From Clayton King’s Twitter feed today:
Why we shouldn’t trust the media: major news outlet says Catholic Church is dwindling while 1.1 billion Catholics say “Huh?”
We’ve pointed out the weakness of NewSpring’s trademarked Scoreboard argument by asking whether they’d be swayed by it if it were applied to other religions, cults and sects. King shows us that they do indeed think massive scoreboards are all it takes to establish what’s right.
Here, in three questions, is why you shouldn’t trust some pastoral tweets:
- What counts as a number? King appears to accept loose demographic numbers as evidence of the size of the church. In many regions of the world, people are born Catholic, whether they have any belief in Christ or even the teachings of the church. If someone calls him or herself Catholic, that seems to be enough for King, who in his own services regularly counts and reports on raised hands as evidence of strangers’ salvation. He seems to have a very low threshold for affirming someone’s membership in the local or universal church. Sometimes he’s going to be right, but he’ll also often be wrong, as he is here.
- What do the numbers prove? NewSpring loves numbers, and points to them as proof that God approves of their work. In Noble’s Scoreboard riff, he says that numbers and changed lives assure him, and us, that he’s doing right. The problems is that, by one report, in 2010 the Muslims had 1.5 billion members, the Catholics had King’s 1.1 billion, leaving the Protestants bringing up the rear at just 593 million. The Muslims and Catholics can certainly point to lives changed, just as Perry does. If they’re going to live by Scoreboard logic, perhaps King and Noble can explain why God has abandoned the Protestants by letting the other teams run up the score on them.
- Was the media right? There are good reasons for not trusting the media, though King’s (unsourced, as usual) major news outlet got this one right. According to the Catholic Church’s own media, numbers really are declining. Here’s the lead from the Catholic News Service story from last August: “The percentage of Catholics practicing their faith is declining almost everywhere around the globe.” The Catholic Church understands, even better than King does, that there’s a difference between saying you are a believer and actually being one. The Church doesn’t really think it has 1.1 billion members; it only counts practicing Catholics, and that is the number that has been in precipitous decline. The National Catholic Reporter declared in 2010 that the Church’s decline was “the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history.” And, as Martin Luther could tell you, the Catholic Church knows a thing or two about institutional crises.