Responses to the Religion Singularity:
Slade is a theological historian, systematician, and critical rationalist philosopher from Denver, Colorado. Specializing in historic-speculative theology, theoretical metaphysics, and the socio-political development of religious belief systems, Darren’s academic publications include investigations into Islamic history, church history, ancient Near-Eastern textual interpretations, and the academic study of the philosophy, sociology, and psychology of religion. He earned his PhD in theology and church history from the Rawlings School of Divinity (Virginia).
Howard is an author, strategic missional consultant, church demographer, and church futurist from Germantown, Maryland. Ordained as an Episcopal priest and canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Ken is the founder and executive director of The FaithX Project, a nonprofit consulting and resource development practice serving congregational and judicatory leaders of all faith traditions. Ken is the author of several books and research articles. He holds a Master of Education from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary.
*Data sourced from Dimensions, an inter-linked research information system provided by Digital Science.
Since the publication of Kenneth Howard’s 2017 article, “The Religion Singularity: A Demographic Crisis Destabilizing and Transforming Institutional Christianity,” there has been an increasing demand to understand the root causes and historical foundations for why institutional Christianity is in a state of de-institutionalization. In response to Howard’s research, a number of authors have sought to provide a contextual explanation for why the religion singularity is currently happening, including studies in epistemology, church history, psychology, anthropology, and church ministry. The purpose of this article is to offer a brief survey and response to these interactions with Howard’s research, identifying the overall implications of each researcher’s perspective for understanding the religion singularity phenomenon. It explores factors relating to denominational switching in Jeshua Branch’s research, social memory in John Lingelbach’s essay, religious politics in Kevin Seybold’s survey, scientific reductionism in Jack David Eller’s position paper, and institutional moral failure in Brian McLaren’s article.
Keywords: Religion Singularity, Denominational Switching, Social Memory, Religious Politics,
Scientific Reductionism, Christian Judgmentalism
More From the Authors:
Author: Darren M. Slade, Kenneth W. Howard
Title: "Responses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder"
Journal: Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry
Journal Issue: Volume 1, Number 1
Date: Spring 2019
(footnote) Darren M. Slade and Kenneth W. Howard, “Responses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder,” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 51-74, https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.06.
(bibliography) Slade, Darren M., and Kenneth W. Howard. “Responses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 51-74. https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.06.
Slade, Darren M., and Kenneth W. Howard. “Responses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 2019, doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.06, pp. 51-74.
Slade, D. M., & Howard, K. W. (2019). Responses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder. Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, 1(1), 51-74. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.06.
Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A Religious History of the American People. New Have, CT: Yale University Press, 1972.
Barna, George. Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2001.
Bass, Diana Butler. Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.
———. The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church. Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2004.
Bivins, Jason C. Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Bowen, Kurt. Christians in a Secular World: The Canadian Experience. Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004.
Boyarin, Daniel. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. https://doi.org/10.9783/9780812203844.
Boyd, Gregory A. The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Branch, Jeshua B. “Grenz and Franke’s Post-Foundationalism and the Religion Singularity.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 1‒9, https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.01.
Chaves, Mark. American Religion: Contemporary Trends. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. https://doi.org/10.23943/princeton/9780691146850.001.0001.
Cooperman, Alan. Choosing a New Church or House of Worship: Americans Look for Good Sermons, Warm Welcome. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, Aug. 23, 2016. Accessed April 3, 2019. https://www.pewforum.org/2016/08/23/choosing-a-new-church-or-house-of-worship/.
de Boer, Martinus C. “The Nazoreans: Living at the Boundary of Judaism and Christianity.” In Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity, edited by Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa, 239‒62. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511659645.015.
Decety, Jean, Jason M. Cowell, Kang Lee, Randa Mahasneh, Susan Malcolm-Smith, Bilge Selcuk, and Xinyue Zhou. “The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World.” Current Biology 25, no. 22 (2015): 2951‒55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.09.056.
Doane, A. N. “The Ethnography of Scribal Writing and Anglo-Saxon Poetry: Scribe as Performer.” Oral Tradition 9, no. 2 (October 1994): 420‒39.
Domke, David, and Kevin Coe. The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326413.001.0001.
Donahue, Michael J., and Peter L. Benson. “Belief Style, Congregational Climate, and Program Quality.” In Church and Denominational Growth, edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, 225‒40. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Dougherty, Kevin D., Brandon C. Martinez, and Gerardo Martí “Congregational Diversity and Attendance in a Mainline Protestant Denomination.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 54, no. 4 (December 2015): 668‒83. https://doi.org/10.1111/jssr.12229.
Ehrman, Bart D. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018.
Eller, Jack David. “Is the Disintegration of Christianity a Problem—or Even a Surprise?” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 29‒38, https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.04.
Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. 2000. Pbk. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Eve, Eric. Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition. 2013. Reprint, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014.
Finke, Roger, and Rodney Stark. The Churching of America, 1776–2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.
Finnegan, Ruth H. Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1988.
Flatt, Kevin N. After Evangelicalism: The Sixties and the United Church of Canada. Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2013.
Foley, John Miles. “Memory in Oral Tradition.” In Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory, and Mark; Essays Dedicated to Werner Kelber. Pbk. ed, edited by Richard A. Horsley, Jonathan A. Draper, and John Miles Foley, 83‒96. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011.
Gago, Selma, Santiago F. Elena, Ricardo Flores, and Rafael Sanjuán. “Extremely High Mutation Rate of a Hammerhead Viroid.” Science 323, no. 5919 (March 2009): 1308. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1169202.
Green, Norman M., and Paul W. Light. “Growth and Decline in an Inclusive Denomination: The ABC Experience.” In Church and Denominational Growth, edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, 112‒26. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Greer, Bruce A. “Strategies for Evangelism and Growth in Three Denominations (1965‒1990).” In Church and Denominational Growth, edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, 87‒111. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Gushee, David P. The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2008.
Hadaway, C. Kirk. “Is Evangelistic Activity Related to Church Growth?” In Church and Denominational Growth, edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, 169‒87. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Hadaway, C. Kirk, and Penny Long Marler. “Growth and Decline in the Mainline.” In Faith in America: Changes, Challenges, New Directions, edited by Charles H. Lippy. Vol. 1, Organized Religion Today, 1‒24. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006.
Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Edited and translated by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Haskell, David Millard, Kevin N. Flatt, and Stephanie Burgoyne. “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy.” Review of Religious Research 58, no. 4 (2016): 515‒41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13644-016-0255-4.
Hengel, Martin. Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity. Translated by John Bowden. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1983.
Hout, Michael, Andrew Greeley, and Melissa J. Wilde. “The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change in the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 107, no. 2 (September 2001): 468‒500. https://doi.org/10.1086/324189.
Howard, Kenneth W. Excommunicating the Faithful: Jewish Christianity in the Early Church. 3rd ed. Germantown, MD: FaithX Press, 2013.
———. Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2010.
———. “The Religion Singularity: A Demographic Crisis Destabilizing and Transforming Institutional Christianity.” International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society 7, no. 2 (2017): 77‒93. http://dx.doi.org/10.18848/2154-8633/cgp/v07i02/77-93.
Huebenthal, Sandra. “Social and Cultural Memory in Biblical Exegesis: The Quest for an Adequate Application.” In Cultural Memory in Biblical Exegesis, edited by Pernille Carstens, Trine Hasselbalch, and Niels Peter Lemche. Perspectives on Hebrew Scriptures and Its Contexts 17, 175‒99. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2012.
Johnson, Phil. “You Can’t Handle the Truth: The Sinful Tolerance of Postmodernism.” The Journal of Modern Ministry 1, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 219‒45.
Jones, Charles B. “The Necessity of Religious Diversity.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 28, no. 4 (1999): 403‒17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/000842989902800401.
Jones, Robert P. The End of White Christian America. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2016.
Jones, Robert P., Daniel Cox, and Rachel Lienesch. Who Sees Discrimination? Attitudes on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Race, and Immigration Status: Findings from PRRI’s American Values Atlas. Washington, DC: PRRI, 2017. Accessed April 5, 2018. https://www.prri.org/research/americans-views-discrimination-immigrants-blacks-lgbt-sex-marriage-immigration-reform/.
Juarrero, Alicia. Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999. http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/2528.001.0001.
Kelber, Werner H. “In the Beginning Were the Words: The Apotheosis and Narrative Displacement of the Logos.” In Imprints, Voiceprints, and Footprints of Memory: Collected Essays of Werner h. Kelber. Resources for Biblical Study, 75‒102. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjh34.10.
King, Sallie B. “Buddhist Ethics: Engagement without Judgmentalism.” Bridges 13, no. 3 (2006): 287‒307.
Kinnaman, David, and Gabe Lyons. Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity …And Why It Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.
Kirk, Alan. “Manuscript Tradition as A Tertium Quid: Orality and Memory in Scribal Practices.” In Memory and the Jesus Tradition: The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries, 114‒37. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9780567663474.0014.
———. “Social and Cultural Memory.” In Memory, Tradition, and Text: Use of the Past in Early Christianity, edited by Alan Kirk and Tom Thatcher. Semeia Studies 52, 1‒24. Boston, MA: SBL, 2005.
Koester, Craig R. “The Origin and Significance of the Flight to Pella Tradition.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51, no. 1 (January 1989): 90‒106.
Kohut, Andrew, Scott Keeter, Carroll Doherty, and Michael Dimock. Some Social Conservative Disillusionment: More Americans Question Religion’s Role in Politics (Results from the 2008 Annual Religion and Public Life Survey). Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, August 21, 2008. Accessed April 6, 2019. http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/legacy-pdf/445.pdf.
Krašovec, Rok, Huw Richards, Danna R. Gifford, Charlie Hatcher, Katy J. Faulkner, Roman V. Belavkin, Alastair Channon, Elizabeth Aston, Andrew J. McBain, and Christopher G. Knight. “Spontaneous Mutation Rate Is a Plastic Trait Associated with Population Density Across Domains of Life.” PLOS Biology 15, no. 8 (2017): e2002731. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2002731.
Lalleman, Pieter J. “Polymorphy of Christ.” In The Apocryphal Acts of John, edited by Jan N. Bremmer. Vol. 1. Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, 97‒118. Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1995.
Lingelbach, John F. “First Century Christian Diversity: Historical Evidence of a Social Phenomenon.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 11‒20, https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.02.
Lord, Albert B. The Singer of Tales. 2nd ed. Edited by Stephen Mitchell and Gregory Nagy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
Lugo, Luis. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Affiliation; Diverse and Dynamic. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, Feb. 2008. Accessed April 3, 2019. https://www.pewforum.org/2008/02/01/u-s-religious-landscape-survey-religious-affiliation/.
MacArthur, John F. Jr. The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.
March, Jennifer. “Reconsidering Mainline Decline: Contemporary Forms of Mainline Adaptation and Congregational Survival.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal, Quebec, 2006.
Marler, Penny Long, and C. Kirk Hadaway. “New Church Development and Denominational Growth (1950‒1988): Symptom or Cause?” In Church and Denominational Growth, edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, 47‒86. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
McLaren, Brian D. “Conditions for the Great Religion Singularity.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (2019): 40‒49, https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.05.
———. A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith. Pbk. ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.
McMickle, Marvin A. “Where Have All the Prophets Gone?” Ashland Theological Journal 37 (2005): 7‒18.
Mimouni, S. C. “Les nazoréens: Recherche étymologique et historique.” Revue Biblique 105, no. 2 (1998): 208‒62.
Mohler, R. Albert Jr. “Mohler, Jr. Discusses Evangelical Support for Trump” (YouTube video). October 11, 2016. Accessed April 6, 2019. youtube.com/watch?v=s6hsLy0dimA&feature=youtu.be.
Nichols, Stephen J. Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to The Passion of the Christ. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
O’Keeffe, Katherine O’Brien. Visible Song: Transitional Literacy in Old English Verse. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Oakman, Douglas E. “Culture, Society, and Embedded Religion in Antiquity.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 35, no. 1 (2005): 4‒12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/01461079050350010201.
Olson, Daniel V. A. “Congregational Growth and Decline in Indiana Among Five Mainline Denominations.” In Church and Denominational Growth, edited by David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, 208‒24. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy. 3rd ed. London: Routledge, 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203103258.
Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. 1979. Pbk. ed. Reprint, New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Parappally, Jacob. “One Jesus – Many Christologies.” Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection 61, no. 10 (1997): 708‒18.
Parrinder, E. Geoffrey. “Religion: Nature and Origins.” In Companion Encyclopedia of Geography: The Environment and Humankind, edited by Ian Douglas, Richard Huggett, and Mike Robinson, 120‒36. New York: Routledge, 1996. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203416822.
Person, Raymond F. Jr. “The Ancient Israelite Scribe as Performer.” Journal of Biblical Literature 117, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 601‒9. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3266629.
Reimer, Samuel H., and Jerry Z. Park. “Tolerant (In)civility? A Longitudinal Analysis of White Conservative Protestants’ Willingness to Grant Civil Liberties.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 40, no. 4 (December 2001): 735‒45. https://doi.org/10.1111/0021-8294.00088.
Reno, R. R. “Trumping Evangelicals.” First Things 262 (April 2016): 3‒7.
Robinson, James M., and Helmut Koester. Trajectories through Early Christianity. 1971. Reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006.
Rodríguez, Rafael. Oral Tradition and the New Testament: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781472550675.
Scheler, Max. Man's Place in Nature. Translated by Hans Meyerhoff. Boston: Noonday Press, 1961.
Seybold, Kevin S. “A Cultural Cognition Perspective on Religion Singularity: How Political Identity Influences Religious Affiliation.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 1 (2019): 21‒28, https://doi.org/10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.03.
Sider, Ronald J. The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.
Simon, Caroline J. “Judgmentalism.” Faith and Philosophy 6, no. 3 (1989): 275‒87. http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/faithphil19896322.
Sharp, Douglas R. “Evangelicals, Racism, and the Limits of Social Science Research.” Christian Scholar’s Review 33, no. 2 (Winter 2004): 237‒61.
Slade, Darren M. “Miracle Eyewitness Reports.” In Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, edited by David A. Leeming, 1. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27771-9_200227-1.
———. “Religious Homophily and Biblicism: A Theory of Conservative Church Fragmentation.” The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society 9, no. 1 (2019): 13‒28. http://dx.doi.org/10.18848/2154-8633/cgp/v09i01/13-28.
Smith, Christian. Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
Smith, Gregory. America’s Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, May 12, 2015. Accessed April 3, 2019. https://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
Spieler, David A. “Hypocrisy: An Exploration of a ‘Third Type’.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 13, no. 2 (1975): 273‒79.
Stark, Rodney. The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion. New York: HarperOne, 2011.
———. What Americans Really Believe: New Findings from the Baylor Surveys of Religion. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2008.
Stark, Rodney, and Roger Finke. Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
Tamney, Joseph B., and Stephen D. Johnson. “The Popularity of Strict Churches.” Review of Religious Research 39, no. 3 (March 1998): 209‒23. https://doi.org/10.2307/3512589.
Taylor, Joan E. “The Phenomenon of Early Jewish-Christianity: Reality or Scholarly Invention?” Vigiliae Christianae 44, no. 4 (1990): 313‒34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/157007290x00090.
Tellbe, Mikael. “De Efesoskristna : Teologisk mångfald och social identitet i den tidiga kristna rörelsen.” Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift 86, no. 1 (2010): 4‒12.
Thomas, Jeremy N., and Daniel V. A. Olson. “Testing the Strictness Thesis and Competing Theories of Congregational Growth.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49, no. 4 (December 2010): 619‒39. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01534.x.
Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008.
Trebilco, Paul. “Christian Communities in Western Asia Minor into the Early Second Century: Ignatius and Others as Witnesses Against Bauer.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 1 (March 2006): 17‒44.
Utter, Glenn H., and John W. Storey. The Religious Right: A Reference Handbook. 3rd ed. Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2007.
van Aarde, Andries G. “Ebionite Tendencies in the Jesus Tradition: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas Interpreted from the Perspective of Ethnic Identity.” Neotestamentica 40, no. 2 (2006): 353‒82.
van Houwelingen, P. H. R. “Fleeing Forward: The Departure of Christians from Jerusalem to Pella.” The Westminster Theological Journal 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 181‒200.
Van Slyke, James A. The Cognitive Science of Religion. Ashgate Science and Religion. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2011. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315614809.
Wilcox, Clyde, and Ted Jelen. “Evangelicals and Political Tolerance.” American Politics Quarterly 18, no. 1 (January 1990): 25‒46. https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673x9001800102.
Woodberry, Robert D., and Christian Smith. “Fundamentalism et al: Conservative Protestants in America.” Annual Review of Sociology 24, no. 1 (1998): 25‒56. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.25.