Guest: Joni Eareckson Tada, founder, Joni and Friends
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139:16).
What does a just-passed child euthanasia law in Belgium have to do with a just-released film in America entitled God’s Not Dead?
Well, nothing…but in a sense, everything.
This weekend on The Christian Worldview, we will first speak with Joni Eareckson Tada, noted author and quadriplegic, about a new law in Belgium, the first of its kind in the world, that allows a terminally ill child to choose assisted suicide.
Then David A.R. White, a producer and actor in God’s Not Dead, a faith-based film releasing today in 800 theaters nationwide, will tell us about the film and the inspiration for making it. The Christian Worldview will be producing a one-minute audio review of the film this week and has given it a 4 out of 5 star rating.
So how are these two topics related? You’ll have to join us this weekend on The Christian Worldview to find out!
Guest: Don Bierle, president, FaithSearch International
With rage and murder against the United States taking place across the Muslim Middle East this past week, how does one explain the Obama administration’s response, which was to repudiate a little-known YouTube video made by an American allegedly critical of the Islamic prophet Mohammed as the cause for the violence rather than militant Islamists whose well-known goal is to bring down America?
The explanation is worldview. Everyone has a worldview, a personal collection of beliefs and ideas that develops over time through the influences in one’s life, whether family background, religion, education, or life experience. Worldview explains why people do what they do.
This Saturday on The Christian Worldview, Don Bierle, president of FaithSearch International, a ministry devoted to proclaiming the gospel with evidence, will join us to discuss some of the major events going on in the world right now — Middle East turmoil, US election, economic recession — and how an understanding of worldview brings clarity to all these seemingly hard-to-understand situations.
The biblical master narrative serves as a framework for the cognitive principles that allow the formation of an authentically Christian worldview. Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all, but it is not enough.
A robust and rich model of Christian thinking—the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview—requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the systematic wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth. Christianity is not a set of doctrines in the sense that a mechanic operates with a set of tools. Instead, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the Bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures.
A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals and frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God. This task of bringing every thought captive to Christ requires more than episodic Christian thinking and is to be understood as the task of the Church, and not merely the concern of individual believers. The recovery of the Christian mind and the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview will require the deepest theological reflection, the most consecrated application of scholarship, the most sensitive commitment to compassion, and the courage to face all questions without fear.
Christianity brings the world a distinctive understanding of time, history, and the meaning of life. The Christian worldview contributes an understanding of the universe and all it contains that points us far beyond mere materialism and frees us from the intellectual imprisonment of naturalism. Christians understand that the world—including the material world—is dignified by the very fact that God has created it. At the same time, we understand that we are to be stewards of this creation and are not to worship what God has made. We understand that every single human being is made in the image of God and that God is the Lord of life at every stage of human development. We honor the sanctity of human life because we worship the Creator. From the Bible, we draw the essential insight that God takes delight in the ethnic and racial diversity of his human creatures, and so must we.
The Christian worldview contributes a distinctive understanding of beauty, truth, and goodness, understanding these to be transcendentals that, in the final analysis, are one and the same. Thus, the Christian worldview disallows the fragmentation that would sever the beautiful from the true or the good. Christians consider the stewardship of cultural gifts, ranging from music and visual art to drama and architecture, as a matter of spiritual responsibility.
The Christian worldview supplies authoritative resources for understanding our need for law and our proper respect for order. Informed by the Bible, Christians understand that God has invested government with an urgent and important responsibility. At the same time, Christians come to understand that idolatry and self-aggrandizement are the temptations that come to any regime. Drawing from the Bible’s rich teachings concerning money, greed, the dignity of labor, and the importance of work, Christians have much to contribute to a proper understanding of economics. Those who operate from an intentionally biblical worldview cannot reduce human beings to mere economic units, but must understand that our economic lives reflect the fact that we are made in God’s image and are thus invested with responsibility to be stewards of all the Creator has given us.
Christian faithfulness requires a deep commitment to serious moral reflection on matters of war and peace, justice and equity, and the proper operation of a system of laws. Our intentional effort to develop a Christian worldview requires us to return to first principles again and again in a constant and vigilant effort to ensure that the patterns of our thought are consistent with the Bible and its master narrative.
In the context of cultural conflict, the development of an authentic Christian worldview should enable the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to maintain a responsible and courageous footing in any culture at any period of time. The stewardship of this responsibility is not merely an intellectual challenge, it determines, to a considerable degree, whether or not Christians live and act before the world in a way that brings glory to God and credibility to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure at this task represents an abdication of Christian responsibility that dishonors Christ, weakens the church, and compromises Christian witness.
A failure of Christian thinking is a failure of discipleship, for we are called to love God with our minds. We cannot follow Christ faithfully without first thinking as Christians. Furthermore, believers are not to be isolated thinkers who bear this responsibility alone. We are called to be faithful together, as we learn intellectual discipleship within the believing community, the church.
By God’s grace, we are allowed to love God with our minds in order that we may serve him with our lives. Christian faithfulness requires the conscious development of a worldview that begins and ends with God at its center. We are only able to think as Christians because we belong to Christ, and the Christian worldview is, in the end, nothing more than seeking to think as Christ would have us to think, in order to be who Christ would call us to be.
I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.
For background reading, see:
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Glory of God and the Life of the Mind,” Friday, November 12, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Knowledge of the Self-Revealing God: Starting Point for the Christian Worldview,” Friday, December 3, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: Creation,” Wednesday, December 15, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: Sin and its Consequences,” Friday, January 7, 2011.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: Redemption Accomplished,” Monday, January 10, 2011.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Christian Worldview as Master Narrative: The End that Is a Beginning,” Wednesday, January 12, 2011.
Guest: Dr. Abner Chou, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, The Master’s College
The inerrancy of Scripture is a pivotal doctrine. Christian institutions and individuals come down on different sides of this issue and the ramifications are huge.
Is the Bible really without any errors? Can it be trusted to be the perfect Word of God? How does inerrancy relate to infallibility? And why is inerrancy so important?
Abner Chou, the “Teacher of the Year” Read more
Guest: Dr. David Noebel, president of Summit Ministries
Life is a clash of worldviews. Whether we realize it or not, there is a constant war being waged over which ideas, values, and beliefs will control public policy, media, culture, and personal behavior.
Recent events are a perfect example of this war of worldviews. Republican Scott Brown was shockingly elected to fill the Senatorial seat that Democrat Ted Kennedy held in Massachusetts for decades which resulted in Read more
Guest: Ken Ham, founder, Answers in Genesis
Last week in part one of our interview with Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis and author of Already Gone, we learned the sobering statistic that 2/3 of conservative evangelicals young people will leave the church in their 20′s. Ham said this is partly the result of Sunday Schools and youth groups (and parents) not teaching a more literal and historical interpretation of Scripture, Read more
It has been a couple of years since Richard Dawkins’ last major work, The God Delusion (my review). That book was a long-time fixture on the bestseller lists and served to establish Dawkins as the foremost spokesman for the New Atheists. Dawkins has long had two related emphases in his writing and speaking: the non-existence of God and the evidence in nature that evolution is responsible for all that exists. Where The God Delusion emphasized the former, his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, emphasizes the latter. It is primarily a counter-attack to advocates of Intelligent Design, and represents Dawkins’ attempt to provide natural evidence for evolution. He says simply, “Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it.”
It will not surprise you to hear that I was not convinced by Dawkins’ evidences for evolution. I will not provide a rebuttal of those evidences here since I know that others who are more qualified than I am will do just that. Instead, in just a few paragraphs, let me share a few of my thoughts on this book and what I consider its more prominent flaws.
Overall, there is a thread of arrogance in many of Dawkins’ arguments. On the one hand Dawkins wants to show how science continues to make vast and important discoveries; he wants to show that science is living and always advancing, disproving old theses in favor of new ones. On the other hand he wants to act as if all we know about evolution we know for certain. So when we see that the retina in the human eye has the appearance of being installed backwards, we can therefore state with certainty that this is the case and that it is the result of a mutation that was overcome by fortuitous adaptations in the human brain. In other words, the human eye is a mistake. But how are we to know that an advance in science, two years from now, will not show that this is no accident but is just that way it has to be—or, to borrow from the world of software, that it is a feature instead of a bug. He relies on science to prove what is absolutely true or false, never pointing out how often science has been wrong in the past and how often a new advance overshadows or disproves an old one. The history of science gives me little confidence that, in the end, he will be proven correct even with an issue as simple as the human eye.
Dawkins holds up the invariability of DNA code across all living creatures as evidence of shared ancestry (since the genetic code is shared across all living things—it is what is written in the code, not the code itself, that distinguishes one creature from another). But when I look at the same thing, I see that it points in the opposite direction. I see it, quite obviously, as evidence of a common artist. If I look at two paintings and see that they bear a great degree of similarity to one another, that they feature similar scenes and a similar brand of realism or abstraction, I do not assume that one painting evolved from the other or that together they evolved from a common ancestor; instead, I assume that they have come from the hand, the brush, of the same artist. I can grant that there is a sense in which man is related to ape and aardvark—we share a common designer. The fact that my DNA resembles that of any other living creature simply reinforces this fact. Believing in Creation does not demand that we suppose God did not reuse any parts or that every creature has to be entirely different from every other creature. One who believes in God as Creator can affirm that he is the designer and that he based all living things on common elements.
One thing I noted often in the pages of The Greatest Show on Earth is that it is often difficult to know where fact ends and speculation begins. When Dawkins says that a kind of beetle has, over evolutionary time, evolved to resemble the ant it preys upon, do we know this is the case, or is Dawkins simply filling in what he considers a logical hole? Can he prove that this beetle began looking like something other than it is now using the same scientific rigor he demands of Creationists? Or is this just speculation? In this book he rarely distinguishes between the two. Needless to say, this leads to a fair bit of potential confusion.
There is a deep and obvious irony in Dawkins’ constant use of words of agency. In his worldview there is, at least in nature and in the universe, no planning, no design, no invention, no creation, no purpose. Everything has come to be through a long process of chance. Yet throughout the book he constantly softens this harsh reality by borrowing the words of agency and purpose. Why? Could it be that the world just too hard to contemplate without injecting some kind of higher purpose into it? But there is more. Very often he turns to examples or metaphors to explain what he is trying to communicate and, again, almost invariably these examples depend on some kind of agency. So, for example, he will discuss how there came to be so many varied breeds of dog, each descended from the wolf. This may be an evidence of evolution, but if so, it evidences a designer who made the decisions about which breed would have long legs and which would have short ones, which would have big ears and which would have small ones. It was human agency that shaped each of these breeds of dog! How can this then stand as an example of the agent-less, impersonal forces of nature? Again and again he falls into this trap.
All this caused me to reflect on how cold, how stark the world would be without some kind of agency. A scientist can conjure up in his mind ways of describing the world without God, but he has a lot more trouble explaining it. Design seems to scream for a designer, elegance for agency. Even Dawkins cannot deny that the world gives the appearance of design; so his task is to prove that the most obvious explanation is not the correct one. I would challenge Dawkins in his future books not to use this cop out, not to say photosynthesis was “invented” by bacteria more than a million years ago. This is an unfair condescension that perhaps just proves that he cannot maintain his line of reasoning with any kind of consistency. Always he denies a designer, yet so often he perhaps-inadvertently invokes one.
In this book I see the importance of what we can call worldview—the way each of us understands the world, the way each of us interprets all of life. Dawkins’ worldview demands that there is no God and that everything came to be without the assistance or oversight of a designer. Not surprisingly, then, everywhere he looks he sees evidence to support his presuppositions, just as a Creationist looks to Creation and sees evidence of God. If I go out hunting for bigfoot, convinced of his existence, I will inevitably find evidence to support my theory. I will find vague footprints and half-eaten meals, each of which will prove to me that I am hot on bigfoot’s trail. My presuppositions shape my conclusions. So this book shows me again that it is impossible, or near-impossible, to overcome our worldviews.
This book shows that Dawkins is still angry, still shocked that anyone could be so hopelessly confused as to believe in God and to doubt naturalistic evolution. In fact, he refers to such people as “history-deniers,” people who see the evidence, spit on it, and turn instead to their comfortable old deities. “No reputable scientist disputes it,” he says, but of course he would use circular logic to define a reputable scientist. He would never admit that a scientist could be reputable and deny evolution. Here we have the same old Dawkins. Sure he tries a new approach, but ultimately it is more of the same.
Is there value in reading The Greatest Show on Earth?. I am inclined to think that there is, at least for some people. I find it useful to read books written from an opposing viewpoint since they provide a very natural “check” for me. They help me wrestle with not only what I believe but how I express what I believe. This book gave me a lot to think about in that regard. And, though Dawkins insisted that the unbiased reader will close the book convinced of the validity of evolution, this was not the case for me. Then again, does the unbiased reader even exist? We’ve already shown that Dawkins is far from unbiased himself.
In my previous article, I argued that a major project for those of us who work with students is to help them “get” Christianity. While a significant number of Christian students reject Christianity during their university years, far more struggle to embrace a faith that is not really authentic or orthodox. Theirs is a “moralistic therapeutic Deism” as Christian Smith put it; a tame faith that is privatized and perhaps personally meaningful but which is not publically true, culturally significant, or fundamentally informative to the rest of their lives.
Rather than trying to make Christianity as attractive and entertaining as possible, we ought instead to be sure that what we are communicating to them is actually Christianity. As I noted, this is very challenging in a culture of information overload, where students are bombarded daily with a multitude of messages, most of which, encourage them toward a mentality of adolescence.
Still, there is good news. Adolescently minded cultures like ours inevitably have a leadership vacuum. So, there remains a terrific opportunity for influence for those who produce the leaders, especially if they produce networks of leaders who can think deeply and contribute broadly to a wide variety of cultural institutions.
How can we do this?
1. Challenge students, instead of coddle them.
Frankly, it is my opinion that we aim too low with teenagers. Students do not need more entertainment, whether it is from the television, the Wii, the iPod, or the youth group. We will never effectively prepare students to engage our entertainment-driven culture by replacing it with Christian entertainment.
It is foolish to expect students to take Christianity and the world seriously if all they have been exposed to at youth group is games, pizza, and mindless mini-therapy lessons that may or may not come from the Scriptures. The church should be the place where we no longer believe (and students no longer experience) the myth of adolescence.
Instead, students need (and want) to be challenged: with the Scriptures, theology, tough questions, and cultural dilemmas. We see this every year at our Summit student leadership conferences-students endure 70+ hours of lecture and instruction on worldviews, apologetics, culture, and character. Then they call home and ask for more money, so they can buy books!
I think there is something of the imago dei in these students that screams in rebellion against the low expectations they face everywhere. For proof, see the movement of teenagers started by Brett and Alex Harris’ recent book Do Hard Things.
2. Give them a thorough education in worldviews and apologetics.
Because everyone has a worldview-a basic way in which they see, understand, and interact with the world-education is at its most fundamental level a worldview-shaping enterprise. It is the responsibility of a Christian institution to challenge students with the Christian view of life and the world, while exposing the non-Christian worldviews that others hold and which are behind historical movements and cultural expressions.
First, students need to know what they believe. Many see Christianity as merely a private faith rather than as a robust view of reality that offers a tried and true map for life. If students are convinced that the core of the Christian faith is how they can get to heaven and have a happy life, rather than as the Truth about all of life and the world, they do not know what they believe.
Of course, there simply is no substitute here for equipping students to dive deeply into the Scriptures. At the same time, however, it is important to help them dive into the Scriptures in the right way. Unfortunately, many students have only seen the Bible handled poorly by other Christians. Often, their only experience with the Scriptures include it being replaced by therapeutic clichés, utilized and memorized completely out of context, tacked on but not central to a lesson, strangely pieced together with other verses to make a point, proof-texted to supplement a devotional book or song lyric, or largely ignored.
When the Scriptures are handled this way, bits and pieces of the Bible only get co-opted into the student’s existent worldview. They may know the Bible, but they don’t think Biblically. Rather, the student remains as the central arbiter of truth and interpretation.
The goal is that the Scriptures would transform the student’s mind (i.e. worldview). I fear we may have a generation of students who see the Bible through the lens of their culturally inherited worldview, rather than seeing the culture through the lens of the Bible.
Second, students need to know what others believe. There are non-Biblical worldviews that are battling for hearts and minds as well as our culture. Historically, Christians from Justin Martyr to Augustine to Pascal to Edwards to C.S. Lewis, not to mention the Apostle Paul, exhibited a strong understanding of the competing worldviews in their culture.
We at Summit Ministries contend that, at minimum, students need to have a handle on at least six major Western worldviews before going to college: secular humanism, Marxism/Leninism, postmodernism, Islam, New Age, and Biblical Christianity.
Third, Christians must know why they believe what they believe. Too many Christians cannot answer, and are even afraid of, the challenging questions about God, Jesus, the Bible, morality, or truth. Unfortunately, too many adults dread the moment that a student asks them a tough faith question they cannot answer. This avoidance, of course, does not remove the question. It merely delays the question until the student is an environment where the question will be entertained (like college!). We ought to see these questions as opportunities for the student, and ourselves, to dive even deeper into this faith we claim is true. Plus, God is big enough for the question.
3. Show them that Christianity is not just about what we are against, but what we are about.
Proverbs says that without vision, the people “cast off restraint.” One of the main reasons that students are casualties of immoral choices is that they lack a big vision for their lives. While they may know what they are not supposed to do, they fail to understand the life of meaning, purpose, and impact Christ calls them to. Christian students often get the impression that we are merely saved from, and not “to.”
The picture of redemption in Scripture is far broader than this, however. We often forget how many words used in the Scripture for redemption are “re” words: renew, regenerate, reconcile, redeem, re-creation, etc. The implication is that salvation is a return to the real life God intended for us before the fall. Christ not only came to save us from death, he came to save us to life-an abundant life at that!
This life is not merely our “spiritual” lives either. Rather, the Scriptures offer us the true Big Story of the world: from creation to new creation.
4. Confront them with, rather than isolate them from, the major cultural battles of our day.
Challenging students to love God fully by thinking deeply, discerningly, and truthfully about His word and His world is foundational to what a truly Christian education is. Any other educational means and methods that do not include this as a goal cannot, in my opinion, really be considered Christian education (even if there is a plethora of rules, Bible references, and verses to memorize).
According to the way the Scriptures describe the grand narrative of God’s redemptive plan for creation, Christianity is neither a religion of ascetic withdrawal nor a dualistic philosophy that denigrates certain human activity as less than spiritual. Rather, followers of Christ are called to dive deeply-and hopefully headfirst-into the significant historical and cultural issues of the human situation. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “If Christianity should happen to be true-that is to say if its God is the real God of the universe-then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything.”
This is what ought to be meant when the language of worldview is used in education. Historically, Christians have sought to understand, and respond to cultural crises. They understood that these crises were the site of the battle of worldviews. Unfortunately, many Christians today are unaware of, disinterested in, or avoiding of issues like embryo-destructive research, euthanasia, emerging technologies, the arts, film, fashion, legislation, human trafficking, politics, and international relations. In Gethsemane on the evening before His death, Christ prayed these astounding words for his followers: “Father, do not take them from the world, but protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Our prayer, and preparation, for our children should be no different.
One final word about the spirit from which we approach the next generation: a few months back, I received a thoughtful and appropriate criticism to a talk I often give which I call “Why Students Walk Away from their Faith (and what we can do about it…).” The letter asked if I was coming at this issue from a position of fear-fear of the world and the enemy-and very appropriately suggested that Christians should not be fearful.
I must say that I fully concur with this point. The fear of God casts out all other fear. As the late Richard John Neuhaus wrote: “We have not the right to despair for despair is sin. And, we have not the reason to despair for Christ has risen.” I hope I am not approaching this issue from fear, though I can certainly see how it could be seen that way.
I hope I am approaching this issue from a perspective of realism, for students really are walking away from or checking out of the faith they were raised with, and we should confront this reality as Biblically and resourcefully as possible. This is not something we can ignore. As the historian Will Durant aptly noted: “From barbarism to civilization requires a century. From civilization to barbarism takes but a day.”
I can say in all truthfulness that as I write this, I really do have hope. Fundamentally, I have hope in Christ-He has risen. The day He died was actually the day that death died, and nothing can ever undo that reality. I also have hope in the Church, despite my critical words about it. I am part of this institution which Christ established and announced that against it the gates of Hell could not stand. (My reading of Church History has done more than anything else to secure my belief in those words).
Finally, I have hope because annually I work with many students-both here and abroad-who do, or are fighting to, “get it.” They want their lives to matter for Christ, they want to take the Gospel into all the world (including every corner of culture), and they want to think well about and in this world. They will be better than my generation has been. They will love God better, serve others better, care more deeply, and think more clearly. They want to read good books, and they want to live for something bigger than themselves.
If Christian Smith and Melinda Denton are correct,  our key concern in regards to the next generation is that they “get” Christianity. Our primary focus should turn from whether Christian students like church, or whether they think of Jesus as their best friend, or even whether they know why they believe what they believe (though that has been a useful tag line for Summit Ministries for years). Primarily, if Smith and Denton are correct, our focus should be teaching them what Christianity is because, simply put, they don’t get it.
My experience working with students, most having strong histories in conservative evangelicalism (and representing almost evenly home, private Christian, and public schooling), suggests Smith and Denton are right. I often hear students describe their experience of Christianity in these terms: “I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but I don’t really get it.” Or, “I prayed the prayer when I was four, but I don’t think it stuck.” Or, “I committed my life to Christ when I was fifteen, but I am not sure it stuck.”
How is it that students who are so deeply engrossed in church culture and who have more access to the Bible, Christian literature, youth programs, and other resources than any generation that has lived since the founding of the church, can be so confused about what Christianity actually is and why it matters? How is it that they possess such a truncated, neutered view of the Kingdom? How is it that these students just don’t “get it”?
1. The distraction factor.
The age of information presents two unique challenges to this generation of students. First, they encounter daily an overwhelming amount of information. Of course, information isn’t neutral; it contains, argues or embodies ideas. Students today swim in deluge of information. Whether or not there is an absence of the true or the genuine, there is often an inability to find it amidst all the noise and distraction.
Second, they experience this information, with the inherent ideas, differently than previous generations. Information today (especially via the internet) comes without context, without a clear source, and often without narrative. Their lives look more like a random episode of Seinfeld than the start-to-finish Cosby Show. They are not a linear generation.
The result? Neal Postman argued a long time ago, without understanding the full impact of the Internet, that the west had become a silly culture.  Entertainment had destroyed our ability to think and prioritize. We lack discernment. We care about irrelevant things, and ignore what is actually important.
Unfortunately, the Christian community often responds by heaping “Christian” noise on the rest of the noise. Attempting to be “relevant” to students, we instead contribute to their appetites for distraction. Entertainment has made us silly and Christian entertainment has made our students silly Christians.
2. The grip of adolescence.
“There was a time, literally, when there were no teenagers.”  In virtually every other culture in the history of the world prior to late 20th century Western culture, kids became adults. Not anymore. Now, they become teenagers or, as we call them, adolescents.
Despite its rather recent history, adolescence goes largely unquestioned as a fixed stage of development. It is fully expected that students will lose their minds from ages 13-18. “Kids will be kids,” we say. Only, we aren’t referring to kids, we are talking about those who buy, vote, and drive automobiles.
Further, the grip of adolescence continues to forcefully expand. On the front end, we now talk about “pre-teens” (with marketing engines quickly spotting the financial potential). On the back end, whereas eighteen was once considered the end of adolescence, it is now the middle. Adolescence now refers to ages 11 to 30.
But, that’s not all. Adolescence is now, and this must not be missed, the goal of our culture. Somewhere along the way, we ceased to be a culture where kids aspire to be adults and became a culture where adults aspire to be kids.
Often, our approaches to youth ministry sanctify adolescence. Whereas teenagers have the capacity (and thus, I would argue, the calling), to think deeply and broadly about their culture, confront evil and injustice, and champion the truth, they instead are encouraged in their adolescent narcissism. It’s a neutered Gospel, only about them and their needs, lacking vision (Prov. 29:18).
3. The cultural identity crisis.
Darwinism was the central battleground of worldviews in the late 1800′s, the reliability of Scripture in the early to mid 20th century, and truth for the Gen X’ers. While these issues are still very important, most of the contemporary worldview battles are rooted in a basic disagreement of what it means to be and live as human.
Today’s students enter a world of runaway biotechnology, postmodern social constructions of gender, virtual online identities, family redefinition, distorted understandings of beauty, and multiple sexual orientations, each of which fundamentally challenge our concept of humanness. Further, our culture has largely embraced Darwin, trivialized Scripture, and relativized truth, and therefore left few stable resources to negotiate this corporate identity crisis.
At the same time, clear teaching on what it means to be imago dei is largely neglected in the church. Conservatives, as Nancy Pearcey noted,  often begin the redemption story in Genesis 3 rather than Genesis 1. The fall, though taught, lacks context (from what have we fallen? To what will we be redeemed?) On the other hand, liberalism replaces the rule and responsibility endowed upon humanity by God with muddy concepts of “freedom” and “self-image.” The depth and breadth of the fall is trivialized or ignored.
What it means to be human is a critical touch point for students vis-à-vis the Christian worldview.
4. The issue of definitions.
The battle of ideas is often the battle over definitions. Asking students, “What do you mean by that?” has never been more crucial. Assuming that we share definitions, or that traditional definitions will go unquestioned, with the emerging generation is a mistake with significant consequences. Among the more crucial words needing careful definition include God, human, truth, faith, Gospel, Kingdom, evil, tolerance, male, female, pro-life, justice, marriage, family, freedom, rights, responsibility, and the good life.
Further, the concept of worldview needs clear definition if it is to be preserved. Having been used and misused in a variety of ways, it is dismissed as a modern concept from one side and in danger of dying the death of the “we already tried that program” from the other side. Abandoning the concept would be wrongheaded, given its rich history and its Biblical foundations.
I have attempted to highlight several barriers to communicating the full Gospel to the next generation. Articles like this that list trends tend to appear pessimistic. I am, however, encouraged by the commitment and courage I have seen from this current generation of students once they “get it.”
Every once in awhile I receive an email from a radio listener that is at the same time illuminating and unsettling. Below is one of those.
Illuminating in that, apart from the rank condescension (i.e. intellectual pride), it clearly portrays the worldview of a higher-educated religious humanist — criticize you for “certainty” (while being quite certain about their own views) and “prejudice” (to equate you with slave-holders and therefore end discussion).
And unsettling in that this person would no doubt be in favor of someone like me being turned over to a state re-education facility for “mental illness” so the “community” not be endangered.
I received it after the October 11th program on globalism. Read more