New Read: The Death of Western Christianity

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. In February, we met to discuss The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl. Next up was non-fiction The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookhdeo, which the group met to discuss at the beginning of the month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend as I was away on a school residential trip.

As the title suggests, The Death of Western Christianity is quite a stark look into how the Church in the West has gone from being the backbone of Western society, morals and laws, and being a vast missionary movement that once went out across the world, to now being in a state of terminal decline. Ironically abroad, where once Western missionaries worked, there is still a living, thriving Christian faith, but other than pockets overall the fire of Western faith is sadly growing dim. Not only that but in Western society, Christianity is increasingly despised, marginalised and coming under attack.

Fortunately, for me, I am in a warm, welcoming, multi-aged church that is growing. However in my wider community, I am in the minority with my faith and I have witnessed the deploring lack of knowledge of Christianity, with a depressingly, growing number of children that do not even know that Christmas and Easter are Christian festivals. And while I know that the church is increasingly being ignored, marginalised and mocked, thankfully my friends and myself have never been targeted or persecuted for our faith. Unlike some of the terribly sad cases that Sookhdeo shares from across Europe and the USA.

Matter-of-factly and succinctly Sookhdeo surveys in-depth the current state of Christianity in the West, looking in particular at how Western culture has influenced and weakened the Church, with the growth in materialism, different faiths and worldviews, and a change in morality. He also discusses the loss of Christian identity, which he sees as the heart of the problem. You may be thinking this sounds a depressing read and in many respects it is. On the other hand, Sookhdeo does advise and offer means to how Christians should go forward. And if the Church in the West could start to fix itself, then maybe it could be a force for good in society again in the future.

Overall The Death of Western Christianity is not the sort of book you enjoy reading, instead I think for a practising Christian in the West it is an important book to read. Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the meeting of my church’s book club to discuss this. Nevertheless this was a very relevant read for me, as my church is currently undertaking a year of exploration into what our vision should be for the next five years – There are nuggets of advice from this that will be of value for me with this in mind. Our club’s next read is Love Wins by Rob Bell. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any other books on the decline of Christianity?

19 thoughts on “New Read: The Death of Western Christianity

    1. Hello Brandie, thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is always lovely to hear from a new face and I am pleased you enjoyed this post so much πŸ™‚

  1. Great article. Yes I have read several books about this subject and even if one is not a practising Christian, which I am not, it is still sad and worrying to witness the collapse of Christian civilisation. I was brought up Church of England, but it always struck me as watered down, that you didn’t really have to believe and that all the biblical stories were just that, stories. I see it differently now, I see our accepted view of history differently too. I think the Reformation was mostly a disaster. What seemed like an opening up of faith turned to too much bifurcation, confusion, probably deliberately so. What am I saying? Probably that Christians should unite and not water down their traditional beliefs. But who do you unite behind, for ‘Heaven’s’ sake?

    1. Hello Leo, thank you for stopping and commenting. It is always good to hear from a new face πŸ™‚ It is again comforting to hear from another non-Christian that they lament the collapse of Christianity too. As for biblical stories, it would depend what stories you’re on about. For example, if you believe the story of Noah’s Ark or that the Earth was made in 7 days are true or not is for me irrelevant and in fact just detracts from the real message of Christianity, which is Jesus’ teachings, that He died for us, conquered death and freed us from sin. So for me it is not that stories have necessarily been watered down but that we’re not focusing on the important, core messages, and instead are trying to do too much. I don’t agree that the Reformation was mostly a disaster – I for one am very pleased I am able to read the Bible for myself in my own language – however I do agree wholeheartedly agree that all Christians – regardless of denomination – should be uniting.

      1. Thank you Jessica. What I didn’t say before is, like you, I do genuinely believe in the Resurrection, that He did come to complete the OT, not to change it. Sometimes it’s really hard to believe when life gets tough but, you know, I guess I must be some sort of Christian after all – thank you

  2. Too bad that, with so many things to discuss, you missed the club meeting, but it’s good that your Church is undertaking a project to define what it will be like in the near future, so you will be able to contribute time and time again from what you read.

    1. Carmen, it was a shame I couldn’t make the meeting, but yes, this will still be a very appropriate and useful read to help me contribute to our Church’s project. I will definitely be recommending this to other people at church, who aren’t part of the book club as well.

  3. This sounds like an interesting read. Although I’m an atheist, I’m not an enthusiastic or crusading one and have found it very sad to watch the influence of the church wane even in my lifetime. It provided a social centre and a moral example as a strong part of the community even for those of us who didn’t attend it in my youth, and Christian values were pretty universally shared even where faith was absent. I’m regularly arguing with other atheists that until atheism has something equally positive to offer (and I see no signs of that), I think they (we) should stop trying to sound so superior and rubbishing believers. I’m tempted to read this – I think it’s important for everyone, not just Christians, to try to understand why the old pillars of society are collapsing in the west…

    1. FF, it is sad but also quite comforting to hear that you, as an atheist, could see the positive influence Christianity had on communities. I definitely agree that Christianity does have values that are pretty universal – in fact Jesus and his teachings do feature in other faiths and world views. As for you reading this, I’m not sure the sections on how the Church should change and how its views and standards should be stronger/stricter would be of much interest to you (actually some of his views I didn’t completely agree with), however I think the couple of sections on how culture has changed and thus affected the Church would be of interest to believers and non-believers.

  4. I’ve seen this issue addressed in several of the books I’ve read in recent years and I find it sad. Of course much of this began during the “Age of Enlightenment”, but the ideas you stated in your review have certainly contributed to the steady decline.

    Thanks, this book sounds like one I should read.

    1. Kelly, I understand what you mean about things starting during the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, but I think Sookhdeo focuses on these more modern issues because the Church has really declined in the last 100 years, even if people were moving away from the state church before that, they were still going to other churches/chapels. I hope you find this book helpful when you have chance to read it.

  5. Sadly true – it amazes me how many churches alone are now boarded up, fallen into severe disrepair or have been sold and converted to houses and flats. A sure sign that religion is on the decline. That being said I don’t attend church – but I like to think that I keep faith in my own way.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

    1. Lynn, it is very sad. Fortunately, all our churches all survive around in my town – even if attendance numbers are low at many of them – however many of the chapels have closed and been converted like you said. In my mid to late teens I was very much like you Lynn: keeping faith in my own way. It was coming home from uni and finding a church I loved that changed that. As much as culture and society has played a major part in the decline of the Church, there is also the fact that church’s aren’t necessarily places people want to be in. Something my church has worked hard at changing.

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