Jerry Johnston Interviews Peter S. Williams on the Religious Prospect of Britain21 October 2016
Certainly saddened by rise of nones, the pastors and researchers we have interviewed are not entirely disheartened. Though being refined, the church in the UK is experiencing growth. After filming with atheist A.C. Grayling in London, my team and I interviewed Peter S. Williams, Christian apologist, author of C.S. Lewis and the New Atheists, and Assistant Professor in Communication and Worldviews at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, Norway. I asked Peter if he observed America moving in the same spiritual direction as Britain. Peter told me,
“It does seem that America is following the UK and the kind of European situation more broadly. I think – but the positive spin one could give on that is that it would seem that people are moving away from any sort of cultural Christianity, and expressing an identification with Christianity out of a sort of cultural sense of, “Well, I’m born into this culture, and so of course I’m a Christian.” Or, “Well, I was baptized as a child, so yes, I’m a Christian.” And it’s those people who have an intrinsic spiritual belief in Christ that actually means something to the way they live their lives, who now express a Christian identity. And so if you just extrapolated simply the graphs about church attendance, say, you end up saying, as I’ve seen newspaper articles doing, that, you know, “There will be no – there will be no church in the UK by the year 2065,” because you just extrapolate the decline in church attendance, and go, “Oh, extrapolate. Okay, and there’ll be no Christians in the 22nd century.” But actually, of course, there are elements, parts of the church, that are growing.”
Peter later commented that the rise in numbers may correlate with the church’s mishandling of the shifting religious landscape. He said there is a “failure to train people to engage with the ideas in the culture”. Such training should be both thoughtful and charitable. We are engaging with people foremost not just their ideas. The goal of Cristie Jo and I is for Christians to engage with compassion the secularism so prevalent in society. To facilitate that engagement, we are developing a variety of resources that will equip men and women with the answers.