Whatever happened to being seen but not heard? Diana West asks that question in a recent essay, noting that there has been a massive shift in Western culture away from adult authority and toward the “wise child.” All around us are signs that authority and wisdom are now to be recognized in the young, rather than the old. This is nothing less than a reversal of what previous generations had believed and assumed.
As Diana West explains:
When your average doting adult today murmurs the expression, “Out of the mouths of babes,” it is less an expression of wonder than a validation of the widely held assumption that children — babes, tweens, and teens — are innately wiser than their elders. They know better (sexual and fashion choices). They are discerning (music). They feel, therefore they understand (politics). Or so we have come to think due to a stunning if under-appreciated cultural reversal. Once upon a time, we believed wisdom was an expression of experience and maturity. Today, we believe the exact opposite.
Indeed, it is the exact opposite. Marketers target children because they know that the young drive many consumer choices. On the television screen, it is the kids on the sitcoms who are wise. The parents and other authority figures are routinely corrected by the wisdom of the young. The bumbling adults learn to laugh at their foolishness and follow the direction of the children and adolescents on screen.
Teachers and others who work with youth and children often receive the same message, not only from the kids but from their parents. “How dare you correct my child? His opinion is as valid as yours.”
West traces the development of this trend through the 1950s and 1960s. As long ago as 1958, Dwight Macdonald had noted the rise of the adolescent, with a flood of books on parenting teens emerging from a host of “experts.” As Macdonald saw, “The list goes on and on, and it includes many titles that would have been puzzling even in fairly recent times, because their subject matter is not the duty of children toward their parents, but precisely the opposite.”
The shift from the duty of children to parents to the duty of parents to children was not subtle. All of a sudden, the young became the instructors of the old, on everything from the morality of war and peace to the issues of sex and the meaning of life.
As West observes, “It is hard to overstate the significance of this change more than half a century ago. It is this fundamental rearrangement of life’s building blocks that put successive decades on an entirely new footing from all that had come before. To say the tide had turned is to imply a temporary, cyclical shift. What had occurred — replacing the child’s duty to his parent with the parent’s duty to his child — has so far turned out to be permanent.”
A quick review of contemporary entertainment, educational philosophies, and cultural influences would suggest that this shift is not only thus far permanent, but may be virtually irreversible. Diana West underscores the fact that this great shift was only possible because adults forfeited their authority and responsibility. The kids did not seize power in a coup. They were handed authority on a silver platter.
West has referred to this phenomenon as “the death of the grown-up.” Reaching adulthood ceased to be the great goal of the young. Instead, adults now attempt to present themselves as adolescents. The perpetual adolescent is the aspirational role model of today’s youth — and a tragic percentage of the nation’s adults.
From a Christian perspective, Diana West’s essay, as well as her book, The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization, serves to alert parents and others to the challenge of raising children in such a culture. The goal of Christian parents must be to raise children to adulthood — a genuine adulthood. The Bible honors children, but the biblical worldview establishes parents as the authority figures and adults as the figures of wisdom.
“Seen but not heard” is not the best model for parenting children. On the other hand, it is infinitely superior to the abdication of adult authority that marks the current age. Once again, Christian parents are reminded that raising godly children in this age requires the courage of a counter-revolutionary.
Diana West, “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” In Character, Fall 2009.
S. Lewis Johnson Message of the Week
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson concludes his eight-part series on essential Christian doctrines with exposition on eternal judgment. Dr. Johnson comments on both the judgment of people upon their death as well as the future judgments by God after the return of the Messiah.
Scripture Reference: Revelation 20:11-15
Click here to listen to Part 8 of an 8-week series: Eternal Judgment
I think it’s very fitting that the subject for today should be “Eternal Judgment” in the light of what is coming up Tuesday. [Laughter] Well, I guess the rest of you have already sent in your return. [Laughter] But some of us who haven’t sent in our return yet we think of Tuesday as eternal judgment. Well, it’s temporal judgment but anyway, they do go together to some extent.
We’re turning for our Scripture reading to Revelation chapter 20 verse 11 through verse 15. And the apostle describing one of the visions the he received from the Lord writes…
The images streaming in from Haiti look like scenes from Dante’s Inferno. The scale of the calamity is unprecedented. In many ways, Haiti has almost ceased to exist.
The earthquake that will forever change that nation came as subterranean plates shifted about six miles under the surface of the earth, along a fault line that had threatened trouble for centuries. But no one saw a quake of this magnitude coming. The 7.0 quake came like a nightmare, with the city of Port-au-Prince crumbling, entire villages collapsing, bodies flying in the air and crushed under mountains of debris. Orphanages, churches, markets, homes, and government buildings all collapsed. Civil government has virtually ceased to function. Without power, communication has been cut off and rescue efforts are seriously hampered. Bodies are piling up, hope is running out, and help, though on the way, will not arrive in time for many victims.
Even as boots are finally hitting the ground and relief efforts are reaching the island, estimates of the death toll range as high as 500,000. Given the mountainous terrain and densely populated villages that had been hanging along the fault line, entire villages may have disappeared. The Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished nation has experienced a catastrophe that appears almost apocalyptic.
In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions. It certainly looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation. Add to this the fact that Haiti is well known for its history of religious syncretism — mixing elements of various faiths, including occult practices. The nation is known for voodoo, sorcery, and a Catholic tradition that has been greatly influenced by the occult.
Haiti’s history is a catalog of political disasters, one after the other. In one account of the nation’s fight for independence from the French in the late 18th century, representatives of the nation are said to have made a pact with the Devil to throw off the French. According to this account, the Haitians considered the French as Catholics and wanted to side with whomever would oppose the French. Thus, some would use that tradition to explain all that has marked the tragedy of Haitian history — including now the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment.
God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.
A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening.
God’s rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.
The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake — at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense — in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption.
Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?
Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts — there would be no hope.
The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe. The entire cosmos awaits the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord. Creation cries out for the hope of the New Creation.
In other words, the earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti — and the Haitian people are the objects of his love. Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone.
Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ’s people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ’s people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?
If you have any doubts about this, take your Bible and turn to John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That is God’s message to Haiti.
I am always glad to hear from readers and listeners. Write me at email@example.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.
In giving assistance to the people, I recommend giving through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. They have an excellent Haiti response in place through Baptist Global Response.
Guest: Mark Durie, pastor and author
The explanation being given about the recent Islamist terror attacks at Ft. Hood in Texas and in the sky over Detroit is that they are “isolated incidents perpetrated by a couple of crazy guys who don’t represent the vast majority of peaceful Muslims around the world.”
But is that really an accurate assessment or a politically correct white-wash? Read more
In Hour 1 this Saturday on The Christian Worldview, we will have our 5th annual “Forecast” program where we look ahead to the year in order to discern what’s coming our way in the world, the country, and the church.
Will the nations of the world become more unified this year or will socio-economic and religious tensions cause fractures and wars? Read more
The human species is inherently and resolutely religious. The Bible and the Christian tradition affirm this truth, even as we know that the religious impulse can so easily transform itself into idolatry.
Even the most cursory look at the world’s cultures will indicate the religious fervor that characterizes humanity. The only observers who seem shocked by this universal phenomenon are the secularists and the prophets of secularization theory who were absolutely certain that religious faith and religious fervor would disappear in the modern world.
Needless to say, it hasn’t turned out that way. The theory of secularization is a shadow of its former self. Leading proponents like Peter Berger of Boston University now acknowledge that the secularization thesis was not an accurate predictor of the fate of religious belief in the modern world. The modern world is not secularized. Indeed, many of the most heated conflicts around the world today involve conflicting faiths. As Berger has commented, it turns out that a few European nations and the American intellectual elites are the exceptions, rather than the rule.
And yet, the intellectual elites are not so secular as they believe themselves to be. As it happens, their religion may not be theistic, but it is a religion all the same.
That fact is confirmed in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Stephen T. Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, argues that the new religion of many secular folk is ecology. As Asma explains, many secular types suffer from “green guilt.”
In “Green Guilt,” he writes:
Now the secular world still has to make sense out of its own invisible, psychological drama—in particular, its feelings of guilt and indignation. Environmentalism, as a substitute for religion, has come to the rescue. Nietzsche’s argument about an ideal God and guilt can be replicated in a new form: We need a belief in a pristine environment because we need to be cruel to ourselves as inferior beings, and we need that because we have these aggressive instincts that cannot be let out.
Asma rightly notes that Friedrich Nietzsche, the nihilist who famously declared that God is dead, understood that religion was not dead at all. He “was the first to notice that religious emotions, like guilt and indignation, are still with us, even if we’re not religious.”
These “religious emotions,” including guilt, explain why so many people seek relief by therapy or treatment of some sort. Therapy replaces theology; the analyst replaces the minister; psychotropic drugs become the sacraments; and confessing one’s misdeeds on Oprah substitutes for the confession of sin. Some of the most obviously religious individuals on earth are those who genuinely insist that they are free from any religious beliefs at all.
Asma is not the first to note the deeply religious character of radical environmentalism, but his analysis of the structure of this religious system is truly insightful.
Instead of religious sins plaguing our conscience, we now have the transgressions of leaving the water running, leaving the lights on, failing to recycle, and using plastic grocery bags instead of paper. In addition, the righteous pleasures of being more orthodox than your neighbor (in this case being more green) can still be had—the new heresies include failure to compost, or refusal to go organic. Vitriol that used to be reserved for Satan can now be discharged against evil corporate chief executives and drivers of gas-guzzling vehicles. Apocalyptic fear-mongering previously took the shape of repent or burn in hell, but now it is recycle or burn in the ozone hole. In fact, it is interesting the way environmentalism takes on the apocalyptic aspects of the traditional religious narrative. The idea that the end is nigh is quite central to traditional Christianity—it is a jolting wake-up call to get on the righteous path. And we find many environmentalists in a similarly earnest panic about climate change and global warming.
Interestingly, Asma begins his article with an anecdote about his six-year-old son, who scolded his father for letting the water run too long. The boy is clearly “stressed and anxious” about the “sins of environmentalism.” The boy had obviously been indoctrinated into the religious system of environmentalism — something common to many of today’s children and adolescents.
Stephen Asma’s essay is important for multiple reasons. It is an excellent analysis of the religious character of environmentalism, complete with a set of comprehensive doctrines and religious practices. It is also an excellent consideration of the religious nature of human beings. Asma understands the pretensions of the secular mind, and he also sees the religious impulse working its way to the surface in the modern obsessions with heath, fitness, and an ever-expanding set of “secular” sins.
At the same time, he writes from an apparently secular perspective — at least warning that we do not need yet another “humorless religion.” He is also identified as the author of Why I am a Buddhist. He seems above all to desire a bit less religious fervor from the environmentalists. He writes, “Let us save the planet, by all means. But let’s also admit to ourselves that we have a natural propensity toward guilt and indignation, and let that fact temper our fervor to more reasonable levels.”
We are left without a clue about what Asma would see as “more reasonable levels,” but his essay offers a rare glimpse into the religious character of the rather new faith of environmentalism, complete with its “potential for dogmatic zeal and obsession.” His essay puts an intelligent spotlight on the new religion of green.
Stephen T. Asma, “Green Guilt,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 10, 2010.
S. Lewis Johnson Message of the Week
THE DIVINE PURPOSE OF THE AGES
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson expounds how the gift of salvation is made available to all of God’s chosen through Israel.
Scripture Reference: Romans 11:28-30
Click here to listen to Part 7 of an 8-week series: The Divine Purpose of the Ages
For the Scripture reading we’re turning this morning to Ephesians chapter 3 and reading a few verses here, although this will not be the basis for the message. We’re reading this particular section because of its relationship to the message. So will you turn with me to Ephesians chapter 3, and I want to read verse 1 through verse 13 for our Scripture reading.
The apostle is explaining something of his ministry as apostle of the Gentiles and something also of the newness of the people of God in this particular age. He has just stated in verse 15 of chapter 2 that God has made in him of two, one new man of both Jews and Gentiles, so making peace. Now, in chapter 3 in verse 1 the apostle writes…
Guest: Jim Stitzinger, pastor, Grace Bible Church
You probably agree that Christians are called to take the gospel to the lost but does that mean going into “dens of iniquity” like bars and nightclubs to do so? Jesus Himself shared the gospel to the outcasts of society such as tax collectors and prostitutes so how should we follow in His footsteps today? Read more
Guest: Joel Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Bring up the theology known as Calvinism and you will get a wide variety of responses, from quizzical looks to abject loathing and everything in between.
Also known as Reformed Theology or the Doctrines of Grace, Calvinism is nothing if not misunderstood. Read more
S. Lewis Johnson Message of the Week
THE DIVINE MEANS OF RECEIVING DIVINE HEALING
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson expounds the true process of salvation by faith for those saved by God.
Scripture Reference: Ephesians 2:8-10
Click here to listen to Part 6 of an 8-week series: The Divine Means of Receiving Divine Healing
Now, we are continuing our series of studies in the most important Christian truths. Obviously I’ve made a selection out of a score or two of them that could be called that. And today our subject is “The Divine Means for Receiving Divine Blessing.” And so we are turning for Scripture reading to Ephesians chapter 3, verse 8 through verse 10. A very familiar portion and I know that you can see from the reading of the Scripture the place that evangelical faith has in our salvation. Ephesians chapter 2, and verse 8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Now, I would also like for you to turn to Romans chapter 3, and let me read just a few verses there as well. Romans chapter 3 and I’ll read verse 24 and 25, and then verse 28. Romans 3, verse 24 contains these words, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Perhaps it would be fitting to read the next verse which completes the paragraph. “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” And then you might wonder why I’ve chosen to read verse 28. It has a historical significance. This is a verse in which Luther in translating the Bible into the German language, for the Germans who were not used to reading the Bible in their own language, Luther added a word not found in the Greek text. The Roman Catholics, who were in controversy with him, although he was a Roman Catholic at the time, were very much upset, of course, with Luther’s doctrine, and so they picked up this addition to the Scripture to criticize Luther. This is what he wrote, verse 28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” He added the word “alone,” the German word allein, alone. And he was criticized for that.
But it illustrates an important point. It illustrates the point that certain concepts are found, even when the precise words may not be found. Because it’s obvious, if as Paul states here, we are justified by faith, and apart from the works of the Law, then obviously if there are no works involved in our justification, and we’re justified by faith, it’s faith alone. It was a natural, logical, and true inference derived from what the apostle has just stated. But of course, when we’re anxious to criticize we can find all kinds of rationalization by which to criticize. That is a principle that applies to us as well. May the Lord bless this reading of his word and let’s bow together now for a moment of prayer.