SEARCH Journal

Being Christian today - a sermon preached in St Laserian’s Cathedral, Leighlin

I SUSPECT that most of you like me will have felt in recent years that Christianity is losing ground, especially in the West. We know it is losing ground in what Christians call the Holy Land; we see that Islam is strong from north Africa eastwards to Pakistan, Afghanistan, the borders of Russia and China, and Indonesia, and is gaining ground everywhere, not least in Ireland; that many educated, liberal minded people in the west find Buddhism increasingly attractive; that in India Hinduism remains strong. In China traditional Chinese religion is said to be re-establishing itself and there is some persecution of Christians. But Orthodox Christianity has enjoyed a revival in Russia, while Christianity, especially of an evangelical or Pentecostal nature, is flourishing and growing in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and is strong in what we call the Bible Belt of America.

Good news, perhaps, and bad news. Our own Anglican brand is clearly under a lot of pressure, especially from modern secularism and from the influence of the Enlightenment which has played down traditional belief in God. Many clergy like myself know well that our children’s generation no longer sees value in church and theology, and are not bringing up their children in the way we were brought up. And so we are all being driven to think a little more (even if we don’t always admit it) about our beliefs. And perhaps we have a suspicion which our grandparental missionaries would not have allowed, that the religious experience of followers of other religions – Buddhism, Islam, Hindus, Jainites, Confucians and others – cannot be totally dismissed as ignorant; their religions arrived by way of genuine human experience, after all.

* Full article available in printed copies.

John R Bartlett|john-bartlett|john-r-bartlett

John R Bartlett

was Principal of the Church of Ireland Theological College, 1989 - 2001, a noted intertestamental scholar, and for many years chairman of Search.