The Gospel Coalition was my favorite blog as a young, Calvinist-leaning evangelical. In a new post, Pastor Lopes, a Presbyterian minister, laments the disunity and heterodox leanings of the phenomenal growth of evangelicalism in Brazil (usually at the expense of Catholicism).
According to the latest official census, evangelicals represent almost one-quarter of the total population of Brazil (22.5 percent). It is a phenomenal growth, seeing that just 40 years ago they were only 2.5 percent. In spite of their constant official growth, hailed to the world as a success story of missions and evangelism, evangelicals in Brazil face today several challenges. I’ll mention a few:
- uncertainty about their own future theological direction
- multiplicity of divergent theologies
- lack of a leadership with moral and spiritual authority
- doctrinal and moral downfall of once-respectable leaders
- rise of totalitarian leaders who call themselves not only pastors but also self-proclaimed bishops and apostles
- gradual conquest of the schools of theology by theological liberalism
- lack of moral standards that can function as a starting point for ecclesiastical discipline
- depreciation of doctrine and exaltation of experience alone
As a result, more Brazilians are looking for churches just to feel good, to seek immediate solutions for their material problems without even reflecting on deeper questions about the existence of eternity, and moving from one community to another without any commitment or engagement in real Christian life and testimony. Incidentally, the number of people who profess to be evangelicals but rarely attend church has grown from 6 percent to 16 percent of all evangelicals in the last few years.
After Pastor Lopes diagnoses the problems he suggests a return to creedal Protestant Christianity that is based more on history. Evangelicals reading this should question if their movement has not historically lapsed into schisms and pick-your-own-doctrine like Pastor Lopes describes. However, those who agree with Pastor Lopes should question whether creedal Christianity has not also lapsed into schisms and disagreement. The number of Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations are only increasing and were present after the Reformation.
While I was debating whether to become Catholic I saw the problem with many cradle Catholics was often a lack of clear knowledge of their faith. That is a fixable problem. However, Protestantism’s focus on Sola Scriptura seemed inherently flawed and destined to break down into schisms, even if many benefited from the teaching There are undoubtably many Catholics in Brazil who do not know their faith well. The answer is better catechesis, not a plunge into evangelicalism.