Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

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Grenz and Franke’s Post-Foundationalism and the Religion Singularity

Jeshua B. Branch

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 1-9

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.01

Termed the “religion singularity” by Kenneth Howard, the habitual fragmentation of institutional Christianity has led to the exponential growth in denominations and worship centers despite the annual growth rate of new believers remaining the same. Howard has concluded that denominations are unlikely to survive this crisis, although worship centers are much more likely to survive if they are willing to be flexible. The purpose of this article is to identify the epistemic trends that have led to the destabilization of institutional Christianity over the last century, namely the shifting worldview from modernity to postmodernity, and how this shift has influenced the rise of nondenominational house church attendance in American Christianity.

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First Century Christian Diversity: Historical Evidence of a Social Phenomenon

John F. Lingelbach

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 11-20

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.02

In light of Ken Howard’s recent “religion singularity” phenomenon, this article attempts to ascertain the nature of Christian diversity during the last seventy years of the first century (roughly 30 to 100 CE). It offers an examination of the two largest Christian movements that existed before the second century, as well as when those movements may have begun and the locations they most likely flourished. The article argues that the earliest Christian tradition was the one persecuted by the Apostle Paul and that later, two breakaway movements splintered off from this tradition: the Pauline and Ebionite movements. The paper concludes that during the first century, of these two splinter movements, the Pauline movement likely preceded that of the Ebionite movement, though they both flourished in many of the same locations. Of interest is the finding that all three Christian movements (the pre-Pauline tradition, Pauline, and Ebionite) flourished in Asia Minor, a cosmopolitan sub-continent which appears to have served as a geographic information nucleus through which diverse ideas easily proliferated.

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A Cultural Cognition Perspective on Religion Singularity: How Political Identity Influences Religious Affiliation

Kevin S. Seybold

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 21-28

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.03

Kenneth Howard argues in his paper, “The Religion Singularity,” that institutional Christianity has experienced and will continue to experience an increase in the number of denominations and individual worship centers, which, along with a slower increase in the number of Christians in the US, will make institutional Christianity unsustainable in its current form. While there are, no doubt, many reasons why this religion singularity has or will take place, this paper examines the role of cultural cognition on the trends reported in Howard’s article. Cultural commitments and values, such as group membership and identity, influence the position individuals take on a variety of religious and political topics, which can then lead to polarization on these issues within the broader society. While we might expect that religious affiliations play an important role in determining a person’s political views, this article seeks to identify whether the reverse is also true, namely the extent to which political views affect an individual’s religious affiliation. This article reviews research that suggests the increasing political polarization in the United States over the past few decades has contributed, along with other factors, to the religion singularity reported by Howard.

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Is the Disintegration of Christianity a Problem—or Even a Surprise?

Jack David Eller

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 29-38

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.04

This article argues that if Kenneth Howard’s prediction of a “religion singularity” is true, it should not be a worry for social scientists, who must remain neutral on religious matters. Further, the deinstitutionalization, fragmentation, atomization, and even extinction of religion should come as no surprise to scholars who have observed these processes repeatedly. This process occurs not only in the realm of religion but in all social domains, from family and marriage to government—and indeed not only in social domains but in the natural world, as well. Contemporary forces of mediatization and neoliberalism are only the latest threats to institutional membership, creating a crisis among established authorities and encouraging “irregular” religion just as much as they encourage “irregular” employment. While the “religious economy” model suggests an adaptation of religion to the tastes and preferences of today’s religious consumer, ethnographic evidence illustrates the difference between religious institutions and religiosity, the rise of multiple small religious movements, and the struggle for survival between sects, denominations, and churches. Ultimately it may be the case that the institutional phase of Christianity was only one moment in its religious evolution, which evolved from small, local, independent congregations and may return to—or end in—that form.

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Conditions for the Great Religion Singularity

Brian D. McLaren

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 40-49

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.05

Applying the Buddhist “law of interdependent origination,” which states that if the conditions are right, a particular phenomenon may exist, Brian McLaren provides ten conditional factors that he believes have contributed to Ken Howard’s “religion singularity” (i.e. the multi-faceted collapse of institutional Christianity). Each condition falls under two main categories: either a lack of rapid adaptability in religious institutions or the moral failure of institutional leaders. The ten conditional factors include authoritarian centralization, betrayal of the religious founder’s non-violence, a history of unacknowledged atrocities, military imperialism, white supremacy, scandals, reaction against scientific inquiry, doubling down on dualism, integrated and change-averse institutional systems, and paralysis and nostalgia.

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Responses to the Religion Singularity: A Rejoinder

Darren M. Slade, Kenneth W. Howard

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 51-74

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$1.99

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.06

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.

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Book Review: Crossing Boundaries, Redefining Faith: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Emerging Church Movement by Michael Clawson and April Stace, eds.

Robert D. Francis

Vol. 1, No. 1

Spring 2019

Pages: 76-83

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Free

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no1.07

The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) has attracted a surprising amount of scholarly attention for a phenomenon notoriously resistant to definition and whose impact and size have been challenging to quantify. This edited volume, Crossing Boundaries, Redefining Faith: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Emerging Church Movement, seeks to be a touchstone of the best scholarship about the ECM to date. Across ten chapters with thirteen contributors, the volume succeeds, although it is not without its flaws. Most notably, the relatively small universe of congregations upon which the work in this volume—and broader ECM scholarship—is based raises the question of how to quantify the impact and significance of the movement, something this volume leaves unresolved. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that Crossing Boundaries, Redefining Faith—as a single volume—is the best assemblage of scholarship about the ECM thus far. This book makes obvious sense as a core text for any college or seminary course.