Sunday, 31 July 2016

Modelling Secularisation

Part 3 of Christianity versus the Diversity Ideology

In two previous blogs [1,2] I have been constructing a dynamic model of the competition between Christianity and the new secular ideology. The idea is that as Christianity declines in the West its role in public institutions and spaces also declines, leaving a neutral vacuum now being filled by an secular ideology hostile to Christianity, especially in its Biblical form.

I (and others) have the named this ideology Diversity, as it often uses the language of diversity, inclusion and tolerance to defeat Christianity in public, knowing that these include areas contrary to Christian teaching. For example in the recent leadership election for the UK Conservative Party two candidates, Stephen Crabb and Andrea Leadsom, both conservative Christians, were challenged in public for not voting in favour of same-sex marriage in the House of Commons, with both having to backtrack in some degree on their previous decisions in order to prove their political correctness to the Diversity ideology [3].

Likewise the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, also mentioned her approval of same-sex marriage in her leadership victory speech in order that people would realise that her church-going and right-of-centre political beliefs did not violate the Diversity code [4]. The issue was not about the rights of LGBT people, who are perhaps secondary in this matter, but about a public confession to humanist beliefs that compromise Christianity. It is a modern day equivalent of sacrificing to Caesar so that the Lordship of Jesus is undermined. In this way Christianity is removed from the public space, with Christians deterred from high office.

The outline model introduced in the previous blog [1] is given again in figure 1. The Church and Diversity sides of the model are almost symmetric; Diversity is missing the direct word-of-mouth conversion reinforcing loop as it has no regular congregations like Christianity. What I will do next is model the population movements on the church side of figure 1, to check the effects of secularisation do indeed work.

Figure 1: Causal Loop Diagram (CLD) of Competition Between Christianity & Diversity


There are two sides to secularisation: institutional - the removal of Christianity from the public space, loops Bc3 and Bd3 in figure 1; and population - the decline in the number of people who identify as Christians. This population effect is not in the above outline model, but in moving to a System Dynamics (SD) simulation it needs to be introduced. Beliefs are held by people, so people must be in the model!

I will consider three stocks to represent the church side, loops Rc1 and Bc1, left side of figure 1. Firstly there is Church, people who participate in church through membership and/or attendance, figure 2. Additional there are Heritage Christians, those who identify themselves as Christian by culture but do not participate in church. Finally there are the Neutral, those who would say they hold no religion. As I am only dealing with a sub-model of figure 1 then Diversity is excluded [5].

Figure 2: System Dynamics (SD) Sub-Model of Church & Society

The church can convert from both heritage Christians and the neutral, so that loop Rc1 in figure 1, becomes Rhc and Rnc in the SD model [6]. Those who leave the church are deemed to become heritage Christians (loop Bc1 becomes Bl) only. Some will go on to abandon the faith, loop Bs, but many will remain Christian in some sense for the rest of their lives.

The sum of the stocks Church and Heritage Christians is the total number identifying as Christian. It is the loss from these combined stocks, loop Bs, that represents secularisation in terms of people. It is influenced by the battle between Christianity and Diversity in the public space, given in the converter effect of secularisation. This converter is part of loop Rc1 in figure 1 and will be modelled in full in a later blog.

Also in the model, but excluded from the diagram in figure 2 are births and deaths from each category. Some of the children born to heritage Christians never identify as Christian and are effectively born neutral. This is also part of population secularisation; the children who do not adopt the identity of their parents. Likewise some the children of church members may never practice becoming heritage, and some may also not identify as Christian either.

So for now population secularisation will mean the decline of those who identify as Christian. I will refine this definition in a later blog when the model is presented in full.

Effects of Secularisation

The base run of the model in figure 2 is set so that church and Christianity are rising in line with the growing population, top curves in figures 3 and 4. The first effect that is introduced is that only 50% of those born to church members themselves become church members [7]. This has no effect on Christianity; it is identical to the base run (figure 4). However the effect on church attendance is devastating, figure 3. The church is not converting enough to make up for this child loss. This has been the story of the last 140 years for the older denominations in the UK. They always lost about half their children, but up to the 1870s had more than enough conversions to make up the difference. The end of revivals spelt the end of high conversions and the red line of figure 3 is the pattern of decline [7].

Figure 3: Church Decline – Effects of Secularisation

Figure 4: Christianity – Effects of Secularisation

Now introduce constant secularisation. The effect on the church is less pronounced, figure 3, but Christianity is now declining. Slowly of course, the time axis is a hundred years, but secularisation, like church decline is slow. The effects of the battles between Christianity and secularism/humanist are introduced by letting the converter effect of secularisation rise over time. Again there is little effect on church numbers (figure 3), but Christianity declines even faster (figure 4), as it does when secularisation also affects child retention. Secularisation in the public space has little effect on church numbers but a massive effect on Christian identity, accelerating the decline of heritage Christians. One by-product is that a greater proportion of those who call themselves Christian practice the faith, but that is because of a loss of identity among non-practising Christians, not conversion to church.

Combating Church Decline

Traditionally the church is better at recruiting members from heritage Christians than from those who do not identify as Christian, the neutral. The temptation is to combat church decline by increasing heritage conversion, loop Rhc, figure 2. Heritage Christians respond well to evangelistic events and courses such as Alpha and Christianity Explored. Increasing these conversions shows a positive short-term effect on church growth, but it still ends up declining, figure 5. The reason for this decline is seen in figure 6 as the church’s policy of conversions from heritage Christians only has made little impact on secularisation. The church is trying to solve its problems by fishing in a smaller and smaller pool! 

Figure 5: Conversion of Heritage Christians – Effect on Church Numbers

Figure 6: Conversion of Heritage Christians – Effect on Christian Identity

Church decline has no long-term solution without also attempting to combat secularisation. Thus the church should aim to have conversions from both heritage Christians and the neutral. That is it must attempt to evangelise the neutral group, and not just rely on reaching those with Christian backgrounds. Figures 7 and 8 show the results of making conversions over both categories; church growth is sustained and secularisation is arrested. Recruitment from both categories is more successful as converts from the neutral category have more long-term effect than those from the heritage Christian category, because even if they or their children abandon church they now have a Christian heritage and are thus easier to “re-convert”.

Figure 7: Conversion of Heritage Christians & Neutral – Effect on Church Numbers

Figure 8: Conversion of Heritage Christians & Neutral – Effect on Christian Identity

It is interesting to note that this improved reversal of church decline is achieved by personal contact alone and without the assistance of Christianity returning to the public space. The church may be tempted halt secularisation by trying to win the battle with Diversity and humanism in the public arena. However a better way is to seek converts from those who deny a Christian identity. The church grows, the people who claim to be non-Christian stop increasing, and thus it becomes easier for Christianity to move back into the public space in the future.

Next Stage of Modelling

So far the model is behaving as hoped. But there is much more to go. In particular the people involved in Diversity need to be added to the model in figure 2. As a sneak preview the stocks and flows are shown in figure 9. The model is symmetric around the neutral with Diversity having both its intentional and heritage parts, though the latter will be small at present.

Figure 9: Full Population Stocks and Flows of Christianity and Diversity in Society

When I return to this model I will compare the current growth in Diversity with Christianity’s decline and how policies to combat secularisation might change Diversity’s dynamics.

References and Notes 

[1] The New Ideology

[2] Conversion to the Diversity Ideology

[3] Stephen Crabb forced to deny he is homophobic as he launches Tory leadership bid, The Independent, 29/6/16.

Andrea Leadsom: I didn't like gay marriage law because it hurts Christians, admits Tory contender to be PM, The Independent, 7/7/16.

[4] Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister: full text. The Spectator, 13/7/16

[5] Also excluded are other religions, such as Islam and political ideologies. These are outside the boundary of the model. Other religions as they are not yet large enough to have leverage in public, and political beliefs because they can be held alongside religious or non-religious beliefs.

[6] Loops Bnc and Bhc represent the reduced effects of conversion in populations diminishing through conversion. This is a word-of-mouth effect, beyond the scope of this blog to discuss. See  for a discussion.

[7] Church Decline Caused by Lack of Conversions

Church Decline Caused By Lack of Revival

Here I show that for one denomination child retention is largely unchanged over a long period covering growth and decline. In common with other denominations it is about 50%.  The blogs also show the link between decline, lack of conversions and lack of revival.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this really an amazing and nice post about the church growth,
    Senior Pastor