In his book Growing Up Religious, Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow describes a typically religious American, Sandra Barton, who goes to church occasionally, who believes there is something or someone "higher than us," and who believes in heaven, because this life is hellish. For a contrast to the Sandra Bartons, Wuthnow's team of trained interviewers looked for Americans who would "give a full account of the nature and attributes of God, as well as a doctrine of creation, the origins of evil, the possibilities of redemption, and reasons people should believe in certain tenets about immortality and eschatology."
"We found no living examples of such people," writes Wuthnow, despite the fact that their interviews included clergy, PKs, and others trained in religion.
What they did find was that many Americans are focusing on spiritual practice, while ignoring traditional doctrine.
Wuthnow's researchers should have been at last November's American Academy of Religion meetings. In a convention that has become a marshy bog of relativism, perhaps 300 people turned out to hear Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw dialogue with two fellow Calvinists about Infralapsarianism—the belief that the proper order for understanding God's decrees is Creation, permission of the Fall, election-salvation, and not election-salvation, Creation, permission of the Fall. If that discussion seems arcane, it makes my point: there is increasing anecdotal evidence for a renewed interest in classic Christian belief, even as Americans at large neglect doctrine.
Thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Christianity Today is able to focus some of its energies on fostering renewed interest in beliefs. One way we hope to do this involves CT's research ...1
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