally set me free. It no longer mattered who my friends were or who my enemies were; I was supposed to love them all. And I could have a loving relationship with a God who would help me love others.
Having that kind of relationship with God is not only the source of my freedom but also the key to my new life (pp. 248-9).
Read this book; pass it on, especially to your children. It will lift your spirit away from the bad news we are inundated with. Above all, remember these words of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Harry Antonides is a writer based in Toronto. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Christian Courier, June 7, 2010.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2010 Christianity.ca.