Adapted from Thomas Bergler’s book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity, this is a thorough and interesting look at how the youth ministry movement that began in the 1930s and 40s has rejuvenated the church, how it has hurt the church, and what we can do today to reverse certain trends:
Today many Americans of all ages not only accept a Christianized version of adolescent narcissism, they often celebrate it as authentic spirituality. God, faith, and the church all exist to help me with my problems. Religious institutions are bad; only my personal relationship with Jesus matters. If we believe that a mature faith involves more than good feelings, vague beliefs, and living however we want, we must conclude that juvenilization has revitalized American Christianity at the cost of leaving many individuals mired in spiritual immaturity.
Elmer Thiessen on how the story of a 12th grade student from Nova Scotia illustrates the intolerance of tolerance. You can read more about the intolerance of the new tolerance according to D.A. Carson here, but Thiessen’s thoughts capture the heart of the matter just as well:
Then there is the claim of the school board asserting that students have the right not to have their own beliefs “unreasonably criticized.” What is so unreasonable about the implicit criticism of other beliefs by making a statement like, “Life is wasted without Jesus”? I suspect that what lies behind this judgment is a hidden assumption that all religious statements are “unreasonable,” and hence all implicit criticisms of other beliefs are similarly unreasonable. This is in itself a rather “unreasonable” position to hold, resting on a host of assumptions that need to be and can be critiqued.
The juxtaposition between the two are striking…
“From Jesus’ point of view, there are two fundamentally different ways of doing life. One way, you’re connected to a God who’s involved in your life. Psalm 23 is all about this: “The Lord is my shepherd … and his goodness and mercy surely follow me all the days of my life.” The other way, you’re pretty much on your own and disconnected. Let’s call this the antipsalm 23: “I’m on my own … and disappointment follows me all the days of my life.” We’ll look first at the antipsalm way of doing life”:
I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
and then I die.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Dustin Kensrue’s reflections on truth and his father’s passing:
Epistemology. Alethiology. Fancy words that don’t mean much in a hospital room when your dad is dying. It’s 2 a.m. and my father will stop breathing in a couple of hours. Am I wondering about the nature of truth and knowledge? Do I find comfort in philosophical jujitsu? Or am I thinking about what happens when the EKG flatlines?
The good news is that if Jesus is the truth—if truth is a person—then we are capable of knowing the truth in a far more concrete and comprehensive way than could be supported by any epistemological framework…
Alan Noble takes a look at a recent stretch in the long complementarian/egalitarian debate and thinks about how both sides frame and envision the concept of power. Specifically, Noble notes (and I agree) that the “marriage dynamic” is much more radical (and constructive) than either abdication of power or misguided coercion:
…I want to suggest that the marriage dynamic taught by Paul is actually more radical than Evans argues and some complementarians envision. I think in order to understand this, we need to see authority, not as inherently coercive and abusive, but as potentially good. I think we see this in Ephesians 5. Headship for Paul and Christ looks radically different than the kind of hierarchies we see in the world. Principally, it is sacrificial and other-centered. It is an authority of service. It is power used in self-giving. It is a rejection of autonomy (a very anti-modern idea). It is a hierarchy which the world would not recognize as a hierarchy. It is a form of power that Nietzsche would hate.
But, if a leader is a servant to those under him, in what sense is he still truly a leader? Evans seems to answer (in the quote above) that he is no leader: “[W]ho’s really ‘in charge’ here? No one.” But I wonder if we need to complicate our understanding of power a bit and see that it is possible to be a servant-leader. This is, after all, the model that Christ gives. He does not cease to be the Head of the Church simply because He serves those in the Church and sacrificed Himself for us.
A recap of key lessons and points made by the various speakers at the recent 99% Conference. Considering the speakers range from a founder of Reddit to a prominent Harvard Business Professor, I think there’s something for everyone.