A Journey Through the Past: Duane W.H. Arnold PhD

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70 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I think this is the most important article we’ve run this year… I’m thankful that Duane was able to articulate what I’ve been thinking and honored that he would say it here.

  2. Jean says:

    A lot to consider here. Thanks for giving us this food for thought.

  3. Michael says:


    I believe it’s truly where we’re at.
    It doesn’t have as many implications for the confessional and creedal churches as it does for evangelicals…but they will be effected as well.

  4. Em ... again says:

    i, too, with only the sketchiest of understanding of the history of the Church and what has been hung on it – or what it has hung onto – have seen hints of this same evolution and can’t say how it pleases me this morning to read this post and see clearly the pattern that i’d only seen the shadows of…
    just what i needed this a.m. as the world seems to be getting nuttier by the hour

    thanks for the article – thanks to both the author and Michael

  5. Michael says:


    Duane did a great job showing us where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
    I actually think it’s pretty exciting…

  6. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think the one thing that many miss in these “the sky is falling” articles about the church – is the rise of the internet. So many people may have opted out of going to the brick and mortar church (just as they have the brick and mortar store) – people, at least the white American Christian does remain connected to the faith and in fact may be better informed, spend more “church” study hours than their predecessors of past generations (which is where I guess predecessors come from).

    I know many people who would tell a pollster thy do not go to church, they are not affiliated with a church – who are really dynamic christians.

    One other thing about the decline of the mainline churches – this is true, but it is because there are so many “other” churches with the advent in the 20th century of the independent church.

    I am sure (without counting) that there are more Christians today than there were in 1940 — but due to other sociological conditions are a smaller percentage of the population.

    You also must take into consideration that at one time atheists had to fake being Christians for survival and are not free to say they are atheists

  7. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “and are not free to say they are atheists” should read “and are NOW free to say they are atheists

  8. Michael says:


    I think there may be more “nominal” Christians than before…the internet has not delivered on the promise of a more informed, better studied church.

    Remember that during the years immediately following the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed kids had memorized the catechisms before they were 10…

    I don’t think the sky is falling…I think the church is taking it’s holy place as a remnant in the culture.

  9. Jean says:

    American church attendance may have held up better than in Europe in large measure because of our culture of entrepreneurship, which some American churches have embraced and employed in an effort to stay “relevant”, experiential, and focused on meeting member needs.

    Doctrines, such as sin, hell, forgiveness, losing one’s life to find it, living by faith, not by sight, justice and mercy, are minimized or lost, unless they serve church growth. Jesus, as suffering servant, and disciples, as those who pick up their cross and follow Him, are reconfigured, respectively, into moral exemplar and spiritual adviser to disciples looking for successful relationships and purposeful lives.

    If the collapse of these Church forms does occur, then without the dross God’s Word and the Gospel will undoubtedly reemerge among a remnant do its work and spread the faith to a new generation of believers.

  10. Michael says:

    “If the collapse of these Church forms does occur, then without the dross God’s Word and the Gospel will undoubtedly reemerge among a remnant do its work and spread the faith to a new generation of believers.”

    I have no doubt, Jean…

  11. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – I thought we were comparing American Christianity past to American Christianity present.

    The Episcopal church of the 1920s – 1960s was really just a gathering for religious affiliation for business purposes. You had to go to church if you wanted to keep client base.

    Today no one feels the need to fake it.

    I agree to the extent that I think the church is doing well, as a remnant – why recruit fakers at a stadium crusade?

  12. Michael says:

    “I agree to the extent that I think the church is doing well, as a remnant – why recruit fakers at a stadium crusade?”

    I think you know how I feel about that issue…you keep them with what you caught them with.

  13. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Anyway – if we are not talking American Christianity – then the church is thriving. I saw a picture and article of a flooded out church in the Philippines that was pack with people standing ankle deep in the flood waters.

  14. Papias says:

    I am leery of calls or claims that tell us to “look to the past” or seemingly wax nostalgic about Early Christianity. The early church was far more disorganized and messed up than many care to realize. That’s why one reason Paul wrote letters to churches – to fix the problems already appearing. Protestants would have issues with some of Ignatius’ writings(“Submit to your bishop”). Clement wrote his letter to the Corinthians because apparently the two Paul sent weren’t enough to fix their shenanigans.

    And my favorite part of the Didache (11:5-7) is the warning “If a Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, but if he abide three days, he is a false prophet.” Apparently you should only stay two days with someone, cause three is right out!

    And this was all before Constantine.

    On the other hand, if this is merely a call for the US church to move forward without having government interference, then a thousand times yes!

  15. Em ... again says:

    it is interesting to ponder… #14-
    the dynamic of the earliest Church was not its organization by a long shot… so… did the State organize the churches or did the Faith organize the State? from Constantine the establishment became the church and vice versa…
    the true Church was peeling off of the establishment church of Rome quite a bit before Martin Luther took his stand… so does that mean that what Luther accomplished was a reform of the Church or a reform of the establishment? In his time the two were hand in glove…

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    To follow Papias’ concerns – I think the church is always in flux – downward and then upward. The Lutheran Church after Luther’s death was going to pot – no offense but the Calvinist influence was have the church circle the bowl.

    This was the reason for the 2nd generation, led by the 2nd Martin (Chemnitz) to take over and the production of The Formula of Concord – the capstone of the Book of Concord. — and it goes on and on.

  17. Michael says:

    I do not think the church is ever strengthened through political alliance…and I think the next ten years will end that in this country.

    Once that’s done we can go back to smiting each other over theology… 🙂

  18. Papias says:

    Early on the church had a very primitive organization. As it grew it became necessary for 5 bishops to take on a role bigger than their local jurisdiction. For me, when the Qaurtodecimans get a letter from the bishop in Rome to “get with the rest of the Church or get booted” is the first instance of a bishop overstepping his boundaries(they were in Asia Minor).

    I don’t know that we can consider a church without some involvement from the state. Jewish leaders used Pilate to put Jesus to death, even threatening Pilate politically if he didn’t do what they wanted. Even with Paul appealing to Caesar and being brought before local governers and leaders, the church and state have seemed to “balance”… or at least tango with one another.

    Trajans reply to Pliny is really a “how to deal with these so called Christians – let them go if they deny their faith, kill’em if they don’t.” Our faith was illegal at one time – it became legal with Constantine, but didn’t become the state religion until later.

    The state has used the church for its own means and benefit and in turn the church has been the recipient of both good and bad from the state. (I am talking historically, not just America).

    Who knows what will happen in America

    We will always smite each other over theology… or at least snicker at each other… 😉

  19. Michael says:


    I long for the day when questions like “what do you believe about the Eucharist “? replace “who are you going to vote for”?…

  20. Papias says:

    Michael – Agreed, but are you sure you want to ask THAT question? Why not just bring up Filioque and then enter the octagon? 😉

    I’ve read accounts of shopkeepers during that period asking patrons what they believed and then fisticuffs ensuing…

  21. Babylon's Dread says:

    Whatever the future holds it cannot be the defeat of the kingdom of God. His government is ever increasing and cannot fail.

  22. Michael says:


    I look forward to such. 🙂
    I look forward to the day when the remnant makes more of Jesus than it does of it’s political candidates and sports figures.
    Even if they are L.A. Kings…

  23. Michael says:


    I agree…my point is that we all perceive the loss of power and influence…and it’s not coming back.

    Well, we’ll have power, but of a different source…

  24. Steve Wright says:

    While I will leave to others the opining on whether this SHOULD have happened, I will only record what in fact DID happen, without further comment – being the amateur political historian I portray on the internet (and I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night) 🙂

    2000 – Over 3 million evangelicals stayed home, largely due to the late revelation of Bush’s DUI which he hid from the voters. He still won the electoral college and the Presidency by the skin of his teeth, but lost the popular vote.

    2004 – Bush (and Rove) made a concentrated effort to court the evangelical vote. More than one third of their entire campaign volunteer/staff was evangelical, and not only did those 3+ million evangelicals come out and vote for him, but it is estimated a couple million evangelicals that had voted for Gore in 2000, voted for Bush in 2004. He still barely won reelection and certainly would have lost without this evangelical support.

    2008 – A unique election given 8 years of Bush fatigue, the first black Presidential candidate, and the truly pathetic McCain as a candidate (who loathes and is loathed by evangelicals who remember the 2000 election) – but the black churches certainly rallied a GOTV effort for Obama and increased black turnout from 11% nationwide in 2004, to 13% in 2008 (which is about 3 million votes). Obama would have won anyway, but certainly religious voters were involved in helping.

    2012 – For the first time since 1944, as FDR was dragging himself to his 4th election victory as WW2 still raged on, an incumbent won with LESS raw popular vote than their initial victory as Obama managed 3.5 million FEWER votes. How did he win. Simple. Evangelicals stayed home by the millions rather than vote for the Massachusetts liberal Mormon that the GOP forced upon the party.

    2016 – Well, I don’t have to spend too much time, given the many linkathon articles here, that evangelical influence gave Trump the GOP nomination – and he has the lead in the last five national polls (CNN, CBS, Rasmussen, Gravis, LA Times). Of course it is still very early but Trump would not be one of the remaining two people with a shot at the Presidency without evangelical influence….

    As far as the percentage of the voting electorate (no matter the changing size of the pie)

    2012 – 42% weekly 40% occasionally 17% never (99%)
    2008 – 40% weekly 42% occasionally 16% never (98%)
    2004 – 41% weekly 40% occasionally 14% never (95%)

    Those are the Presidential exit poll numbers for the question “How often do you attend religious services” – and they show a remarkably consistent pattern given the length of time covered. It will be interesting to see what 2016 looks like as to those figures.

    Conclude what you want from the data, but the data is important if the discussion is trying to analyse the political influence of the religious voter (especially the evangelical voter).

  25. Em ... again says:

    i’m pretty sure that during the WW2 era churches were singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” sincerely believing the war was being waged against a foe set out to destroy Christianity… and they were probably right as both Stalin and Hitler were satanic minions of the dark kingdom… but the war goes on and is relentless and more subtle and that we cannot grasp – if you say you believe in god, and the Battle Hymn sends chills up your spine, well… that makes you a Christian, of one kind or another, does it not?

    #21- is God’s government ever increasing? do you mean that it is increasing its influence on the planet? or…?… moving forward and unstoppable? …?… does it increase steadily as we move toward the day of our Lord’s return? or does it? do we need to define how the Kingdom progresses until that day? i think i need a clearer understanding of BD’s #21

  26. Michael says:

    I can only shake my head that evangelicals wouldn’t support a moral Mormon,but turn out in droves for someone who has gloried in his immorality publicly and for years.

    Something is wrong with that picture…

  27. Michael says:


    BD was simply quoting Scripture…and I think it dovetails with what MLD said about the growth of Christianity in other countries.

  28. Michael says:


    We’ll address that tomorrow…or just link to it…

  29. Mr Jesperson says:

    Three cheers to this! For one, I am glad that the facade has come off in Europe and is in process of coming off here in the U.S. Instead of societies where everyone claimed to be Christians in order to fit in with their culture, we now have a culture that is obviously not Christian in any respect. Instead of the confusion where everyone claimed belief, but very few actually lived out Jesus teachings we now have cultures that are much more honest. Now true believers get to live a life that is counter-cultural and that is good. God is love and Jesus is the Prince of Peace. These attributes need to be lived out for there to be true conversions. There is hope for God is not dead and Jesus does have a peace that the world cannot give. If we will only let Christ live out His life through us, that is.

  30. Papias says:

    Michael – your #26….

    Without going against the moratorium, when given the choice, people will back the immoral versus the downright evil…at least that’s the narrative being sold in the marketplace of ideas.

  31. Michael says:


    I understand the narrative…I see it all day long.
    For me, the choice between two evils is no choice at all…and as a Christian I cannot endorse an evil choice.

    If ever there was a time when we should back away from the political realm and declare a Gospel centered support of Christ alone, it’s today.

  32. Michael says:

    By the way, this does not violate the moratorium…we need to think through the long time connection between faith and politics in this country.

    If it gets squirrelly, we’ll fix it…fast.

  33. Lutheran says:

    I just finished “The End of White Christian America.”

    It’s really a must read. Besides the clarity of his writing, the other great strength of the book is that includes a treasure trove of new data that his group, PRRI, has uncovered about religious and political/cultural beliefs.

    He shows that it doesn’t matter which “white Christian America” group you’re talking about, whether mainstream Protestant or fundagelical — and including Catholics — taken together, they no longer have control nor are they the dominant influence of our country’s political and religious edifice. The author says 1993 was the last year that white Protestants made up a majority of the population. Today, if we also include white Catholics, they only make up <50% of our population.

    And Romney's 2012 presidential run? 78% of those who voted for him were white Christian. Romney's religious and racial coalition mirrored that of older Americans, says Jones. If Repubs. only look to this group to win elections, they'll continue to lose elections, he says (Millennials are very turned off to the "Religious Right" worldview.)

    Jones suggests that when it comes to public policy issues like gay marriage, family and race, White Xn groups should look at having a seat at the table, as it were, but one seat alongside many other groups.

    I like his optimistic conclusion: "The death of white Xn America marks the end of an era in the nation's life. For many, it is a cause of considerable grief; for others, relief or even celebration. But this much is clear: in the soil fertilized by White Christian America's remains, new life is taking root."

  34. Michael says:


    I often wish that I could run this place like a college class with required reading. 🙂

    That book would be on that list…and you did a good synopsis there.

    I also liked his taking this group through the five stages of grief…

  35. Michael says:

    By the way, I’m using that book as a background while I’m teaching through the seven churches of Revelation…that’s what I think the future looks like and that passage is one of our guides.

  36. Jean says:

    Steve #24,

    I don’t dispute the data. What is interesting to me (and perhaps others) is the question of what is it that binds the voting block, which self-identifies as “evangelical” (which word has its root in the good news of salvation by grace through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ)?

    There were other GOP candidates who appeared as more credible representatives of the Christian faith, who had executive and/or legislative records which appear more closing aligned to what I would have expected to be favorable to an evangelical.

    I could list Trump’s statements about planned parenthood, his marriage record, his business dealings, but I assume you’ve followed these issues closer than me.

    Can you give me some insight into the values and priorities of an “evangelical”? At this point I understand the perspective: Trump’s better than Clinton. But could you take us back into the primaries and what it was about Trump vs. Bush, Rubio, Carson, Cruze, Fiorina, etc. that for an evangelical made the difference?

  37. Michael says:

    Jean @ 37,

    Much better phrased than my comment…well done.
    Interested in the answers…

  38. Papias says:

    Monday Night Men’s Bible study is watching “Four views of the end times” by Timothy Paul Jones, and tonight we get to Dispie Premil, so Tim La Hayes passing is …oddly timed.

    Still trying to figure out what view I want to hold, other than the “Jesus is coming back” – which covers them all without being specific 🙂


  39. Lutheran says:



    I’m glad you’re reading (or have read!) it.

    I do think it will cause discomfort, especially with some subgroups. The thing is, he’s got the data to back everything up.

    I like how you’re using it with the 7 Revelation churches, too!

    Very nice.

  40. Lutheran says:



    You should get a copy of the book I reviewed. It sheds a lot of light on the current election. He really doesn’t focus on it at all, but provides some great background and context to understanding white Christian America vis-a-vis public policy issues and elections, that’s pretty strong and quite compelling.

  41. Duane Arnold says:

    I am reminded, once again, that we had a President in the 1970s that seemed to meet all the criteria – a self-identified evangelical with a conversion experience, faithful marriage, Sunday School teacher, etc. I think, however, that many, if not most, would agree that he has been a better ex-President – Habitat for Humanity, Charitable work, Voting Observer, etc – than President.

    My point here is not political, it is rather to say that we face a new reality. We can no longer depend on society at large subscribing to our values as “social norms”. I believe that we have to present our values and how those values are reflected in our lives and Christian communities in the “market place of ideas”. Hopefully observers may once again say of us, “Behold how they love one another…”

  42. Josh the Baptist says:


    This is an hour long Q&A panel form the this year’s SBC meeting. It’s all pretty good, but if you don’t have an hour, at least skip to 54:15 to hear Al Mohler and Russell Moore answer the Trump question. It is faith and politics intersecting, and I hope people are listening.

  43. Michael says:

    “My point here is not political, it is rather to say that we face a new reality. We can no longer depend on society at large subscribing to our values as “social norms”. I believe that we have to present our values and how those values are reflected in our lives and Christian communities in the “market place of ideas”. Hopefully observers may once again say of us, “Behold how they love one another…””

    There it is…well said, Duane.

  44. Josh the Baptist says:

    Even better. Here is the last 5 minutes of the video I posted above. This is just Jon Akin asking the question, and the Mohler and Moore giving there answers. PLEASE listen to this.

  45. Michael says:


    I think Russell Moore is awesome…and he has rare courage.
    I think I’ll write him in… 🙂

  46. richard says:

    great article.
    thank you.

  47. Michael says:

    Thank you, Richard…

  48. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – that was good. 🙂

  49. Em ... again says:

    #27- thank you, Michael for responding to my confusion on BD’s #21… i snagged on the word “increase” – Isaiah 9:7 ?

    i thought that BD’s observation was that the Kingdom of God continues to grow in size and number in the here and now, whereas it seems to me that we persist much more than we prevail…

    you said the times are exciting and i agree, from the perspective of a Pilgrim, not a Henny Penny 🙂

  50. Xenia says:

    That was really good, Josh. Thank you.

  51. Lutheran says:

    Thanks, Josh.

    My only question: who are B19 an B21?:)

  52. Em ... again says:

    Josh’s link @ 45
    first time for me to hear a major leader in our Faith say that they cannot vote for either candidate… while that almost has to be the stand of any leader of the Church, i am still mulling the issue of not voting

    i don’t care what the stands on doctrines are right now – we need the mind of Christ to give us perspective and a center as the world dynamic is in a major shift, no matter who sits in the White House – posts and threads such as the one that began here this morning is where the Church should focus IMO

  53. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    there are other candidates

  54. Em ... again says:

    good point, MLD – i voted for Ross Perot and we were accused of electing Clinton… but maybe just increasing the tally of a good candidate is worth something… dunno

  55. stillcalvary says:

    good article.

    ” Some, such as Augustine, sought a clear differentiation between the “City of God” and the “City of Man”, but even he thought the power of the State could be used against heretics and schismatics and that the Church could and/or should enjoy special privileges. ”

    Curious as to where Augustine wrote about the state’s oversight over heresy.

  56. covered says:

    Good stuff Josh your #45. I think that it was simple and concise. There is no lesser of two evils.

  57. Josh the Baptist says:

    B21 is a Baptist blog, Lutheran. I think it’s like Baptist in the 21st century kind of thing. THis wasn’t an official “thing” at the convention. Lots of blogs and stuff will host things during the week. That particular blog clearly has some connections. They get all the big hitters.

    (Its run by Danny Akin’s sons. Akin is the President of one of the seminaries.)

    Thank you all so much for watching it.

  58. brian says:

    This is a very well written article. Constantine did one very important thing, he gained and wielded power with no mercy and thought nothing of killing even his own if they got in the way. That is dedication and focus, that should be admired, Under Constantine, the Church gained a very powerful spiritual tool, the secular sword and access to cash. Again two tools that should always be sought and used with no mercy and at the drop of a hat. I have a hard time with this as do the people here from what I have read but we are wrong and need to repent, or at least that is what I see.

  59. Owen says:

    #42 – “We can no longer depend on society at large subscribing to our values as “social norms”. ”

    When I think back a couple to a few decades, I shake my head at just how much social norms really have changed. It seems like every time I turn around, there is a new standard for “normal”, in so many different arenas. (Maybe I should just stop turning around….oh wait, I”m not really that powerful, I suppose….)

    Makes me wonder how the church can still be relevant now. I think the answer may lie in another line in the above (excellent!) article:
    ” The certainty of that Church was confined to the saving work of Christ,….”

    I am looking forward to seeing the saving work of Christ becoming the Church’s focus, and being a part of that change now.

    Agreeing with Michael’s #5 – this is exciting stuff.

  60. Duane Arnold says:

    #56 – You can find Augustine’s view on this primarily in his dealing with the Donatists. See for example Letter 204, 4. and Against Gaudentius the Donatist, 1.19.

    I hope this is helpful.

  61. surfer51 says:


    Don’t know why but the post kind of reminded me of my own generation’s reaction to the world.

    We simplified, “Materialism sucks.”

    We indulged, “if it feels good, do it.”

    We failed…


  62. Xenia says:

    That’s “Saint” Constantine, folks.

  63. Papias says:

    It’s “Constantine the Great” as Emporer.

    To the Orthodox, its “Saint Constantine the Great, Equal to the Apostles”.

    I can go with the former, but will not go with the latter.

  64. Em ... again says:

    #62- got me thinking… i suppose materialism lurks in all of us in one form or another, but what surfer’s generation’s parents really gave in to was consumerism… there’d never been a time (probably was, but i’m not a historian) like the 2nd half of the 20th century – the common man had disposable income and Madison Ave. made sure he/we disposed of it…
    did we think God was rewarding us? … shades of Olsteen, yikes!
    my question is… when did becoming an adult require leaving-the-nest in rebellion become normal? a strange, childish declaration of independence… was it the result of looking at the self indulgent parent who declared, “all I want for my kid is to have a better life than the one I had (no matter how good that life)… and be happy?”

  65. Em ... again says:

    Here on Saint Michael’s blog site, Saint Em asks Saint Xenia, “equal to the Apostles?”

  66. stillcalvary says:

    @61 Duane,
    I suspected it might be in the Donatist writings. Thanks!

  67. Duane Arnold says:

    StillCalvary – there are a few other references as well in the letters, but the Donatist material is the most explicit.

    By the way, I think he regretted it as his thought developed. I’m always reminded that at the time of his death, Augustine was still revising the City of God as the Vandals were besieging the city of Hippo. In his editing he seems to have understood that the two cities were separate and that the secular arm could not to be depended upon for either defense or enforcement.

  68. stillcalvary says:

    I find it interesting to track the doctrinal changes some have made during the course of their lives. It speaks to the realization that the pursuit of understanding the Word of God and theological formation is a life long effort, and it is also difficult to comprehend.

    It is possible that those who have not had such adjustments of their theology during the course of their life may not have thought deeply enough about the things of God that might challenge their present theological view.

  69. Alan says:

    @ #26,

    Michael, I’d like to address your question. Nothing is rarely as simplistic as we try to make it out to be. I’m a diehard conservative (but haven’t been in the GOP for a decade), I didn’t vote for Romney, and it had zero to do with him being Mormon, as you stated. For me, I refuse to vote for any establishment candidates. The establishment has given us huge deficits and debt, meaningless wars, NSA spying on us, and on and on. Please note that the establishment includes Dems and GOPers. This is also why I didn’t vote for McCain either. So for me, the issue isn’t Christian or non-C. It’s elitist establishment insiders vs someone not in that group. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll vote 3rd party for the 3rd straight election, or just stay home. But, right or wrong, there are many folks that consider Trump an outsider and not part of the corrupt establishment. The evidence for this is how much he is hated by the establishment of his own party. Please don’t miss my point Michael. I’m not interested in another dumb debate about Trump. I’m pointing out that there are some of us Evangelicals who didn’t vote for Romney, and it wasn’t because of his religion.

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