Monthly Archives: March 2008
Chapter 5 of After the Baby Boomers is fascinating, as it gives an account of religious beliefs among younger adults and how these beliefs are shifting. The statistics may surprise you. Young people are almost as likely to advocate orthodox religious beliefs as the previous generation. Why might this be so? And what does it suggest? Wuthnow lists 7 possible scenarios regarding the recent trends in religious beliefs.
Orthodox beliefs have declined among young adults, but not in the American population as a whole. Perhaps the decline is attributable to the fact that younger adults may have reasons to be less orthodox.
The idea of orthodoxy is more fluid than usually imagined. Could young adults be offering a secular interpretation of traditional religious teachings?
Orthodox beliefs have remained constant because of other societal forces (keeping company with like-minded believers who don’t question their faith, or experiencing religious diversity that has forced young adults to better grasp their own belief system).
People can be orthodox and heterodox at the same time by “cognitive bargaining.” People voice acceptance of orthodoxy, and yet hedge their bets through negotiation.
Young adults are not all the same and are not all exposed to the same cultural influences (college, for example).
The relationship between education and orthodox belief may be changing, so that religious tradition and higher education are no longer seen as mutually incompatible.
Orthodox beliefs are faring differently in different faith communities (evangelicals feel embattled, for example, and therefore are holding tighter to orthodoxy).
The data reveals that there are few differences between younger adults …
Within a couple months of my work in the village, two young people trusted Christ. I spent some time discipling them, often staying up into the wee hours of the night answering questions and talking about what it means to follow Jesus.
There was another teenager who had just begun coming to the youth services. At first, I believe he attended simply because he was enamored with my American citizenship. Plus, he wanted to practice his English out on somebody. I was the prime candidate! When he was at church, he would ask us deep questions regarding the Christian faith. We believed God was drawing him to Himself, so we continued to pray for his salvation.
The first few months were exciting. I had learned enough of the language to be able to converse somewhat freely. Seeing my language skills progress was exhilarating! Spending time in the village had forced me to learn the language faster, since there was no way to communicate unless I was speaking Romanian.
For ease in sifting through my series on Matthew 25 (the Final Judgment and the Sheep and Goats), I am providing links below for each installment in the series.
O God of my exodus,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust!
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives forever.
He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s scepter is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is leveled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose,
in his life I live,
in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.
- Puritan Prayer, from the Valley of Vision (adapted)
Those of us who are outside the Westminster circles should be faithful to pray for Dr. Enns, as well as for the faculty and Board at Westminster. Surely this was a painful decision for all involved.
Many people are wondering what the fuss is about. Why has Peter Enns been suspended? What are the controversial issues surrounding his 2005 book, Inspiration and Incarnation? Why has he been criticized?
The point of this post is not to take sides, but to offer a brief summary of the discussion on Enns’ work so far, in order to see what the issues are and why there has been so much controversy.
1. Enns has been criticized for emphasizing the human nature of Scripture over against the divine.
Enns has used the analogy of Christ’s incarnation in order to reflect the nature of Scripture. Just as Christ is fully human and fully divine, so also Scripture is God’s inspired Word to us. Yet it comes to us incarnated in the language, world, and culture of its human authors. Responding to the above criticism, Enns has expressed regret over not emphasizing the divine source of Scripture more in his book, though he maintains that the intention of the book was to shine light on the human side of Scripture, as he believes this aspect to be often neglected in evangelical circles.
2. Enns has written …
“The pastor who wants to keep his church full of people should first of all preach the gospel. Then he should preach the gospel keeping the following adverbs in mind: earnestly, interestingly and fully.”
- C.H. Spurgeon
Gospel, or “good news,” designates Jesus’ message of the appearance of God’s kingdom, a message entailing liberty for those held captive to any form of affliction and demonstrated most dramatically in acts of healing. In some instances the term encompasses the whole story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus…
The reader of the Gospels must be wary of reading a post-Easter definition into the Evangelists’ use of the term gospel (such as is found in Pauline writings). In the Synoptics, it is found in the mouth of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry… They use the term to designate Jesus’ message without prior definition, implying that it was a term known to their audience.
– IVP Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, pg 282, 283
A brief summary of Bill Henard’s sermon at Southern Seminary about pastoral integrity.
What we can learn from other cultures’ Easter traditions
Check out this interview with Timothy George, one of my Baptist heroes.
Russ Moore reviews the biography of Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts
Justin Taylor interviews New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg.
One reason the Kingdom of God is so awesome!
Tony Kummer reflects on saying goodbye to his foster girls.
Let’s hope that those who are “post-” something will be “post-pride” too.
Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World
In this chapter, Wuthnow provides an analysis of the different religious traditions to see which ones are best reaching the younger generation. Wuthnow breaks down the religious traditions this way:
The charts reveal how important younger adults are to the major traditions. At least 40% of the adherents of every major faith tradition are between the ages of 21 and 45. Still, younger adults make up a smaller proportion of the adherents today than they did a generation ago.
Evangelicals have done well in retaining a good percentage of younger adults, but the proportion of evangelicals in their twenties has dropped dramatically. It’s even worse for the mainline denominations – from 1 in 6 in the 1970’s to 1 in 10 today.
Catholics, black Protestants and Jews have maintained a high proportion of younger adults and show remarkable stability. (Wuthnow offers some reasons later in the chapter to explain why this is so.)
Wuthnow believes that media reports have exaggerated the “tremendous growth, vitality, and rising influence” of American evangelicals. Among younger adults, the proportion of those who identify themselves as evangelicals has not risen. Compared to the mainliners, evangelicals have indeed done well in successfully attracting new recruits. But the result of evangelical growth has not come from mainliners (in fact, the number of younger adults switching from mainline denominations to evangelicalism has decreased), but from former Catholics.
Evangelicalism has seen dramatic shifts in recent years, most notably in the move from the small towns and rural areas to the suburbs. One …
In Chapter 3, Wuthnow examines the statistics surrounding religious participation, specifically – who is attending? Among younger adults, there has been a decline in the percentage of those who attend regularly, while there has been an increase in the percentage of those who seldom or never attend. After the breakdown, Wuthnow estimates that the average congregation has lost 21 younger adults.
Why is religious participation declining? Wuthnow offers 4 reasons.
Marriage – religious participation is a traditional role. Married couples are attending religious services at the same rate now as a generation ago, but because marriage is being delayed, there are significantly fewer young married couples.
Children – wanting to set a good example for children is one reason adults attend church. Those who have more than one child are more likely to attend, but the number of married couples with more than one child has declined.
Employment Patterns – full-time employment means less time for other things. Women (who outnumber men at church) are working full time and still doing most of the housework. A woman’s self-identity is no longer invested in the church, but in one’s work.
Education – religious attendance is generally higher among men and women with higher education, but those with higher education still constitute a minority.
Put all these together and you have a cumulative impact that significantly reduces the number of younger adults who attend church. Wuthnow then takes a closer look at some of the key findings.
First, he shows that marriage is a stronger influence on …