Hope for a more Christian future

by D.C. Innes

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2015, at 3:18 pm

Polls indicate that the proportion of Christians in America is declining from one generation to the next, and that the share of the religiously unaffiliated is growing. At the same time, pagan culture has become dominant. One may wonder if there is a future for Christianity in America.

But Stephen Turley points us to demographic data that indicates that “the future, as it turns out, is actually rather dire for secular liberalism.” The U.S. fertility rate (births per woman) is about 1.9, whereas the replacement rate to sustain population levels is 2.1. But religious people have markedly larger families than the irreligious. A Pew survey this year found that the fertility rate among Catholics and evangelicals is 2.3, whereas atheists and agnostics are well below the replacement rate at about 1.4 children per family. University of London political scientist Eric Kaufmann calls this “the soft underbelly of secularism.”

If American Christians were to produce children at a rate double that of secular America, 3 percent or above, including adoptions, then America would have hope of a more Christ-honoring future. To put this in perspective, the post–World War II baby boom broke the 3.6 percent mark at its peak. The Mormon fertility rate is 3.4. It can be done.

But there is more to producing a Christian culture than filling the minivan. According to the same Pew study, 34 percent of those born in evangelical homes have forsaken their religious roots. Thankfully, even more have come into the faith from outside, but not enough to keep up with population growth. This is the backdoor problem, our sad failure in passing on a vibrant faith to successive generations.

We evangelize in the hope that, as God blesses our efforts, this land would be increasingly filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). But advancing toward this goal (never fully realized until Christ’s return) requires that the evangelizing church take care of its own, including those the Lord has cast within its walls by faithful and blessed family building. To this end, we must embody faith and grace in our marriages, in our homes—including the instruction and discipline of our children, management of their access to media, supervision of their choice of friends—in our Christian schooling, and in our church ministry to our children of all ages and to their parents as parents.

In the beginning, God commanded Adam to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28, ESV). God wants His holy and faithful human creation to reproduce joyfully and worshipfully around the globe. As they trust Him, they will.

As we see ever more radical abortion practices, which imaging technology has exposed as essentially infanticide, and the tenacious defense of it on the secularist left, Christians are awakening to the broader cultures of life and of death, of giving and sacrifice and of grasping and selfishness. Those who embrace the culture of death and sterility will diminish. We will see the truth of God’s judgment: “All who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36, ESV). But those will flourish who choose life and follow the Lord of life who said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV).

D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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