A new book claims not only is the looming, pending, certain death of the Church an exaggeration, it’s not close to true.
“This idea that we are seeing the darkest days of the Church today,” says author Glenn Stanton, “and that the glory days are in the past, is not only bad sociology, it's bad theology.”
Stanton, who researches, writes, and speaks about marriage and family at Focus on the Family, tells OneNewsNow he is well aware of the opposite view: studies pointing to plummeting numbers of young people attending church, and reports that liberal college professors are wooing three-quarters of young people from the faith of their parents.
“None of those things are true,” insists Stanton, whose book is entitled, “The Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and Around the World.”
Stanton says he was well aware of numerous competing views but pushed ahead with his own research that studied the findings of leading sociologists. What he found was that more Americans, in raw numbers and percentage, attend church today than at any other time in our nation's history – including colonial days.
Drilling farther down into the research, Stanton told Christian apologist Sean McDowell in a June interview that America is not headed in the direction as post-religious Europe, which is the accepted view of many as the country becomes more affluent and more people identify as non-religious.
Stanton said he looked at findings from two secular-based studies, from Harvard and Indiana University, in which the two sociologists quizzed church attendees not just about Bible reading and prayer life, but how often they read the Bible, and how often and why they pray.
“And what they said was,” Stanton told McDowell, “that the United States absolutely is contrary to the secularization thesis.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Stanton seemed to blame the “fake news” for much of the public perception, telling McDowell that sloppy headlines pick up a few facts from a Pew Research Center study then conclude that Christianity is on the decline.
“They're basically doing journalism off a press release,” Stanton complained. “But when you dig into the actual study that Pew put out itself, you see that no, what's been reported is not the case.”
In the case of the Pew study, Stanton pointed out that lead researcher Greg Smith told Christianity Today that it was untrue to suggest their study shows the decline of Christianity.
“There's nothing in these data to suggest that Christianity is dying,” Smith told the publication in 2016, a statement that Stanton accurately quoted in the McDowell interview and includes in the book.
Elsewhere in that interview, Stanton says it is true that some mainline denominations all but collapsed after moving away from orthodox Christianity, but he says evangelical churches, according to Pew’s own numbers from 2007 to 2014, grew by at least 2 million while the liberal churches plummeted by 7.3 million during the same period.
After being advised of certain death, what should the Church conclude from Stanton’s study?
“The gospel is moving on and God's Word is not returning void,” he says. “It is pushing through history like a freight train."