I'm reading The Future of Christianity: Can It Survive? (Prometheus, 2006) by Arthur J. Bellinzoni. The author is a retired professor of religion, and he's not very optimistic about that future: "It would be presumptuous for anyone to try to envision what Christianity might look like at the end of the third millennium in the year 3000. Frankly, I am not even sure that Christianity will survive for another thousand years. Neither am I convinced that Christianity deserves to survive ...." Of course, his suggestions for improvement amount to making all of Christianity more like the slowly dying liberal wing of Protestantism. Some solution.
Anyway, in the first section of the book he considers the effect of religious authority and institutions on faith and doctrine. More simply, how power affects religion. That's a different question than the usual faith versus reason debate. Here's a suggestive paragraph:
It can be argued that Christianity was never meant to be an establishment religion. Christianity began as a protest movement, a peripheral cult within Judaism. A movement that originates by speaking out with a prophetic voice against an establishment religion ... generally loses its prophetic voice once it gains temporal power. The thirst for power and authority easily seduces most peripheral cults into becoming powerful establishment religions. Christianity lost its heart and its soul when it embraced the position that temporal power was more important than adhering to and promoting the radical ethical teachings of its founding prophet.
So how much truth survives institutionalization? Interesting question. The LDS view of the Great Apostasy (which hasn't been talked about much the last twenty years, but it's making a comeback) is that some, but not enough, truth survived. Of course, the modern Church went through its own somewhat different institutionalization process. But how to balance what Bellinzoni calls "a prophetic voice" and "radical ethical teachings" against the necessities of "establishment religion" is a real puzzle, isn't it?