Newsweek: Christianity in Crisis

By Frank Viola

Someone I respect asked me on Twitter to comment on Andrew Sullivan’s recent article entitled, “Christianity in Crisis.” Sullivan’s article recently made the cover of Newsweek.

The cover title reads, “Forget the Church: Follow Jesus.”

Since I want to keep this blog post relatively short, I am limiting my commentary to four points.

1. The cover title represents the unparalleled confusion that the word “church” engenders. The title reads, “Forget the Church.” But what “church” are we talking about?

Is Sullivan saying . . .

Forget the Roman Catholic Church?

Forget the Anglican Church?

Forget the Church of Latter Day Saints?

Forget assembling with other Christians in any way, shape, or form?

Forget all other Christians in the world?

Forget the Evangelicals, their movement, and the churches that contain them?

Forget attending two hours on Sunday morning (in other words, forget attending “church” services)?

Forget that building with a steeple on it that many fondly call “church.”

Forget the body of Christ?

So the title breeds massive confusion, first rattle out of the box. In our day “church” has become a clay word, molded and shaped to mean drastically different things. Sullivan isn’t alone in using “church” in this nebulous way.

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I’ve seen several blog posts titled, “Why I Left the Church.” Upon reading each post, the various authors were using the word “church” to mean different things.

One author was talking about the fundamentalist denominations of which he was a part. So he was really saying, “Why I Left the Fundamentalist Denominations” (or words to that effect).

Another author was speaking about the institutional church as we know it, regardless of the denomination or denominational non-denomination (yes, you read that right).

In the article at hand, Sullivan appears to be speaking chiefly about the Roman Catholic Church. I’ll explain more about that shortly.

Point: If you ever write on “the church,” be sure to define what you mean first. If not, many of your readers will ascribe their own meaning to what you say…

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