Tuesday, February 26, 2008


We are discussing generational walls and barriers. There was a huge divide between the baby boomer generation and our parents in the late 1960s ... and corresponding cultural change as well as massive ecclesial change. The "Jesus" movement reshaped the face of the Evangelical church, the style of worship and the music.

S.S. sent me a statistic by email from Barna research which indicates that 36% of Americans today are Evangelical, but within the next generation, should current trends continue, that number will drop to 4%. It is routine for most churches to lose their graduating high schoolers as they go off to college (It would be interesting here to discuss the temptation for Evangelicals to go "instransitive" to use Mumford's phrase).

The question to be considered in this discussion is two-fold: 1) how can we be more effective in handing off our baton of faith to our own kids in our churches? (evangelical or otherwise).

2) How can we effectively engage millennial young people (secular) with a serious communication of the good news of Jesus?

Both questions lead to a third question that most be considered in order to answer #1 and #2: what are the generational and cultural differences that require a change in missiological methodology to reach these kids? Some say, there is no difference, others say we need to go back to historic Christianity, and yet a third group wants to throw out everything and start completely fresh. Which is it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Trial Balloons

Despite our many grumblings about "politics" and "the system", we do have the amazing privilege of voting. So who you like for the OO (Oval Office) in 08? You get to name your (current--subject to change) candidate, and please provide the one or two reasons behind your choice. The hoped-for give-and-take might change some minds or sharpen some convictions!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Whatever Happened to Sin, next iteration

In the 1970s, Karl Menniger published "Whatever Happened to Sin?" The book pointed out the ways in which culture had abandoned the notion of "sin" as an important category for thinking about what's wrong and why things go wrong, and replaced it with terms derived from the realm of psychotherapy.

I wonder if we're not in a similar cultural moment, one in which our conception of the "location" of "evil" is shifting. In classical Protestant terms, sin/evil is located in each and every one of our rebellious hearts; we need a Savior. The therapeutic revolution moves the locus of evil to maladjustment, bad parenting, low self-esteem, etc.; we need a therapist. Various other social movements will locate or "explain" evil in terms of large corporations, centralized authority structures, or authoritarian ideologies; we need a raised, revolutionary "new consciousness."

Information technologies offer a fresh "take" on the human dilemma. Sin/evil is caused by twinned lacks: of connectedness and of information. More than a few voices in the emerging church movement are calling into question our "standard" categories of sin/sinner, being "lost," and formulations of judgment and the possibility of eternal punishment. Several are advocating wholesale denial of the doctrine of "penal substitution," the idea that Christ bore the punishment for our sin; this, at least in a few quarters, is seen as "cosmic child abuse." A modified universalism--while no one is saved apart from Christ's sacrificial death, many (all?) are saved without knowing that their salvation has come through Christ--is gaining a fresh hearing. The idea of drawing lines that separate those "inside" from those "outside," the understanding that people who "don't know Jesus" are "lost," are being viewed as outmoded, unhelpful and possibly even evil.

So: do we have an opportunity to rethink and reformulate our understanding of sin, what it means to be a sinner, and what it means that Jesus is Savior? How might we respond to the cyber-optimistic contention that people are inherently good and desire to make a positive contribution to a community (the ideology behind craigslist or eBay or Wikipedia)? What are our emergent brethren onto that we (those of us who might not be sure that the emergent label looks good on us) ought to pay attention to in regards to sin and salvation?