The City, the Church, and the Future

Tim Keller | July 5, 2015

City to City Europe held a conference in Paris last October with over 500 in attendance from dozens of countries. Besides me, one of the other speakers was Grace Davie, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Exeter in Great Britain. Professor Davie’s lecture, “Religion in Modern Europe,” was a great encouragement to European Christian leaders who are incessantly told religion is dying out on their continent and a Christian mission there is a hopeless cause. It should also encourage any of us who serve in the secular West.

Inherited Religion’s Decline

Davie explains that for centuries in Europe religion was inherited. Most Europeans were born into their church and remained members unless something quite drastic was done to end the association. Most European countries had one national church that was a part of the racial-national identity. If you were Polish, you were Catholic; if you were Swedish, you were Lutheran; and if you were Scottish, you were Presbyterian. In past times, even though there was never one dominant church in the United States, you weren’t considered a good American unless you went to a church of some kind. 

This kind of inherited religion is declining rapidly, especially in Europe. Our late-modern culture is marked by what Robert Bellah calls …

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