Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, Volume 1, Issue 1
88 Pages
English

Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, Volume 1, Issue 1

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Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry (SHERM journal) is a biannual, not-for-profit, free peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes the latest social-scientific, historiographic, and ecclesiastic research on religious institutions and their ministerial practices. SHERM is dedicated to the critical and scholarly inquiry of historical and contemporary religious phenomena, both from within particular religious traditions and across cultural boundaries, so as to inform the broader socio-historical analysis of religion and its related fields of study. The purpose of SHERM is to provide a scholarly medium for the social-scientific study of religion where specialists can publish advanced studies on religious trends, theologies, rituals, philosophies, socio-political influences, or experimental and applied ministry research in the hopes of generating enthusiasm for the vocational and academic study of religion while fostering collegiality among religious specialists. Its mission is to provide academics, professionals, and nonspecialists with critical reflections and evidence-based insights into the socio-historical study of religion and, where appropriate, its implications for ministry and expressions of religiosity.

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Published 13 June 2019
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SOCIO-HISTORICALEXAMINATIONOFRELIGION ANDMINISTRY: AJOURNAL OFTHEFAITHXPROJECTVOLUME1,NO.1General Editor: SPRING2019 Darren M. Slade, Ph.D. www.shermjournal.org Editorial Advisory Board: Abimbola A. Adelakun, Ph.D. ISSN2637-7519 (print) Peter Antoci, Ph.D. ISSN2637-7500 (online) Robert Gregory Cavin, Ph.D.ISBN978-1-5326-8495-1  Mike Clawson, Ph.D. Carlos Colombetti, Ph.D.Wipf and Stock PublishersFales, Ph.D. Evan 199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3Anthony Gill, Ph.D.  Ken Howard, M.Div., M.Ed.Eugene, OR 97401-2960  Mark A. Moore, Ph.D. Tel: (541) 344-1528Josh Packard, Ph.D. Amy Beth Rell, Ph.D. Printed copies of this issue are available for Robert R. Stains, Jr., M.Ed. purchase from Wipf and Stock Publishers through their website www.wipfandstock.com or by email orders@wipfandstock.com. Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry(SHERM journal) is a biannual, not-for-profit, free peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes the latest social-scientific, historiographic, and ecclesiastic research on religious institutions and their ministerial practices. SHERM is dedicated to the critical and scholarly inquiry of historical and contemporary religious phenomena, both from within particular religious traditions and across cultural boundaries, so as to inform the broader socio-historical analysis of religion and its related fields of study. The purpose of SHERM is to provide a scholarly medium for the social-scientific study of religion where specialists can publish advanced studies on religious trends, theologies, rituals, philosophies, socio-political influences, or experimental and applied ministry research in the hopes of generating enthusiasm for the vocational and academic study of religion while fostering collegiality among religious specialists. Its mission is to provide academics, professionals, and nonspecialists with critical reflections and evidence-based insights into the socio-historical study of religion and, where appropriate, its implications for ministry and expressions of religiosity. No part of this journal or issue may be used, copied, or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the editors except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles, reviews, and other scholarly publications. The copyright is waived where reproduction of journal material is required for classroom use by instructors and students. Opinions and conclusions expressed in SHERM are those of the individual article authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Editorial Advisory Board, the FaithX Project, or other affiliated partners. For questions or permissions, contact the SHERM editorial staff: shermeditor@gmail.com. Copyright © 2019,Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry. All rights reserved.
Editorial Advisory Board SHERM journal is a division of the non-profit organization, FaithX Project (a religiously affiliated institute), and therefore, receives endowments from FaithX to maintain a significant presence within academia and the broader faith community. Nonetheless, the journal is overseen by an independent, religiously unaffiliated Editorial Advisory Board to ensure the content of the published articles meet stringent standards of critical scholarship uninfluenced by theological or ideological allegiances. Copyright Privileges When publishing an article through SHERM, authors are able to retain copyright privileges over their research. As part of the rights agreement, however, all authors wishing to publish their research through SHERM must transfer exclusive licensing rights over to SHERM, thereby granting SHERM the right to claim the article as part of its publishing proprietary corpus. In other words, authors retain copyright credit for the article but SHERM becomes the sole publisher of the material. Nonetheless, SHERM is a non-restrictive licensing publication, which means authors (as copyright owners of their research) are allowed to share and repost their article on any website of their choosing. This transfer of exclusive licensing rights does not mean authors forfeit their copyright privileges. As partners with SHERM, upon acceptance and publication of an article, authors are automatically granted the right to share, disseminate, use, and repost their article in any way they deem necessary to expand the visibility of their publication. Likewise, authors retain all intellectual property rights, including the specific research content and data employed throughout the article, as well as the right to retain attribution rights as the article’s original creator and writer. Licensing TransferAs the sole licensee of your article, SHERM retains the exclusive right to publish, distribute, or transfer the license of your article to other third parties for private and commercial purposes. SHERM reserves the right to create and authorize the commercial use of any and all published articles. In order to make your published article available to as many audiences and researchers as possible, SHERM reserves the right to post (and repost even after initial publication of) your article in any form or media as allowable by the newest technological developments . Currently, this means SHERM will post your article to numerous open access websites and s ocial media platforms. SHERM also reserves the right to advertise the publication of your article through various mediums. By transferring exclusive licensing rights to SHERM, authors agree to the following stipulations: Authors cannot republish their article (either in English or in another language) with a different academic journal (without express consent from SHERM). Authors who repost their article online must incorporate a citation that indicates SHERM as the publisher of the content (including a link to the original article on the SHERM website, as well as the volume and issue number). Authors who wish to use portions of the article for other publications or work must cite the original SHERM publication. SHERM is granted authorization to impose copyright infringements laws, as well as combat instances of plagiarism against third parties on behalf of the author(s).
TABLE OFCONTENTSVOLUME1,NO.1 SPRING2019 SOCIAL-SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH Grenz and Franke’s Post-Foundationalism and the Religion Singularity  Jeshua B. BranchFirst Century Christian Diversity: Historical Evidence of a Social Phenomenon  John F. LingelbachINVITED POSITION PAPERS A Cultural Cognition Perspective on Religion Singularity: How Political Identity Influences Religious Affiliation  Kevin S. SeyboldIs the Disintegration of Christianity a Problem—or Even a Surprise?  Jack David EllerMINISTRY RESEARCH Conditions for the Great Religion Singularity  Brian D. McLarenResponses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder  Darren M. Slade, Kenneth W. Howard BOOK REVIEWS Crossing Boundaries, Redefining Faith: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Emerging Church Movementby Michael Clawson and April Stace, eds. Robert D. Francis
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Branch: Grenz And Franke’s Post-Foundationalism 3 it.” In brief, Howard corresponds “singularity” to the exponential surge in Christian denominations and worship centers, especially in the last one hundred years. Noting that since the worldwide Christian growth rate is projected to remain the same, Howard forecasts a 4 dramatic transformation of institutional Christianity. Due to these projections and more, present-day Christians are forced to ask if their faith can survive in this latest epoch. Howard believes survival is possible, but only if the fragmentation of Christianity subsides. Thus, he recommends Christian leaders experiment with less building-centric worship centers.  The purpose of this article is to explain the epistemic undercurrents of the “religion singularity” as it pertains to the current era of Christian mission. In particular, twenty-first century Christians are observing the transition of its faith into a new epoch based on the shifting from modernity to postmodernity. After summarizing Howard’s findings, the article will identify how this shifting worldview has also induced a change from the epistemic system of foundationalism to post-foundationalism, as well as how the change can produce the possibility for Christian mission to continue despite the collapse of institutional Christianity. In fact, recent trends in American Protestantism suggest that nondenominational house churches will become increasingly prominent in the post-foundationalist era. A Summary of the Religion Singularity  Howard first explains that institutional Christianity is in a state of crisis. At the turn of the twentieth century, Christianity was represented by 1,600 denominations; but by the 1950s, 5 there were 9,300. Within just fifty years, Christianity split into six times the amount of denominations than it had in its first nineteen centuries of existence. The number continued to accelerate, becoming 34,200 at the turn of the twenty-first century and it grew even more to 6 45,000 by 2014. It has been projected that either the influx of Christian denominations will 7 plateau at 97,000 by the year 2100 or it will continue to accelerate to 240,000. At the same time, the total number of worship centers has exponentially grown, as well. From approximately 400,000 centers in 1900 to one million in 1950, the number continued to climb to 3.5 million at the turn of the century and exceeded 4.7 million by 2014. It is also projected that the number of 8 worship centers will grow to 7.5 million by 2025 and reach 66.3 million by the year 2100.  What makes these numbers significant is that while the annual growth rate for Christianity continues to remain the same (1.32% growth), the number of believers is exceeded 9 by both the growth in number of denominations (1.98%) and worship centers (2.4%). Thus, the worldwide Christian population growth rate is 33% less than denominational fragmentation and 41% below the spread of worship centers. In the twentieth century alone, the number of denominational members dropped from 349,000 to 58,000 and may continue to decrease to 17,500 (95% less) by the end of the twenty-first century. Likewise, the number of Christian
3 Kenneth W. Howard, “The Religion Singularity: A Demographic Crisis Destabilizing and Transforming Institutional Christianity,”International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society7, no. 2 (2017): 77, http://dx.doi.org/10.18848/2154-8633/cgp/v07i02/77-93. 4 Ibid., 7778. 5 Ibid., 82. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid., 83. 8 Ibid., 8384. 9 Ibid., 84.  2
Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry Vol. 1, No. 1 © Spring 2019 10 congregants per worship center has dropped from 1,395 to just 64 during the twentieth century. These numbers are noteworthy when considering they comprise the total worldwide Christian population, including those not associated with a worship center or denomination. The numbers would actually be more destabilizing if they counted only denominational memberships.  Regardless, Howard proposes that the rapid fragmentation of Christianity will eventually lead to its institutional collapse. He employs the mathematical and technological term “singularity” to describe this phenomenon, which signifies “the point at which the results of an equation exceed finite limitation, accelerating toward infinity but never reaching it, such as when 11 a constant is divided by numbers approaching zero.” Here, singularity involves three distinct 12 states: a slow take off, rapid acceleration, and finally the point of no return (“singularity”). He predicts that denominations may not survive the singularity phenomenon, although worship 13 centers may survive if they are willing to be more experimental and flexible in their operations. Understanding Religion Singularity  The data from Howard’s article expresses the evolution of the Christian religion as it attempts to meet the unique needs of an increasingly postmodern world. Christianity has, in fact, gone through notable shifts in its history with the stated intention of being socially and spiritually effective. For many leaders, Christians should not be dismayed as new, unforeseen obstacles arise like the institutional crisis described by the religion singularity. As Christopher Wright reflects, “[Christians] may be challenged by swimming in the postmodern pool, but we need not 14 feel out of our depth there.” The question then becomes, What exactly has Howard identified epistemically with the singularity effect? This section will attempt to address the question by identifying how a foundationalist epistemology had influenced institutional Christianity and how reactions to foundationalism eventually led to the religion singularity.
Foundationalist Influences on the Religion Singularity
 InBeyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, Stanley Grenz and John Franke surveyed the historical and theological factors that may have led to the fragmentation of denominational Christianity. The authors explain how the postmodern context of the twenty-first century has characteristically rejected the foundationalism that typified 15 Enlightenment epistemology, resulting in a post-foundationalist religiosity. Based on their understanding of the paradigm shift from modernity to postmodernity, as well as from foundationalism to post-foundationalism, future researchers can determine the epistemic undercurrent that may have resulted in the institutional destabilization of the Christian religion.
10 Howard, “The Religion Singularity,” 85. 11 Ibid., 80. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid., 87. 14 Christopher J. H. Wright,The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 46. 15  Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke,Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context(Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 28.  3
Branch: Grenz And Franke’s Post-Foundationalism  To begin, the Enlightenment became known as the “Age of Reason” and was significantly influenced by the philosophical work of René Descartes, who sought a “foundation” from which to construct all knowledge. He doubted everything he believed to be true until he determined that the only thing he could be certain of was his own existence, 16 resulting in his famous dictum, “I think, therefore, I am.” A major consequence of Descartes’ doubting was the epistemic system of foundationalism. This bottom-up approach to knowledge holds that some beliefs are more basic (“foundational”) than others, making the entire system consist of three primary features: 1) basic beliefs form the bedrock of all future nonbasic beliefs; 2) these nonbasic beliefs derive from the indisputability of the basic beliefs; and 3) the subsequent nonbasic beliefs then receive the same epistemic certainty as their foundational counterparts. Here, the foundationalist goal is to ground the entire edifice of human knowledge 17 upon invincible and incorrigible certainty.  Soon, Christians adopted epistemic foundationalism and manifested its effects in different ways during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On the one hand, the foundation of theological liberalism emphasized the experience of individual believers, while on the other, the foundation of theological conservatism emphasized an inerrant Bible that held infallible historical and spiritual truths. As each side averred that their particular foundation was 18 epistemically superior to the other, a schism occurred in Western Protestant Christianity. Eventually, the evangelical movement’s adoption of foundationalism built its own edifice upon a narrow sense of orthodoxy, which produced “fundamentalist” Christians who adhered to a legalistic system defined by its dissociation from the culture (e.g. abstaining from alcohol and movie theaters). While they professed theological orthodoxy, these (neo-)evangelicals distanced themselves from humanitarian efforts (i.e. the Social Gospel) because of a fear of compromising 19 orthodoxy with liberalism and the perceived threat of de-emphasizing personal piety.  Ultimately, Grenz and Franke concluded that this style of theological foundationalism had intensified theological divides, eventually leading to a cascade of Christian fragmentation. “Today we find significant differences not only between these two groups but also within them, 20 differences regarding a host of theological issues.” The natural result of this fragmentation is the exponential increase in denominations and worship centers (the “religion singularity”). Thus, the effect of Christianity rapidly fragmenting into competing institutions has become more noticeable as the current epistemic paradigm shift into post-foundationalism has forced some believers to reimagine the nature of “effective” Christian mission in the twenty-first century.
16 Grenz and Franke,Beyond Foundationalism, 31. 17 Ibid., 30. See also, Ferdinand Deist, “Post-Modernism and the Use of Scripture in Theological Argument: Footnotes to the Apartheid Theology Debate,”Neotestamentica28, no. 3 (1994): 25363. 18 Grenz and Franke,Beyond Foundationalism, 3338. 19 Significantly, by the last quarter of the twentieth century, evangelical scholars and theologians began to take very seriously the importance of social justice by balancing their former overt emphasis on conversion. This trend has positively affected the missional practice of (post-)conservatives in the twenty-first century. Cf. Frank E. Gaebelein, “Evangelicals and Social Concern,”Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society25, no. 1 (March 1982): 1722; Brian Steensland and Philip Goff, eds.,The New Evangelical Social Engagement(New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 1,https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199329533.001.0001; Ronald J. Sider, “Evangelicals and Social Justice,” inEvangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century, ed. Brian C. Stiller et al. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 12833; and David P. Gushee and Justin Phillips, “Moral Formation and the Evangelical Voter: A Report from the Red States,”Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics26, no. 2 (2006): 2360,https://doi.org/10.5840/jsce20062623. 20 Grenz and Franke,Beyond Foundationalism, 4.  4