Future of Evangelicalism

August 19, 2010
Posted by Joe Gorra

Patheos.com is becoming an indispensable resource for people who want quality information on religion. A few months ago, they began a summer series of articles centered on “The Future of Religion,” where experts from various religious groups talked about what they saw as trends in their group.

The Evangelical Portal at Patheos also featured its own series, including contributions from EPS members like Paul Copan, Bill Craig and Robert Velarde.

Copan and Craig write about “Trajectories in Philosophy and Apologetics,” in which they note how the “renaissance” of Christians in philosophy has not merely been of academic consequence alone:

The effects of this remarkable renaissance of Christian philosophy are now making themselves felt on the non-academic level, as popularizers and apologists distill the academic work of professional Christian philosophers and make it accessible to a laity hungering for answers to the tide of secularism they feel rising around them. Academic apologetics work has served as an important bridge between high-level philosophical discussions and the translational work of local apologetics organizations and training centers … If this transfer of goods from the ivory tower to the pew continues (and it shows every sign of gathering momentum rather than abating), then the next major revival of evangelical Christianity, as strange as it may sound, may well come through the intellectual re-engagement of the church, as her people discover sound arguments for Christian faith and answers to the objections lodged against it — and so, strengthened by the conviction that Christianity is not just “true for them” but objectively true for all, become emboldened, winsome, and intelligent witnesses for Christ in a decaying culture.

Not surprisingly, Craig and Copan are themselves noted for more than just their own academic contributions to philosophy; Copan the author of When God Goes to Starbucks and Craig the author of On Guard.

Robert Velarde further models the sort of non-academic yet serious engagement with ideas in his piece, “Film is the New Literature”

Films tell stories, as does the Bible. Christ knew the power of story and, as a result, incorporated engaging storytelling elements in his many parables. On some level we typically respond better to stories than we do to textbooks or preachy lectures. Learning to intelligently engage the storytelling medium of film, carefully exegeting the form, is a far better response than entrenching ourselves in our subculture defiantly or else embracing films uncritically … As Christians living in the Age of Entertainment, our cultural and kingdom relevance is at stake if we fail to adapt to the rise and influence of media such as film and television. To neglect these media or minimize their influence is to cast aside important cultural touch points where faith and culture intersect.

Velarde has a great record of writing for a broad audience, whether his Conversations with C.S. Lewis (interviewed here) or his latest, The Wisdom of Pixar.

Also of interest at the Patheos Evangelical portal are some fabulous interviews with historian Mark Noll (“The Future of Evangelicals in Academia”), sociologist D. Michael Lindsay (“New Ways of Shaping Society”), sociologist Rodney Stark (“Are Evangelicals the New Mainline?”), and Michael Cromartie (“The Dead Are Not Raised by Politics”), and Andy Crouch (On Culture and Power) — all of which tend to center around the meaning and significance of evangelicalism in the public, and not surprisingly, the recent work of James Davison Hunter also surfaces significantly in these discussions.

We are very grateful for the skillful mind and generous heart of Timothy Dalrymple, the Manager and Editor of the Evangelical Portal, for coordinating the wonderful series on evangelicalism, which should also be read in light of the resourceful series on the future of Catholicism and Mainline Protestantism.

EPS members engaged in comparative religion work, must also review the excellent Patheos series on the future of Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Paganism, and Humanism.