Tim Keller, Ross Douthat, 5 Social Factors

Tim Keller, Ross Douthat, 5 Social Factors April 12, 2012

From TGC’s blog by Tim Keller, on Ross Douthat’s forthcoming book — on five social factors that have change the church:

In his second chapter, Douthat attributes the change to five major social catalysts that have gained steam since the 1960s:

First, the political polarization that has occurred between the Left and Right drew many churches into it (mainline Protestants toward the Left, evangelicals toward the Right). This has greatly weakened the church’s credibility in the broader culture, with many viewing churches as mere appendages and pawns of political parties.

Second, the sexual revolution means that the Biblical sex ethic now looks unreasonable and perverse to millions of people, making Christianity appear implausible, unhealthy, and regressive.

Third, the era of decolonization and Third World empowerment, together with the dawn of globalization, has given the impression that Christianity was imperialistically “western” and supportive of European civilization’s record of racism, colonialism, and anti-Semitism.

The fourth factor has been the enormous growth in the kind of material prosperity and consumerism that always works against faith and undermines Christian community.

The fifth factor is that all the other four factors had their greatest initial impact on the more educated and affluent classes, the gatekeepers of the main culture-shaping institutions such as the media, the academy, the arts, the main foundations, and much of the government and business world.


"This has been a great series of posts. It would have added depth to this ..."

Amen … So Be It (RJS)
"For context, the "100 million missing women" cited is for Asia and is almost entirely/entirely ..."

Mimi Speaks: Weaponizing Ideas Against Women
"Yes, CCM added some adrenaline... though something had to be done about those hymns... ;)I’m ..."

Why Worship Services Are So Boring

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Joe Canner

    At first glance, these seem pretty plausible.

    Re #3: Ironically, the Third World churches are often more vibrant (and sometimes more conservative) than their parent churches in the West. Not only that, but they remained strong long after the colonial powers lost their grip.

    That said, there are still plenty of wounds to heal and messes to clean up as a result of colonialism. That the Church has survived it is a tribute more the the Head of the Church than it is to those who preached about him.

  • RJS

    Interesting. I don’t think that Douthat’s third (decolonization and empowerment) really hits the mark – it is contained within a much larger category of attitude shifts. This is not to say that it doesn’t contribute – but that it doesn’t belong in a “big five” while the other four do.

  • These are reasons why it’s better to follow Christ than church. He never drifts.

  • janiea

    “These are reasons why it’s better to follow Christ than church. He never drifts.”

    Yes, at least 3 out of the 4 are about where Christians have gone hand in hand with culture, not with Jesus.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    I think that the four other factors are certainly involved, particularly the second, but I don’t think the third is that important. Christianity is doing well in the Third World, outside the Middle East, and Christianity in the West is largely being revitalized by immigration from developing countries. My home parish (an Episcopal parish in Boston) is largely populated by Caribbean immigrants, and without them it wouldn’t be doing very well.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    The third one is huge if we include “decolonization” and empowerment of the minorities within our borders. Obviously African Americans and Hispanics had a role in the recent presidential election. As I complete a seminary class on “Preaching in Urban Contexts” I am collecting and sorting the ways that Hispanic and African American churches confront America’s dominant culture — including some of the other issues addressed by Douthat — in ways that our dominant culture churches have shied away from.

    When Curtiss Paul DeYoung can tell us that Christians can no longer leave minorities to divide the remains of privilege that the white Americans leave to them, but must give up some privilege, and Soon Chan Rah (sp?) can tell us that white Americans can no longer minister to minorities without having minority mentors, we know that the rest of the world is now speaking and claiming power in ways that it had not before the 1960s.

    Randy Gabrielse