For two decades, I’ve spent a lot of time with college and post-college “Christians.” Many of them grew up in the church, from good families, many went to Christian schools and claim to be Christians. But something just wasn’t right. They were living with their girlfriends and still showing up for church. They rarely attended a Bible study or regularly read the Bible, but said they “believed in the Bible.”
Clearly there was a disconnect. This highly edited article written by Andy Stanley for Outreach Magazine, identifies the problem better than I could. So if you are a parent or grandparent, you first need to understand better exactly what the problem is. Next week, I’ll give you a few ways you can begin to address this problem.
It’s Worse Than We Thought
It’s no secret the religious landscape in America has shifted. Fewer and fewer Americans are self-identifying as Christians, while more and more are identifying as religiously unaffiliated. As you’ve heard by now, this group has been nicknamed the “nones” because they checked “none of the above” on religious affiliation surveys. According to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, nearly one quarter of Americans claim no religious affiliation, representing a 7-point jump in just seven years. Young Americans are more likely to be religiously unaffiliated than older Americans with millennials comprising 44 percent of the nones.
Millennial nones are walking away from the faith they grew up with, the faith of their parents, in record numbers. The dechurched who grew up in church, exit because they find the version of Christianity they’ve grown up with unconvincing, uninspiring and irrelevant. More and more nones find their parent’s version of faith ill-suited for the undeniable realities, both scientific and sociological, of the world in which they find themselves.
We are now a post-Christian culture. One distinctive feature of postmodernism is its rejection of uniformitarianism, the insistence that there is only one right way of thinking and behaving. Post-Christians take that to a frightening new level. Former National Review editor John O’Sullivan provides the following helpful definition of post-Christianity:
A post-Christian society is not merely a society in which agnosticism or atheism is the prevailing fundamental belief. It is a society rooted in the history, culture, and practices of Christianity but in which the religious beliefs of Christianity have been either rejected or, worse, forgotten.
As it turns out, more and more Americans who self-identify as Christians, qualify as post-Christians based on their actual behaviors. According to the Barna Group, 48 percent of Americans qualify as “post-Christian” … 48 percent! Bottom line: Many, perhaps most of the nones in America have had some connection to Christianity in their pasts have either rejected it or it does not influence their behavior and beliefs very much. They are not non-Christians in the way we are accustomed to thinking about non-Christians. They are post-Christian. That’s a whole other thing.
For post-Christians, common sense, science, philosophy and reason are the go-tos for worldviews and decision-making. Post-Christian nones have a low tolerance for faith-based answers to fact-based questions. At the same time, like most of us, they aren’t exactly on a truth quest either. They’re on a happiness quest. Many walked away from faith because faith didn’t make them happy. When faith is viewed as an impediment to happiness, goodbye faith. And, the seemingly irrational, anti-science version of faith many were brought up on makes it that much easier to simply walk away. Given all of that, this next statistic should not come as any surprise. When asked about their views of Scripture, 72 percent of nones said that it is not the Word of God. This data is corroborated by data compiled in a massive study conducted by the Barna Group.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, summarizes these significant trends from their six-year study.
More people have more questions about the origins, relevance and authority of the Scriptures … The steady rise of skepticism is creating a cultural atmosphere that is becoming unfriendly—sometimes even hostile—to claims of faith. In a society that venerates science and rationalism, it is an increasingly hard pill to swallow that an eclectic assortment of ancient stories, poems, sermons, prophecies, and letters, written and compiled over the course of 3,000 years, is somehow the sacred “Word of God.” Even in just the few years Barna has been conducting “State of the Bible” interviews, the data is trending toward Bible skepticism. With each passing year, the percentage of Americans who believe that the Bible is “just another book written by men” increases. So too does the perception that the Bible is actually harmful and that people who live by its principles are religious extremists.
Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. Why? You don’t view the Quran as authoritative. Neither do post-Christian people believe the Bible is authoritative.
So What’s A Girl To Do?
So how do you make sure your children or grandchildren do not drift spiritually, dismiss the Bible as authority for their lives?
The first thing I’d point out to them is that no one should claim to be a Christian, if they do not believe the Bible is both true, inspired and authoritative for them. That would be like a person claiming to be a true American, but not believing in the Constitution, or being willing to live under it’s authority.
Jesus believed in the trustworthiness and authority of the Old Testament. Had he not, he would have no right to call himself a Jew. To be a spiritual Jew was to believe and obey the Old Testament.
To cherry pick what biblical laws we chose to believe are authoritative for us today and which one’s we have freedom to ignore, is a dangerous and foolish thing. For all practical purposes, it’s declaring we know better than God.
Next week, my blog will be Teaching Your Children a Greater Appreciation For Why God’s Laws Make Sense.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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