Thursday, March 02, 2023

Apologetics: Is Christianity in Decline?

- Many Christians have a gloomy sense that Christianity is on a long downward trajectory in the West, with little reason to hope that the trend will shift. That sense of things is not entirely in accord with the evidence. While there certainly are some signs of decline in the West, the big-picture view of Christianity is actually quite inspiring.

- First, we should consider the biblical evidence, which suggests that our expectations should look for both Christianity, as well as opposition to it, to grow throughout history (Matt. 24:12-14; Ps. 2:1-8; Matt. 13).

- Here in the West, there are actually some promising signs, from unexpected revivals on college campuses to a return of philosophical theism to academic classrooms over the past few decades.

- Globally, confessional Christianity remains the fastest growing religion in the world (that is, those Christian groups who continue to hold to biblical and traditional orthodoxy). One might see statistics that portray Islam as the fastest growing religion, but that's only when compared against Christianity as a whole, a metric that includes declining denominations which have, in whole or in part, departed from traditionally orthodox positions.

- Seven of the ten fastest Christian growth rates are in Muslim countries, sometimes at rates reaching 20x the country's population growth. Missionaries across the Muslim world report conversions of people to whom Jesus has come in visions and dreams. (These movements are sparking increased persecution from Muslim governments who are alarmed by the trend, so keep the global church in your prayers.)

- There are currently more than 2000 major church-planting movements in areas which have long been dominated by other world religions. 

- In India, evangelical churches in recent years have reported tenfold church growth rates, especially among the Dalits (the lowest in the Hindu caste system). India, like many other countries, is cracking down on this new growth of Christians.

- In China, there are currently more Christians than in the USA, and within twenty years, if current trends hold, it will have more Christians than the entire population of the USA. China, responding to these trends, has recently redoubled its efforts to keep the growth of the church in check. 

- In Africa, the past 100 years have seen the sub-Saharan population across the continent convert to Christianity on large scales, going from 9 million Christians to over 400 million today.

- Latin America has seen significant growth in evangelical/Pentecostal churches in recent decades. Though the US is often perceived as the center of evangelicalism, Latin America has more evangelicals than the US & Canada combined.

- Within a matter of just a few short years, we will have a witnessing presence for the gospel of Jesus Christ available in every single ethnic/linguistic people group in the world--something that has never happened before in history!

- In short, we are seeing exactly what the Bible predicts: both a sense of challenge and opposition to the faith, at ever-growing scales, and, at the same time, the phenomenal growth of the gospel around the world.