In 1997 the only place online to discuss ideas was in AOL chat rooms. If blogs had been around when I became a Christian, I would have been that guy writing in the comment sections in ALL CAPS TO GET MY POINT ACROSS.
I got frustrated with people who did not seem to take their faith seriously. I got mad at parents of young kids for always being late. Mad at families for not signing up for Bible studies. Mad at church members for not being in Sunday school. Mad at long-time believers for not knowing things I had just learned. Mad at youth for falling into the same junk I had done as an unbeliever. And certainly mad if people did not use the NASB. People today would have called me a young, angry Calvinist. The only problem is that I didn’t know anything about John Calvin or anyone else in the Reformed world.
Then I went to seminary and my roommate gave me the nickname “Fun D.” I was frustrated at professors, at students, and at people in my local church. In my first encounter with a certain French Canadian New Testament professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I challenged him. I didn’t know any better. I was just a young, excited fool. That professor pulled me aside and called me “amateurish.” I had to look up what he meant.
There is a caricature of young Reformed guys as being hard to get along with and angry. I agree. But it’s not because they’re Reformed. It’s because they are young, mere infants in the faith. It’s not true of every young Christian, but it seems to be particularly true of zealous, academically minded men.
Why So Angry?
Those of us who have walked with Christ for many years should give these young Christians a break. The world today allows us to say more things in a public forum than any other people in history. Want to voice instant displeasure within a Christian ministry? Just head to the computer and let the world know. Be thankful there was no Twitter when you were young.
How to Head It Off?
You can’t. Everyone needs to grow up and go through the pain of adolescence. However, if you’re an angry, young Christian, or you might know someone who is, here are some ways to help encourage maturity.
Don’t take away the passion. Young Christians are often a breath of fresh air. Their optimism, zeal, and passion are worthy of imitating in some situations. There is a reason the average age of those who set out with Hudson Taylor was 25. The passion needs to be stoked, but the roots need to be deepened to prepare for the marathon race ahead. Endurance trumps zeal.
Don’t expect maturity. We all want people to grow up faster than they do. Most of the Christians who find Desiring God at 22 years old are spiritual infants. We should expect outbursts online because the majority of people who comment are young. Remember your youth and how you would have wanted to be corrected. Better yet, think of how you desire your own children to be corrected.
Learn from someone outside your theological camp. If you are a young Calvinist, I offer this suggestion is especially for you. I became a Christian reading a book by Greg Boyd, who is far outside my theological camp today. An Anglican female professor, now a friend, taught me Greek. I was mentored by a fundamentalist, a Reformed Baptist, and later an egalitarian Arminian. I took classes from people who helped translate the NLT. I learned from varying evangelical stripes. I did not end up less certain of my doctrine, but I now approach evangelical debates with a little more grace and familial language.
Get a mentor. Find a person whom you can talk to face-to-face. I’m concerned any time someone tells me the most influential person in his life is someone he does not know. Find a real person who can meet with you, who can even take you into his home and work life to show you how to relate to people.
Get to know blue-collar Christians. This point has been one of the great “rounding out” experiences of my life, and it happened while I was pastoring a small church. I quickly realized my harsh tone toward a number of segments in our society was neither helpful nor Christ-like.
Don’t bow to cultural expectations of Christian niceness. One way people like to get the upper hand in a debate is to claim you are being mean. What they really mean is that you are a nasty person unless you agree with them. So Calvinists have a mean spirit because they have a horrible God who predestines people to hell. Complementarians are mean because they subjugate women. People will point out Matthew 7:1 and tell you to be more like Jesus (except in all the places where he castigated people). You could be the nicest person in the world and still be called a bigot. The culture’s “be nice” police does not put up with disagreement.
If you are frustrated with youthful outbursts, stop complaining, grab one of the culprits, and teach him how to be a disciple. If you are young, let someone make you a disciple. You will still probably post some stuff online that you will regret in years to come, but many others would have done the same if they had an e-mail address at a young age.