In you’re not familiar with it, “Nones” is a term the media has given to those who walk away from religious faith. They are not atheists (only 3% of American are self-professed atheists), but they’re just not into religion. The term comes from the growing number of people in America, especially young people, who when asked for their religious affiliation pick “none” or “none of the above.” There have always been irreligious people, but the startling growth of this demographic has caused much glee in secular circles, and much hand wringing in religious communities. It is also a demographic ripe for study; people want to know why this is happening.
Eric Metaxas, famous Evangelical author and speaker, went off to college like many Christian kids, naive and ignorant about the environment he would encounter there. He learned about something there called relativism, a concept every Christian parent needs to be familiar with, and needs to guard their kids against. I’ll let him explain what it means:
I first encountered relativism when I went to college at Yale. Before that I had lived in a working-class world where truth was a real concept. In my parents’ world, truth was something noble and beautiful; it was something that people lived and died for, like freedom. To be an enemy of the truth was to be about the worst thing there was. Since Yale’s motto is Lux et Veritas—Latin for “Light and Truth”—I was eager to get there so that I could begin learning what truth really was. I was genuinely excited about the idea of searching for it.
But by the time I got there—in the 1980s—Yale had abandoned the outdated notion that truth was something real, something to be sought after and discovered and treasured. That onetime seminary had instead espoused a winking, postmodern attitude, in which the notion of a singular truth had been replaced by the relativistic theory that there are many “truths” . . . which is to say no truths at all.
I have a feeling that most Christian parents (and the churches they attend) don’t often get into conversation with their kids about epistemology. Since most people have never heard the word before, that’s not surprising. The concept is simple, though the answers often are not. It’s a branch of philosophy that deals with how we come to know things, or the study of knowledge (episteme is one of the Greek words for knowledge).
One of the reasons epistemology is so important in the 21st Century West is that the secular culture’s default epistemology is skepticism. A recent blog post by Sean McDowell reminded me how easy skepticism is in an age where we are flooded with information every day. He starts it this way:
Recently I was speaking to a group of pastors, youth pastors, and other church workers in Idaho. One pastor asked a question that, in my experience, perfectly captures the thinking process of many students today. He said, “My younger brother, a Millennial, is constantly on his cell phone. When I try to talk to him about God, he says that people disagree and so we simply can’t have any confidence at all in our beliefs.” How would you respond? Can we know things or are we lost in a sea of endless information?
In my last post I wrote about the best way to ruin your kids faith is to make it all about them. It’s an extremely easy thing to let happen if you don’t actively take responsibility for the content and shape of your kids’ faith. We live in a culture where the subjective reigns in the form of the sovereign self, which is the reason the default religion of America, and especially our young people, is something called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). The phrase was coined by sociologist Christian Smith in his 1995 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. He describes MTD thus:
First, a God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth. Second, God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. Third, the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. Fourth, God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. Fifth, good people go to heaven when they die.
Make it all about them!
Yes, I know this is a blog, and book, about keeping our kids Christian, but what we must warn them against is also important if we are to make that keeping more likely.
I recently learned about a Christian women. a famous “mommy blogger,” who was divorced, and recently announced she’s started dating a famous soccer star who happens to be a woman. Yes, this famous Christian author (New York Times Best Seller, no less), blogger, and speaker is now a confirmed lesbian. What makes this particularly especially problematic for conservative, orthodox Christians isn’t the so much the lesbian part of it, but the rationale she gives for engaging in a lesbian relationship. It makes her happy! Oh, so very, very happy! As she put it in her Facebook announcement about the relationship:
This is my first post for this re-purposed blog, and Thanksgiving Day is certainly an appropriate day on which to do it. I say re-purposed because I initially focused on the intersection of Christ and culture, something that is still near and dear to my heart. But about a year and a half ago I decided to write a book, and my orientation changed, which is reflected in the title of this blog and the name of my book.
The thing I am most grateful for in my life, second only to my salvation through Jesus Christ, is my wife and kids. They are the only dream in my life that has ever come true. I’ve always been a big thinker, but all those big thoughts over the last 30 plus years have crashed on the shoals of reality before could ever got to shore. Not so Sarah, Gabrielle, Adam, and Dominic.
Over the years I’ve read a variety of things about Charles Darwin’s faith and his so called struggle with it, as if he was truly ambivalent about it. The deeper he got into his theory of evolution, the story goes, the more his faith gave way to doubt and eventually to nothing. A short letter by Darwin was sold at auction affirming he in fact did not believe in the Bible or in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and I guess for some this was news.
[T]his is only news if we have accepted the usual stories—indeed, myths—about Darwin’s alleged struggle between faith and doubt. The usual story we’ve been fed is that he was a faithful Bible-believing Anglican until he discovered incontrovertible evidence for evolution on his 1831-1836 journey on the HMS Beagle (mythical option 1), or until spiritually broken by the death of his beloved daughter Anne (mythical option 2).
The truth is that Darwin’s unbelief was a family inheritance, as was his adherence to a godless account of evolution, reaching back through his father, Robert, to his grandfather, Erasmus. Charles could have written that letter long before he ever set foot on the Beagle.
With hit “faith-based” movies like War Room and Captive, there was much discussion about Christians and film making. Interestingly enough, some of the harshest critics of these movies are from Christians themselves who seem embarrassed by what I call the cheese factor in many such movies.
A good example can be found at The Federalist by Christopher Hutton. The title of the piece: “‘War Room’ Is Just As Cheesy As All Kendrick Brothers Films.” There is no doubt that many of these movies, not just those by the Kendrick brothers, have a generous helping of cheese, but such criticisms are in many ways myopic. They are especially so in light of the history of evangelical Christianity in America. I’m actually encouraged, as a Christian, that these movies are being made at all, cheese notwithstanding.
Since Father Time took the great David Bowie, I have read numerous speculations about what might have been the state of his soul. Bowie, the consummate showman and actor, was a very private man, refreshing in the age of instant everything. So there isn’t a lot to go on, and I am never one to speculate on such things, leaving that to a power infinitely higher than I. But a friend sent me an encouraging piece that doesn’t bother with speculation: “Why David Bowie Knelt and Said the Lord’s Prayer at Wembley Stadium.” Yeah, I didn’t know that either. The title on the video of him kneeling in prayer: “The Bravest Moment in Rock & Roll History.” Given that sex and drugs are two words most often associated with rock ‘n roll, such a prayer before a hundred thousand rock fans could most definitely be called brave.
As I read this piece and then looked at the video of him kneeling before the crowd saying the Lord’s Prayer, I started to see another video for the song “Lazarus” from his final album, Blackstar, in a different light. (The name of the song kind of gives it away if you’re familiar with the biblical story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead.) Bowie had to be a fan of C.S. Lewis to use a wardrobe so prominently. If you look carefully at the beginning of the song you’ll see a young man open the wardrobe and stare at Bowie laying on what looks like a hospital bed. He starts with the words, “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” The young man appears to become older as the video goes on; maybe an alter ego? Bowie writes in a journal as he struggles with what could be his last thoughts. You’ll notice a skull on the desk as he writes, a la MacBeth? To be or not to be? Ah mortality, the great equalizer, the great question mark over human existence. Leave it to Bowie to ask the most profound of questions as he exits this mortal coil. In the last scene we see Bowie backing into the wardrobe from which the young man came, and shutting the door. Godspeed in Narnia, David Bowie. Thank you for the joy you brought untold millions over so many years.
What is the materialist creed? Modern materialism denies that we have a soul and reduces us to a mere body. In doing so, it assumes that all our actions are determined by physical forces, and therefore denies that we have free will. It therefore declares to be unreal our everyday experience of freely choosing this or that action, and in doing so, removes the possibility of moral action. It reduces love and hate, courage and cowardice to chemistry, and makes of human adventure and human history predetermined paths marked out from the beginning by the laws of nature. And finally, based upon the notion that the universe is a great self-winding, law-driven machine, materialism declares that miracles are impossible and God does not exist.
–Benjamin Wiker, “The Greatest Story, Because It’s True!”