While most religions provide ways in which people can access God, the divine or the sacred, they also encourage the adoption of particular views of the world, beliefs about the nature of life, values, and patterns of behaviour. Indeed, it has been argued that the great transformation of religion which took place in human society between 700 BC and 400 BC, the period known as the Axial Age, developed that dimension of religion associated with human values. It was a period in which Confucius, Buddha, Jeremiah and Socrates and many other religious leaders and prophets proclaimed that the fulfilment of life or the appropriate response to the divine would be found in compassion and a concern for social order and justice and not just in paying respect to the gods or God (Armstrong 2006). Through the centuries, all the major world religions have encouraged a range of pro-social values and behaviours.
Some Global Perspectives
The critique of the Christian faith has become much louder and more persistent in recent years, particularly in northern European societies. The debate has been getting more intense and the voices more shrill. The criticism of religion is present not only in northern Europe and Australia but in many other countries, as shown by responses to questions in the International Society Survey Program which was conducted in 44 countries. On the other hand, a recent World Values Survey (2012) provides some valuable data for looking at the other side of the ledger and evaluating what contribution religion is making in societies around the world.
The Global Growth of Christianity
According to Gordon-Conwell University which puts together the World Christian Database, the number of Christians around the world is continuing to grow. This year (2015), it has been calculated that 2,419 million people identify themselves as Christian, constituting 33.4 per cent of the world’s population (7,325 million people).
The Future(s) of Religion
On 13th April 2015, Prof Grace Davie, a world-renowned sociologist, delivered a lecture at Tabor College addressing the future of religion. The lecture was sponsored by Tabor College Victoria, Harvest Bible College and the Christian Research Association. Prof Grace Davie’s lecture drew substantially on her latest book, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox.
Edward Bailey and Implicit Religion
Edward Bailey was a maverick in the study of religion. He was an Anglican priest who was Rector of Winterbourne, Diocese of Bristol, UK,from 1970 to 2006. In the 1960s, he studied for his doctoral thesis by becoming a waiter at a pub and listening to the conversations of the customers. He argued that, underlying those conversations, were forms of ‘implicit religion’. He spent the rest of his life pursuing the study of this ‘implicit religion’. While remaining rector in Winterbourne, he taught at universities and spoke at many conferences on religion. He developed his own annual conference on implicit religion, which became known as the Denton Conferences. He founded a scholarly Journal of Implicit Religion which is now published by Equinox. He started a Centre for the Study of Implicit Religion at Middlesex University. He wrote several books and published many articles around the term.
The Hindus and Sikhs are, by far, the fastest growing religious communities in Australia, doubling their numbers between 2006
and 2011. The Hindu community is already much larger than the Pentecostal community in Australia, and the Sikhs are much larger than the Salvation Army. If their rate of growth continues the Hindus and Sikhs will surpass the number of Muslims and the number of Buddhists in Australia by 2016 making them the second largest religious community surpassed only by the Christians!
As religious communities develop in new contexts, so they both change the context and are changed by it. The Hindu and Sikh communities are quietly having a significant influence on Australia. But they themselves are also having to adapt to the new environment. In this book, Purushottama Bilimoria, an internationally-renowned scholar of philosophy and religion, explores the nature of diaspora religious communities. He and a senior Hindu priest and scholar of Hinduism, Jayant Bapat, explore the historical roots of Hinduism and their practices and organisations in Australia. Carmen Voigt-Graf describes the history, migration and practices of the Sikh community in Australia. Philip Hughes contributes statistical profiles of both groups.
A range of authors have contributed other essays on special topics: temple architecture, Hindus in South Australia, the diversity of Indian identity in multicultural Melbourne, women’s strategies for daily living, Indian communities in Australia, and changing attitudes towards Hindu and Sikh communities in Australia. There are two special appendices: an essay by Ninian Smart on diasporas which has not been previously published and a historical essay on Aghan Cameleers and Indian Hawkers. This book is a substantial scholarly examination of an important part of Australia’s religious profile. It makes a major contribution to the understanding of the rich tapestry of Australia’s multicultural and multi-faith society.
A large proportion of children who grow up attending a church in Australia, United Kingdom or the USA drop out of church attendance.
According to the 2009 International Social Survey Program, the drop-out rate in Australia was 72 per cent. In the United Kingdom, it was 57 per cent, and in the USA it was 47 per cent. Over the past four decades, the drop-out rate in the United Kingdom and Australia has not changed a great deal. Indeed, in Australia, there is some evidence of it decreasing. In the United States, it has been gradually climbing. A recent book has been prepared by the head of the Barna Group, David Kinnaman, exploring why young people are dropping out. The book is entitled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church … and Rethinking Faith.
Coaching: An Essential Ingredient
Freedom of SpeechPerspectives on Unemployment
You may recieve this set of materials on research methods on a CD-Rom or a USB-drive. It will run on any computer running a web browser.
Research Methods for Ministry and Mission has been produced by the Christian Research Association for people studying for ministry degrees at master or doctoral level and for those who wish to do some research of their own.
This material takes people through the process of research – from identifying the area, specifying the research questions, conducting the study and applying the research. It covers both qualitative and quantitative research and deals extensively with the issues of theology and research and applying research in church life.
It contains a wide range of materials to assist in research: including some databases from the National Church Life Survey and the Australian Community Survey, bibliographies, and even software for analysis.
index to all articles published in Pointers from 2007 to 2014 (Volumes 17 – 24).
Inside this issue:
Schools and Local Churches
Catholics have long seen their schools as playing a very important role in the development of faith among young people. In many Australian dioceses, most children are prepared for the various sacraments such as First Communion and Confirmation at school. The schools provide most of the education in faith. And the schools also engage young people in social justice activities, in spiritual retreats and in Masses, so that they learn about and are initiated into the practices of faith.
In recent decades, Protestants have also turned increasingly to schools to provide not only education in faith itself, but a Christian perspective on other areas of the curriculum. Again, through the schools, students are initiated into the practices of faith: prayer and study of the Bible and the practices of charity and social justice.
Christianity After Religion?
It has been suggested that some patterns of religious involvement in the USA are about 20 years behind those in Australia. The decline in church attendance which has affected mainstream churches in Australia over a period of 40 years is now having a significant impact on mainstream churches in the USA. Americans are now embracing the more individualised spirituality that is common in Australia and Europe, but with their own American twist. This is the story that American author, Diana Butler-Bass, tells in her book Christianity After Religion, and embraces as a new spiritual awakening.
The Value of Sunday School
Dr Juhani Tuovinen (Tabor College, Adelaide) has put together a report on the value of Sunday School. The report is based on some items in the National Church Life Survey of 2001. While the data is now 14 years old, it does indicate some trends which are worthy of reflection.
The Gospel and the Cultures in Australian Cities
Tim Foster, vice-principal of Ridley College, has recently written a book, The Suburban Captivity of the Church: Contextualising the Gospel for Post-Christian Australia. It describes three different cultural contexts of city life in Australia, surban, urban and battler, and argues that the gospel needs to intersect with these sub-cultures in different ways. At the heart of the book is the assertion that the gospel narrative both ‘affirms and critiques culture, providing a new vision for life shaped by God’s new order’ (p.5).
Conversion Into and Out of Islam
There have been some high profile cases recently of converts to Islam in Australia and in other parts of the Western world who have become spokespeople for fanatical forms of Islam. Such cases give support for the idea that Islam is ‘conquering’ the Western world. But how common are such cases?
Children and the Church – Jesus brings the child to a place in the middle
Dr Keith White, the co-founder and chair of the international Child Theology Movement says,
Child Theology is a lively movement that is developing, with a range of personal insights and much cultural variety. What Vivienne charts so delightfully is the story of her own awakening primarily in an Australasian context, richly informed by the experiences and reflections of children and adults from around the world.
This book will inspire those who work with children. It also offers insights and challenges for all people who are engaged in ministry. It asks what does it mean ‘to place the child in the middle’ for discipleship and for the church itself? Dr Alan Niven, vice-principal of Stirling Theological College, Melbourne, says ‘Competent research, measured theological reflection and insights from practice, combine to offer us a resource that will enable and empower.
Positive Ministry Responses to the Age of Experience
Many church leaders are confused. Patterns of ministry which worked so well in the past are no longer effective. Churches which grew rapidly have ceased to grow. The culture of the Western world has changed. At its heart is a change in the nature of authority: from tradition and reason to the authority of personal experience.
This book explores the changes in culture and church life. Rev Dr Philip Hughes, the senior research officer of the Christian Research Association outlines the problem the churches are facing. Rev Gary Bouma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Monash University, and an Anglican Priest, charts the origins of the problem.
The large part of the book is the work of Rev Dr Gerald Rose, a senior minister in the Churches of Christ in Victoria, Australia. Through careful observation and detailed interviews of ministers, he describes a range of ministry responses to the changing culture. He explores, not one solution, but many: the ministry of intentional mission, of the charismatic movement, of ministry based in relationships, and of ministry rooted in classical spirituality.
This is a book which should be read by church leaders, ministers and pastors of all denominations. It provides great insight into the nature of contemporary culture and outlines positive pathways for ministry in the Western context.
The Religion-and-Film Genre: A Select Bibliography
This is the second century of the age of Hollywood and the reign of moving image culture. Black-and-white photography started it. Film got it moving, talking and coloured. Television got it out of theatres and into your home, at first small and monochrome but now big and colourful. The Internet now brings it directly into your office and straight onto your PC, tablet or mobile phone. It entertains and educates us all. Indeed, the popular cinema (aka movies, films, flicks, the pictures) has become the lingua franca of the children-of-the-media during the 20th and 21st centuries, with no hint of its demise in sight. And yet, despite this social reality, mainstream religious education has been reluctant to seriously utilise movies in the classroom, home or pulpit beyond their visual aide or student pacifier roles. The following fifteen heuristic categories (with book, book chapter, and article break-downs per category) were created for your ease, enjoyment and edification.