A new survey produced by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life provides insight into the perspectives of 2,200 Evangelical Christian leaders around the world. Although the headlines the survey is receiving have to do with the rather gloomy cultural outlook of North American and European Evangelicals (in contrast to those in the Global South, who say Evangelical influence is growing), buried within it are two findings that should make those who are hoping for a wedding of theological and cultural erosion within Evangelicalism distinctly uncomfortable.
First, the survey finds that 96 percent of those surveyed believe “abortion is usually or always wrong.” While I wish it were 100 percent, nonetheless it is clear that international Evangelical leaders of all kinds believe abortion is the taking of a life of a person, a tiny image-bearer of God. Of course, this is consistent with the facts of science and reason, but it shows, too, that Evangelical leaders remain committed to the biblical teaching that God wove us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139).
Second, the survey notes that 84 percent of Evangelical leaders believe that “society should discourage homosexuality.” Again, 100 percent would be better, but the fact remains that despite decades of aggressive homosexual activism, the large majority of Evangelical leaders understand that homosexuality is a moral wrong and is socially destructive.
Of further note is that a startling 71 percent - and remember, these are Evangelical leaders from nations as diverse as South Africa and Canada - believe “the influence of secularism” is a profound threat to Evangelical Christian faith, followed by 67 percent who cite “consumerism.” Militant Islam, government restrictions on religion and other perceived threats rank further down.
This is surprising because secularism is not a religious or political movement (such as Islamicism) nor generally recognized as the source of anti-Christian persecution. Rather, secularism is the (active or passive) rejection of theism as a force in personal, cultural and civic life. Under the secularist rubric, things are not wrong but “inappropriate.” Christian faith is diluted to the point it becomes only a vague belief in a self-reflective, undemanding, and distant deity. Consensus trumps truth, popular will crests over principle, the lowest forms of culture become accepted or at least are viewed as ethically optional.
As with society at large, believers in Jesus Christ have been adversely affected by secularism. Instead of radical allegiance to their King, they too often are susceptible to the cult of narcistic secularism. Radical autonomy and a blurred understanding of the God of the Bible lead to divorce, various forms of interpersonal or substance abuse, sexual sin, or a bland apathy toward the things of the Savior: Why study the Gospels when you can shop? And isn’t Christianity just a code of ethics with some religious language thrown-in?
When Christian faith is reduced to the “moralistic therapeutic deism” described by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in their valuable book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005), the Jesus of the Bible becomes the innocuous and thus uncompelling figure the secular Left would render Him.
He is more than that, though, much more - “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Which is why, regardless of the threats imposed upon His work on earth by various religious, social and political movements , He wins in the end. The challenge for those who love Him is to remain faithful, no matter what. And He is always with them to give the strength needed to that end.