The opinion is current in some Protestant circles today that the tide of history has turned against the Christian church and that the efforts of believers must be directed toward retrenchment or, perhaps ultimately, toward a radical transformation of the gospel message.
What indications are cited in support of this diagnosis? In contrast to the nineteenth century, when Protestantism launched a massive program of world evangelism, Christianity is challenged by the increasing attempt of Eastern religions to “evangelize” the West. Hindu and Buddhist missionaries are now preaching in many American cities. Moslems now worship in an impressive mosque constructed in our nation’s capital. And the tenets of Islam, Buddhism and other world religions are increasingly studied among the peoples of Europe and North America. For these faiths, the task of “enlightening the darkened continents” has just begun.
At the same time, the wavering phalanx of Protestantism has been beleaguered by the astounding growth of the so-called religious “sects.” Our country has itself made room for over 200 of these aberrant denominations, and one of them boasts over 35,000 “missionaries” (not adherents) in the New York metropoliant area alone. In the New York subways the new Swedenborgian Church promotes itself as “a member of the Protestant Council.”
Considered in itself, few would deny that the Protestant church has suffered greatly in the twentieth century. Despite the so-called religious revival of the 1950’s, church identification still means less to many people than it did even a decade or two ago; and membership is beginning to decline numerically. Even more alarming for the organized church is a corresponding decline in the number of candidates presenting ...1
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