Michael Spencer's article, "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" has gained much attention since it was published in the Christian Science Monitor on March 10th, 2009.  Below, I respond to several of the points Mr. Spencer has made:

I have to say that, in general, I agree with much of what Mr. Spencer is saying. Though, further reflection can provide a more careful understanding of the issues he has raised.  First, when Mr. Spencer talks about a growing climate of hostility toward Christianity, we must understand that this should be expected. I don’t like it, but Jesus himself described this:

9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.  10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.  13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.  14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Matthew 24:9-14 (NASB)

 Second, Evangelicalism can collapse, but I don’t think that Christianity is going to collapse. Like Mr. Spencer, I think that it would be a good thing if many of the marginal (or lukewarm) believers were to leave their churches. Too many people in our society wear the label of Christianity, but haven't actually committed their life to following Christ. Christianity, I think, has been discolored by large portions of America misrepresenting Christ.

  Third, I think that Mr. Spencer completely misdiagnoses the cause of this decline. Mr. Spencer attributes the following to the problem: identifying Evangelicalism with the culture war and conservatism, not passing on orthodox faith, consumer driven mega churches, dying churches, poor Christian education, a confrontation with cultural secularism, i
nability to pass on confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith, money will dry up. It seems that these “causes” are all just symptoms of a much larger problem, Postmodernism. Our culture and especially “religious” people in our culture have strongly moved toward postmodernism. This makes sense of each of the “causes” he lists.

Identifying Evangelicalism with the culture war and conservatism: Because of the postmodern view that perception equals truth, many in our culture see their moral and religious beliefs as subjective and relativistic (basically with no real foundation in reality). But, if our moral and religious beliefs have no real foundation, then our decision about what to believe is either arbitrary or pragmatic.  For those “evangelicals” who choose to go the route of Pragmatism, their beliefs are more about politics (which is inherently more pragmatic). Therefore, they identify their beliefs mainly with the culture war and political conservatism. I should clarify, though, that true Christianity involves living out Christian values and principles in society; so, Christians are, necessarily, going to be involved in the political arena. 

Not passing on orthodox faith: If orthodox faith is just someone’s perception, rather than reality, there is no reason to pass it on unaltered by our own opinions, perceptions, cultural norms, etc. With a postmodern worldview, orthodox faith is just as valid as un-orthodox faith.

Consumer driven mega churches: For those postmodern evangelicals that choose to go the route of Pragmatism, church is run like a pragmatic business. A larger congregation equals more customers.

Dying Churches: I am assuming that this is mainly talking about the old, stuffy traditional churches that seem to be struggling so much. Many churches maybe dying because in a postmodern culture their services have become more about tradition than truth. The traditional (or orthodox depending on the situation) customs are up held, not because they are founded in theological truth, but simply for the sake of tradition. This becomes an arbitrary decision, but there is a major problem with arbitrarily deciding what to believe. That is, eventually you realize that it is meaningless and irrelevant. Basically, you are left wondering, “Why am I following this old tradition if there is no real reason?”

Poor Christian education: Once again, for those that take the pragmatic route, the education system just serves one's own needs. Also, in a postmodern culture, education emphasizes perception and the subjective over understanding an objective truth.

A confrontation with cultural secularism: We are up against a more and more secular culture partially because “religious” people in general have embraced postmodernism more than the rest of the culture. So, while the “religious” community is justifying their beliefs with subjective feelings, secularists continue to give objective reasons for their beliefs. For example, atheists consistently point to science and reason to justify their atheism (I don’t think their reasoning is valid, but they are at least trying to use science and reason); while many “religious” people simply say, “I feel that Christianity is true” or “I know in my heart that God is real” or “Christianity is true for me.” So, our culture has begun to view religion as subjective and without foundation and view science and reason as completely secular. So, much of academia, including lay-people sources for intellectual study (like National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Science Museums, etc.) have become largely secular.

nability to pass on confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith: Again, why have confidence in the Bible if your confidence is only based on a subjective perception and has no real objective basis in truth.

Money will dry up: This is just a result of all the other issues above.

I think that the worldview of postmodernism that many Americans (and many around the World) hold to, has dire consequences. But, I think there is a hope that the author failed to mention. And that is that in the last 50 years and especially in the last 20 years, there have been an incredible number of scientific discoveries that overwhelmingly support Christianity. In fact, recently in the academic arenas of science, philosophy, and history there have been a growing number of intellectual “heavy-hitters” that are carefully defending Biblical Christianity. So, I think there are some factors that may turn the tide.