The Religion Singularity: A Demographic Crisis Destabilizing and Transforming Institutional Christianity

The purpose of this article is to trace the emergence of a worldwide church demographic crisis that the author calls the “Religion Singularity,” and to project its impact on the future of institutional Christianity. For nineteen centuries, Christianity experienced strong and steady growth in the total numbers of Christians, worship centers, and denominations worldwide. Since then growth in the number of Christians has continued largely unchanged. But growth in the number of denominations and worship centers turned sharply upward in recent decades, substantially exceeding the growth rate of the total Christian population. This differential is driving a concurrent decline in the size of those institutions to unsustainable levels by the end of the century. The author suggests that denominations are unlikely to survive this severe downsizing. Meanwhile, given their smaller size and more organic structure, worship centers are more likely to survive the religion singularity than their larger counterparts, but only if they are willing to become vision-guided and experimental.

Varieties of Religious Environmentalism: Understanding the Theological Foundations of Environmental Concern among Christians and Muslims in Northeast Nigeria

Current research on the connection between religion and the environment indicates that religious beliefs may provide a form of motivation for environmental stewardship and serve to rationalize environmental activism. This study used data from the profoundly religious region of northeast Nigeria to explore the various ways in which religious ideas inform pro-environmental action and to investigate whether motives for pro-environmental action differ between Christians and Muslims in the region. The study used both qualitative analysis of interviews with leaders of some selected congregations and statistical analysis of questionnaire data collected from members of those congregations to achieve these objectives. Overall, there is strong evidence that religious values contribute to three broad motives for pro-environmental action—namely, ecocentrism, anthropocentrism, and theocentrism. Although the study did not find significant variations in the religious motives for pro-environmental action among the two groups, some differences have been observed in the concepts used by the groups to explain their motives for environmental stewardship. The implications of these findings for researching religious environmentalism and environmental reform policy in religiously conservative societies are discussed.

The Heart Dwells in Emptiness: On the Relationship between the Deep Heart of Zacharias and Hongzhi’s Empty Field

The concept of the heart has played a central role in the Christian tradition since ancient times. Over the course of history, it has been given a range of interpretations. The concept has received attention particularly within the Orthodox tradition, especially with respect to the practice of the Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart. Similarly, the concept of the mind has played a fundamental role in the development of Buddhist thought, particularly within the Chan/Zen tradition. This article examines these two concepts, focusing on Orthodox writer Archimandrite Zacharias’ development of the notion of the deep heart and Chinese Chan master Hongzhi’s use of the empty field. It is argued that, when viewed from a phenomenological perspective, a profound relationship exists between these ideas, supporting the presence of a fundamental psychological symmetry between the practices of these two spiritual traditions.