Friday, September 28, 2007

Concerns for a Generation of Christians


Justin Taylor: One of the things I’m most concerned about is our lack of understanding biblical doctrine and then how to apply it and communicate it in a winsome and humble manner. We can talk about our “passion for God’s glory,” but do we know how to explain why the Trinity is essential even though that word doesn’t show up in the Bible? Do we know how to explain that God isn’t made up of three parts, that he isn’t a person who wears three hats, that he’s not three Gods? Do we know how to define justification? To explain the relationship of faith and works—how we are saved by faith alone, but yet if we don’t have obedience we won’t go to heaven? Do we know how to explain that Christ is one person, not two people—and that he has two natures, not one? Does Jesus still have a body—is he still human? We may know that the Bible is without error, but can we explain why this must be the case, and how to explain apparent discrepancies?

In other words, I think we’ve got the purpose of life right (to glorify God and enjoy him forever). But I’m not so sure we’ve yet let the truth flow down from the top of this glorious pyramid. Without a foundation it cannot stand. As a generation of younger believers we not only need to sing and teach and rejoice in God’s ultimate purpose, but also to do the same with the “whole counsel of God.”

Along with biblically informed doctrine, we need to do a better job of learning how to express it. That, of course, is the purpose behind “humble orthodoxy.” And in order to achieve that, we need to first commune with God. Few have said it better than my theological hero John Owen:

When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth,—when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us,—when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the thing abides in our hearts—when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for—then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men. (Works, I, pp. lxiii-lxiv [my emphasis])

Eric Simmons: My concern is that my generation of believers may be looking in the wrong places for direction and guidance in the pursuit of God. When I couple the desire for all these great and noble things with our generation’s biblical ignorance, my concern is heightened, because if we are not turning to God’s thoughts on these subjects for guidance, then what are we turning to? Are we turning to novelty? Are we turning to teachers who have causes and who love to inspire others to join the cause? Are we arrogantly reacting to our parents’ generation and what they said Christianity is supposed to look like? In other words we know what we don’t want our Christianity to look like, but we don’t know what it should look like. Being reactionary can be dangerous, and that is typically what well-meaning passionate people tend to do. They can build something new based on reaction and not deep thought.

For me, I see this as huge potential for our generation. If we can match our desire for authenticity with a passion for God’s revealed truth, then I think our generation is going to build strong churches that reveal the gospel like none this country and this world have ever seen. It’s an exciting time to live in and it’s the reason why we are so dedicated to spreading humble orthodoxy.

Thabiti Anyabwile: In some quarters, I am concerned about how some Christians view the local church itself. It seems to me that views of the church can run from "the church is irrelevant" to "let's experiment wildly." Both of these viewpoints, and many in between, fail either to take seriously the centrality of the local church for living the Christian life or the sufficiency of Scripture in defining life inside the church. There is a tendency, I think, to take liberties where Christ has not given them (where he has spoken clearly), loosening the commands of Christ and extending the permissions of the Lord. Here's a case where novelty is dangerous. We ought not to be bound by tradition for tradition's sake, and we ought to enjoy every liberty Christ gives (of which there are many), but we also need to be careful to observe all that He has taught us. And one thing that is hard to miss in the New Testament is the centrality of the local church for living a vibrant, healthy, and fruitful Christian life.

Joseph Stigora: I have a concern about an indecisiveness or a non-committal tendency. You can say, "Let's have a party at my place tomorrow night" and get the enthusiastic response I mentioned before. But when you call to ask someone to bring some Doritos (or your choice of non-hydrogenated oil snack food) ... they're not sure if they are coming, they might go to a movie with their cousin, some friends are going rock climbing ... they are keeping their options open ... but if they do come, they'll bring Doritos. That same attitude can leak into the church. They are excited to be there, love the music, authentically express themselves and are affected by truth ... but they are not sure they can serve on the communion team because their friends all go out for lunch after the service and they don't want to miss that ... they're not sure they want to be a member yet ... they want to take some time before they commit...

Obviously, this doesn't represent everyone. But I have noticed that my own indecisiveness is often just selfishness that wants to keep my options open in case something more attractive pops up in my schedule. I am seeking grace to repent and fight. We would do well to examine it as a tendency in our own lives and ask ourselves about why we do it ... and then passionately seek to change for the glory of God.

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