Lately, a free-church evangelical protestant acquaintance of mine has been bemoaning the dreary news that his denominational numbers are on a downward trend. Little parishes are closing faster than little parishes can be planted.
Bill (for that is his name) should consider, in his threnody on decline, that it may not be his fault, or your fault, or even mine. Church decline may be no one's fault, simply because God adds to the church those who are being saved, and we may be finding out that a lot of people just don't want the bother of being saved.
I think we're at a point (hopefully, not permanently) where people generally know that they should attach themselves to the Gospel, but simply don't want to. God exists, and people know this (knowing God exists is no achievement: believing in Him is grace and work, in fear and trembling). But knowing this is something they would rather repress.
Much is repressed these days. God, His goodness, His eternity and omnipotence. But also Man, his nature, his immortality.
Especially repressed is the awareness of his tendency to die, and to continue on as a disembodied soul. Again, I think people know this. The awareness of this looming disembodied reality is what I call (not-so-poetically) "the 4 am abyss." This is a fearful thing, obviously: but I wonder if this fear isn't behind the curtain of much we call "anxiety" or even "depression."
The soul – or the thought of it – is repressed. It has become a four-letter word. If not used as a musical genre, it is more offensive (in its original sense) than the f-word, or the s-word, or all the other words that George Carlin once spoke in tongues.
Soul. Immortal (yes, by grace, I know). Non-migratory. Ineradicable.
Meant for fellowship in the peace of the Trinity. Founders otherwise in Hades and fog.
Again, I insist, everyone knows this and cannot get away from the thought of it.
Time will tell. Time will change things. Time scours, even corrodes, the plasticene integuments of fantasy away.
The Gospel is not Good News if there is no God and if there is no permanent soul. This fantasia is the method of this age: it is not real, but it is the catechesis. It is the mystagogy behind the Public Liturgy that has embraced all of life under the pall of Leviathan.
When we ask people to come to Church, we ask them – more now than ever lately – to turn against a popular mystery cult, so popular that it is from sea to shining sea, so comprehensive that it has fulfilled the potency of all anti-Gospel cult and has completely denied God and Man, and has isolated Moment outside of Time, Experience outside of Meaning, Will and Want outside of Truth.
There is no God in the anti-Gospel, as there is no Man. Or rather, there is, or there may be, but it really doesn't matter when there is neither tomorrow nor yesterday, nor even any day at all.
The Antichrist does not care about religion at all. We thought he did but we were wrong. He only cares about Time and tries to make it go away.
Time will tell. People do not come to church these days, or they try to secularize what remains of Church these days, only because and all because a denatured form of Christianity is so much easier in other places, and the Gospel of God to Man is so very hard. And inconvenient.