Tag Archives: millenials

To those who have, more will be given, to those who have not…

That title is a quote of something Jesus must have liked to say. It pops up five times in the Gospels (Matthew 13:12, 25:29, Mark 4:25, Luke 8:18, 19:26). The contexts are different, but a general first pass interpretation is simply be watchful what you lend credence, both with your head and your hands. What you do and what you think build up habits. If you are building the wrong habits, the wrong habits of thought and action, you end up destitute. That is just practical wisdom. Nothing different that Aristotle would say about virtue, or Confucius for that matter. If you forced me deeper In Matt 13:12 it is tied in with the purpose of the parables and the parables of the sower and the weeds. People get a warm fuzzy about the parables – “such cute stories that make you think”. But that popular reaction is about 180 degrees different from what Jesus said the purpose of the parables was. Jesus said the parables were about hiding the truth in plain sight. If you had the ears to hear, you got them. The secrets of the kingdom were revealed. But is you didn’t have ears, you would see and never perceive. There is a deep statement about the doctrine of election in there. The wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest.

There have been a chain of articles over the last couple of days that bring this to mind. The first one is Rachel Held Evens’ pondering ‘why millenials are leaving the church‘. If you have read RHE before, it is her typical schtick which is triangulating the church: Good smart people here, bad benighted church there, and RHE pointing out flaws in church to be liked by the beautiful people. As if to say, “I’m the good part of the church”. The second thing you have have in your head with RHE is that when she says church she is really talking about the sub-set known as mega-churchy American Protestantism (think big venues, big bands and light shows, a star system of preachers and teachers). Personally I find it amazing that someone can be published saying on the one hand that Millenials are flocking to places like the Catholic Church and in the same article say “We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.” I’ve got the big book of predetermined answers on my shelf called the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Unlike Luther’s gem of the Small catechism which can be memorized in whole and you will never extinguish its depth, that book has 756 pages of paragraph numbered answers that are a treasure trove of what the Catholic church has said to the questions of existence over 2000 years. There is literally nothing new under the sun. I’m sorry millennials, you aren’t the first to think big thoughts. But once you get over that shock, you will find, much like I did, and probably every generation in history, that thinking with the church (all 2000 years of it) is a greater endeavor than throwing your demands at the wall or leaving in a snit. RHE quote: “What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance” is really the kicker. It takes thinking alongside something like the Small Catechism or that bigger book to even be able to tell what is style and what is substance. I’m tempted to add that you won’t find that in mega-churchy American Protestantism which is fundamentally about style. The original triangulation of we are the cool church. Go do some study and then start making divisions of style and substance.

While Evans’ critique I can understand even though it eventually falls flat, this atheist attempt at addressing RHE’s question I just find baffling. His deep answers to life are summed up in: Reddit threads, Richard Dawkins, false contrasts and billboards. And he calls that winning. But what you can see in his arguments is exactly what the Christian’s adversary wants to give you and keep from you. I’m going to go claim by claim.

For instance, there’s been talk of finding a better way to reconcile science and religion. Whenever that battle takes place, religion loses.

There are some questions we may never know the answer to, but for the ones we can eventually answer, the scientific explanation will devour the religious one. Mixing science and religion requires a distortion of one or the other.

Once upon a time I was an engineer. I studied these science subjects, especially physics. The assertion made that science and religion are opposites is complete philosophical trash. The adversary wants you to believe the materialist answer to the truth that confronts your eyes everyday. You know just by looking our your window that all this goodness is not just random chance. There is something more. Religion and science are not opposites. Science isn’t even in the same room. Science is great for physics. Because there is a creator, understanding the physics can give us analogies to the depth of the creator, but physics is not meta-physics. Revelation, faith, is the grounding and start of reason. (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.) Without a solid meta-physic, there is no reason to trust the physics. They may not have all been orthodox, but the vast majority of the great scientists of history were believers. It is only the modern era where physics and meta-physics have become mistaken.

What about focusing on the message and life of Jesus?

While this sounds good philosophically, the myth surrounding Jesus is part of the problem with Christianity.

To believe in Jesus means believing that he was born of a virgin, rose from the dead and performed a number of miracles.

There’s no proof of any of that ever happened, and atheists place those stories in the same box as “young Earth creationism” and Noah’s Great Flood.

To be sure, if Christians followed the positive ideas Jesus had, we’d all be better off, but it’s very hard to separate the myth from the reality

The adversary is happy to have you think of a “Great Teacher Jesus” or a “moral Jesus”. Focusing on those Jesus-es is focusing on our works. Our works are so much trash. Even the best of us. What the adversary does not want us to hear or accept is what God has done for us:
1) The incarnation, being born of a virgin in human flesh
2) The resurrection, which is a historical event that even the Sanhedrin didn’t deny that the tomb was empty, which secured our salvation and points to the fulfillment of all.

There is great proof that these things happened. Jesus called it the sign of Jonah. The tomb was empty and there were many witnesses to the resurrected Christ. The last being Paul as one abnormally born. You can reject this, but don’t just baldly scoff. There is more proof for the resurrection than many “facts” held by scientists today.

In these acts of God is our salvation. No myth, just the basis of all reality. The eternal and per-existant Word.

To those who have, more will be given. To those who have not, even what they have will be taken. Words to ponder staring at that reassuring atheist billboard reading Richard Dawkins.

Voices – Back to the Mad Men Hypothesis

While avoiding the sermon that needs written, a few articles that seem to be saying opposite things popped up.

Here is the Washington Post trying to make a case that “the religious left” will come to dominate the next generation. Given that the core of article takes a very expansive view of what it means to be religious (“Notably, nearly one-in-five (18 percent) religious progressives are “unattached believers,” those who are not formally affiliated with a religious tradition but who nevertheless say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives.”) I’m comfortable thinking that the article has something else at its core. Found in the last sentence – “If the current patterns continue, these shifts promise to reshape significantly the public face of religion and the calculations of political campaigns.” The religious left is not about religion so much as it is about the left. But, even with that, the article is pitching a view of the future of religion and the church. A vision that has absolutely nothing to do with doctrines or theology.

This is Peter Leithart in First Things asserting the God is doing “a new thing” and that new thing is forming a Metropolitan Church. The LCMS would breakout in hives at exactly what he is writing.

When churches work together, they often function as de facto latitudinarians, shuttling their theological differences to the Closet Reserved for Unmentionable Things. That won’t do. Cordial chitchat at the ministerial association won’t be enough. If there is going to be deep cooperation and communion, there has to be greater theological consensus, and to reach a consensus, the churches and their leaders must be committed to the hard work of common prayer, worship, service, and study. A truly metropolitan church will have to be more deeply catholic than we can imagine.

This has a much greater appeal to me and a greater sense of truth than what came before. Call this the generous theologian’s view of the church. Don’t expect the old denominations and confessions to go away. They won’t. But expect a much greater willingness to see the “satis est”, the “it is enough” of the Augsburg Confession Article 7 in churches that live right next to you. I might be reading into Leithart here, but part of that it is enough would be currently non-creedal churches rediscovering the Apostles Creed and at least a truly Calvinist or Mercersberg Theology view of the sacraments. At the same time some of the liturgical churches shaking off a biblical slumber and engaging the Word of God again. I’d call it breathing with both lungs (heart and head) if that phrase wasn’t already in use elsewhere.

The last article is about things that I could only dream about. My Mad Men hypothesis of a couple of posts back could be much more simply stated. The theology expressed in the liturgy and hymnody of the church is a better way. The customer currently wants dreck. Do you want to be a church that produces and serves dreck which looks popular but chases away those who have taste (and make taste!)? Or do you maintain standards knowing that: a) they can form disciples which is the mission and b) bad taste eventually is shown for what it is. Nehru jackets and jump-suits are gone, but Brooks Brothers and London Fog still make clothes. The article asserts that the great awakening to the dreck is happening.

A friend of mine attended a Christian college where almost all of the students, including her, grew up in non-denominational, evangelical Protestant churches. A few years after graduation, she is the only person in her graduating class who is not Roman Catholic, high Anglican or Lutheran. The town I live in has several “evangelical” Protestant colleges: on Ash Wednesday you can tell who studies at them by the ash crosses on their foreheads.

As much as I don’t like the first article, this last one is what my ears want to hear. If just for that fact I’d discount it heavily. But I would take it as evidence of the non-denom/non-creedal folks being open to considering sacramental and creedal stands. (Which still leaves me looking for stirring signs of the Word in the liturgical churches. When my Bible study runs out of room, I’ll let you know.) Bottom line though is that this third article asserts the primacy of theology in the future of the church.

So which is it? Is there a way they overlap or are they mutually exclusive? Another Mad Men quote is Don talking about cigarette advertising. “I spent $10M trying to get people to switch, it doesn’t happen. It is all about the next generation.” That is what ties these three pitches or visions together. Each of the three articles isn’t really trying to get you to switch, but to capture the current generation’s imagination and persuade you to allow that vision to happen.