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Enough, already!

July 30, 2014

The discussion about millennials leaving the church is getting old. On one side is the wearisome complaining about certain characteristics of some evangelical churches that leave millennials no option but to leave altogether (which, quite frankly, is simple disobedience to the command to not forsake being part of a local church). The finger-pointing is looking a lot like simply making excuses. On the other side is the hand wringing by church leaders who try to sell the church to millennials, making the church look like a commodity in the process (which in turn fuels individualistic impulses). I think it’s a safe bet that the church has never been perfect. Why expect that now? This isn’t to excuse the bad; it’s an attempt at being realistic. Rather than leave, if you’re serious about your faith, why not work at fixing the problems?

No doubt a big part of the problem is with some notions handed down to millennials. They’ve been lied to. They (a general “they”) grew up assuming that life ought to be personalizable to their liking, designed to fit them individually (even though their experience often belies that notion, it’s still a disappointment when it doesn’t happen), and that they “deserve” ________ (fill in the blank). The marketing mentality of our day says it’s all about me, and the wonders of technology more and more feed individual tastes. (More than a few have also been taught well the fine art of excessive naval-gazing, considering all the talk about how terribly they’ve suffered at the hands of the church, followed, usually, by their triumph over it–on their own terms, of course.)

If the situation in your church is bad, and you see no hope of it being fixed; if your own theological development has moved you in a different direction; if, in short, the fit is bad enough that no one is benefiting from you being there, go somewhere else. If you drop out altogether, the real problem isn’t with the church.

Since this may draw the ire of some because I’m speaking as a Baby Boomer who possibly helped create or foster the problems and who surely can’t understand the situation of the millennials, I’ll end by posting a link to an article by one of their own, Brett McCracken.

  1. Having read the referenced article and several of your posts, I can see that you are interested in applying logical means of resolving disputes regarding matters of religion. May I offer an argument relative to anyone of any age leaving the church that could especially apply to the millennial generation without them even realizing. In this day of short attention spans and endless availability of information, young people may just want the facts. Perhaps some are listening to the rhetoric and reading their Bibles but missing the connection. Or they may be confronting disjunction of ideas that cannot be reconciled and perceive that concepts opposing religion have support of more sound logic.

    I persisted for decades with questions chafing my soul by deferring them to some future revelation I anticipated must be inevitable. Most youth today show neither the patience nor inclination to accept less than solid, succinct clarification to challenging discrepancies germane to church. And why should they … or anyone? The narrow path is not found by anyone capitulating to popular theology, but by individuals unceasingly prodding for answers that theologians fail to communicate effectively.

    What’s worse? Most Christians, even among those who identify some perplexing schism, are not able to formulate appropriate questions to ask due to the paradigm that has developed from their familiar theology to which many remain otherwise comfortably adherent. But what if they are being lied to? And what if the lies have been perpetuated for so long that they are virtually unrecognizable?

    When the day of YHWH arrives, God will demand of the unruly nations, “Shut up! Know now that I am God. My kingdom (centered in Jerusalem) will be world-wide.” (Ps 46) Having failed to identify YHWH as God, our ancestors will be blamed for the lies that have been passed down over many generations. (Jer 16) Afterward, the nations will stream to Zion to learn those instructions God never abrogated.(Micah 4) Logical analysis identifies “nations” as gentiles inclusive of Christianity. I suspect if these lies were identified and corrected, neither the millennial generation nor anyone would be so disgruntled. But then, should theologians identify the lies, they might find exposing those lies counterproductive to building the church.

  2. Rick Wade permalink

    You are right, I’m sure, about some Millennials being thoughtful people who aren’t getting coherent and straight information and answers. It’s also the case, though, that, since they’ve grown up in a culture which denies that religion and morality have anything to do with reason, but are mere choices, many don’t think that deeply about it. If there are “disjunctions of ideas,” they should ask for clarification. If they don’t get it, shame on the people who are responsible to answer. I’m sure that happens sometimes, maybe a lot. When it does, the questioner should go somewhere where answers can be had. Not all theologians (or pastors or other church leaders) are failing to give answers. Many books have been written with answers; they can sometimes even be found in public libraries so no money has to be spent. Millennials are the internet generation. There are resources galore on the internet. There are also churches with thoughtful people who will give answers or try to find them. Bottom line, that is no excuse for giving up on the church altogether.

    Your labeling of what Millennials hear as lies makes me wonder, though, if you think they are indeed hearing answers but just not those that accord with your theology (of which you give only hints in your last paragraph). Maybe you’d like to share more clearly the truth you think they aren’t hearing.

  3. You make such good points. I certainly agree that there is little excuse for any seeker to remain ignorant in this age of information. Truly, many don’t “think” at all perhaps due to processed, sugar-laden food diets, media overstimulation and education shortfalls. For the few who persist until the most valid explanations are obtained from reliable sources, there is no other choice but to leave the church.

    I have determined that truthful information is illusive to most everyone who is not aggressively searching for it. God’s teaching that is perfect and restoring (Ps 19) was rejected from the time it was delivered until this very day. Describing any truth that has been twisted (Jer 23) and rejected (Ez 20) and butchered (Ez 22) and corrupted (Mal 2) for millennia may be an exercise in futility until the lie is identified. The instructions to live by were exchanged for vanity (Ez 20:25) that has been passed down to us disguised as religion (Jer 16:19).

    The fundamental deception can be derived from these conflicting approaches: “If I do not do the deeds of my Father, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” “But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim a gospel to you contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let him be accursed!” One of these is building trust by encouraging examination of evidence while the other is demanding faith by silencing dissenters. Only one is consistent with God’s approach (Is 1:18).

    Either God’s torah/teaching is a collection of instructions and rules that facilitate a healthy physical life and lead to eternal spiritual life by means of knowledge and understanding, or they are a string of oppressive laws employed to enslave the very people God redeemed from slavery. Both of these are clearly described in our Bibles. One is a lie. Paul (Sha’uwl=”Question Him”) introduced this lie to gentiles who were otherwise unfamiliar with God’s foundational teaching, requirements, rules and commands but were intimately familiar with religion … particularly involving the son of the sun. But it was Marcion who developed the duality of God giving rise to a “new” testament.

    The truth being withheld from all of us is revealed in God’s teaching but remains filtered and diluted by Paul’s poison and cannot be appreciated while confined to that paradigm. Indeed, Christians’ entire perception of God must pass through Paul’s rhetoric of religious fabrications. You may surely recognize that that Mormon’s adhere to a fable concocted by one single individual, a scoundrel no less. Do you realize that not one corroborating testimony exists to clarify which of Paul’s contradicting accounts of his luminous encounter is accurate? Don’t you wonder why Paul would have attributed a line from Dionysus in Eusibius’ The Bacchae to any manifestation of God before an audience undoubtedly familiar with the pagan play? Questionable material abounds in the NT.

    I suspect you are familiar with the lesson that legitimate currency is studied extensively so that counterfeits may be identified. Examining God’s teaching strictly as presented by the prophets of old allows us to recognize the obvious discrepancies inherent in religion. Approaching the torah from any other direction risks circular reasoning that may invalidate a genuine assessment.

    Your own accomplishments dwarf my investigation of God’s message. Please know that I would never deliberately insult your intelligence or disrespect you. Should you point out errors in my reasoning, I will gladly reevaluate as I am far from my destination.

    • Rick Wade permalink

      Sorry for the late reply.

      I see no discrepancy between Jesus pointing at his works as witnesses to Jews who knew the prophecies (compare Lk. 7:18-23 with Isa. 29:18 and 35:5,6) and Paul’s admonition about false teachers. Regarding the latter, if Paul (and the other apostles) were teaching the truth, then contradictory teachings would be false. I’m surprised you would pit Paul against Jesus regarding giving evidences. Have you read the book of Acts? Paul had no problem with giving reasons and evidences for the truth of the gospel of Jesus (Acts 9:29; 17:1-3 [to the Jews] and 22-31 [to the Greeks]; 19:8-10; 22:1-21; chap. 26, esp. v. 26).

      There is no duality in Paul. The one he called God the Father he recognized as the God of the Old Testament. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah who was foretold by the prophets and for whose gospel the law was a preparation. Read Galatians 3. The law was a curse in the sense that it showed the Israelites their sin and made them see how far from God’s righteousness they were (and we are). Anyone who relies on the law must live by the entire law (v.10). No one can do that. Paul says clearly that he didn’t see the law as contrary to God’s promises; it was the guardian to preserve people until the only way to righteousness should come. This is nothing like the dualism of Marcion.

      I’m curious. If you still uphold the Law, do you offer sacrifices for your sins? Christians believe Jesus was the final and perfect sacrifice. Without that, what do you do to expiate your sins?

      Paul didn’t give conflicting reports of his encounter with Christ (and how many corroborating witnesses does one need to be believed?). Maybe you’re speaking of the accounts of his conversion in Acts 9 and 22. In chapter 9 it says the others heard the voice but saw no one. In chapter 22 it says that they saw the light but didn’t hear the voice. Are these the points that trouble you?

      There’s obviously no contradiction between seeing light but not seeing a person (“no one” in 9:7 is masculine, not neuter). But how about the others hearing yet not hearing?

      As with any other text, one gives the benefit of the doubt to the speaker (or writer) until finding good reason to see a problem. It doesn’t do to bring to the text a bias against the writer so that an apparent contradiction is simply wiped away, especially when one is reading a text written in a different language. This episode has been treated numerous times. I am looking now at Nicoll’s The Expositor’s Greek New Testament where he shows how consistency is maintained by attending to the cases of the noun and to the context. In Acts 9:4 it is said that Paul heard a voice (accusative), and in verse 7 that the others heard a voice (genitive). Why the difference of cases? Paul reverses the cases in 22:7 and 9, but still uses different cases to describe his experience and that of the others. In chapter 9, both hear the voice (phōnē), but Paul hears the voice and the words (v. 5). So Paul heard the voice (accusative) and the words, while the other heard the voice (genitive) with no mention of them hearing the words, or making out what was said. By itself that isn’t strong evidence for consistency. However, in chapter 22, Paul gives more evidence of a distinction (and for no contradiction) in his clarification of what happened. While he heard the voice (genitive) and the words (vv. 7-8), the others did *not* hear the “speaking” (laleō) of the voice (accusative). So again a distinction is made by using different cases, and Paul notes that what the others didn’t hear was the “speaking” voice. It’s worthy of note that Paul’s use of the accusative in 22:9 (phōnēn) for what the others *didn’t* hear he uses in verse 14 for what he did hear (and continued to hear). This isn’t a knock down, drag out case, but it is reasonable. There is no clear evidence of a contradiction in Paul’s accounts.

      I don’t wonder at all why Paul quoted other ancient writings. They were part of the linguistic “environment” of his day. “It hurts to kick against the goads” was a proverb in the ancient world. Aeschylus used it as well as Euripedes (not Eusebius; he was a church historian). It was also used by Latin writers. Jesus was using a proverb Paul (Saul) would have known to make a point. There is nothing odd in that. The use of Koinē Greek, the common form of Greek then, is one indication of the broadening of the audience of the message. Jesus came as an ordinary man (on the surface, of course) who spoke the ordinary languages of the people. It’s no surprise that he would continue to speak in ways that his hearers would understand.

      I think you give too much credence to Paul as though he were the inventor of Christianity. The important question was asked by Jesus: Who do they say that I am? If Paul is troublesome to you, stick with the Gospels for now. Jesus claimed to have existed before Abraham. What do you make of that? Was he delusional? Who do you say that he was?

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