Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal



Friday, September 18, 2015

Prepare Your Children/Grandchildren for Times of Doubt (Part 2)



(Part 1 is here)

As Barna notes,

The problem of young adults dropping out of church life is particularly urgent because most churches work best for ‘traditional’ young adults – those whose life journeys and life questions are normal and conventional. But most young adults no longer follow the typical path of leaving home, getting an education, finding a job, getting married and having kids—all before the age of 30. These life events are being delayed, reordered, and sometimes pushed completely off the radar among today’s young adults.

Consequently, churches are not prepared to handle the ‘new normal.’ Instead, church leaders are most comfortable working with young, married adults, especially those with children. However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.

The research points to two opposite, but equally dangerous responses by faith leaders and parents: either catering to or minimizing the concerns of the next generation. Studies suggest some leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and twentysomethings because they feel that the disconnection will end when young adults are older and have their own children. Yet, this response misses the dramatic technological, social and spiritual changes that have occurred over the last 25 years and ignores the significant present-day challenges these young adults are facing.

Other churches seem to be taking the opposite corrective action by using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults. However, putting the focus squarely on youth and young adults causes the church to exclude older believers and “builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God,” 

Between these extremes, are ways in which the various concerns being raised by young Christians (including church dropouts) could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families. Many churches approach generations in a hierarchical, top-down manner, rather than deploying a true team of believers of all ages. “Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.”

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There are 3 phenomenon exacerbating the problem:

1. Growing Biblical illiteracy within the church

Statistic after statistic and survey after survey all affirm the burgeoning problem of biblical illiteracy in the church today. David Nienhuis, associate professor of New Testament Studies at Seattle Pacific University, penned an excellent article at Modern Reformation several years ago entitled "The Problem of Evangelical Biblical Illiteracy".  If anything, his observations are more pertinent today as Biblical illiteracy continues its downward slide in the American evangelical church.

" I often begin my survey of the Christian Scriptures course by asking students to take a short biblical literacy quiz, including questions of the sort mentioned above. The vast majority of my students--around 95 percent of them--are Christians, and half of them typically report that they currently attend nondenominational evangelical churches. Yet the class as a whole consistently averages a score of just over 50 percent, a failing grade. In the most recent survey, only half were able to identify which biblical book begins with the line, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Barely more than half knew where to turn in the Bible to read about the first Passover. Most revealing in my mind is the fact that my students are generally unable to sequence major stories and events from the biblical metanarrative. Only 23 percent were able to order four key events from Israel's history (Israelites enter the promised land; David is made king; Israel is divided in two; and the people of Judah go into exile), and only 32 percent were able to sequence four similarly important events from the New Testament (Jesus was baptized; Peter denies Jesus; the Spirit descends at Pentecost; and John has a vision on the island of Patmos). These students may know isolated Bible trivia (84 percent knew, for instance, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem), but their struggle to locate key stories, and their general inability to place those stories in the Bible's larger plotline, betrays a serious lack of intimacy with the text--even though a full 86 percent of them identified the Bible as their primary source for knowledge about God and faith."

He relates the conversation with one student who told him,

"Reading a lot is not a part of my learning style." 

She went on to inform me that students today learned more by "watching videos, listening to music, and talking to one another." She spoke of the great growth she experienced in youth group (where she no doubt spent a lot of time watching videos, listening to music, and talking with people), but her ignorance of the Bible clearly betrayed the fact that the Christian formation she experienced in her faith community afforded her little to no training in the actual reading of Scripture.

Dr. Woodrow Kroll, President Back to the Bible International recently observed,

"I don't believe Bible illiteracy is a problem in the church; I believe it is the problem in the church. Failure to read God's Word is impacting our view of the world around us. This year saw increases in the proportions of people who believe that cohabitation (60%), adultery (42%), sexual relations between homosexuals (30%), abortion (45%), pornography (38%), the use of profanity (36%) and gambling (61%) are morally acceptable behaviors."

Several years ago professor Gary Burge from Wheaton College reported the results of a Bible literacy test his Christian college gave to incoming freshmen. The results were shocking because most of these students grew up in "strong" evangelical churches.  One-third of those students didn’t know that Paul’s missionary journeys were recorded in the book of Acts.  They didn’t know where in Scripture the birth of Christ is found.  He asked 45 seniors who were in an advanced class to paraphrase, from memory, the Ten Commandments. Only one student could do it.   The problem, according to Burge is the trend towards a therapeutic emphasis in preaching. He said, “There’s not an educational dimension any longer. We’re all about the experience, not the facts.”

Young American born-again believers are moving away from a biblically-centered worldview, with only one in three affirming that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, according to Steve Cable, senior vice president of Probe Ministries. "We need to admit that there's a problem," Cable says. "Don't go around with your blinders thinking that everything is fine. We have a lot of people that aren't born again, so there's a lot of work to do. But then you look at the born-agains and see that we have even more work to do."

2. Growing isolationism within the church from a culture becoming more secular and hostile to Christianity

Much of the church is hunkering down in a fortress mentality, slowly abandoning the culture. Megachurches are often the best example, offering all manner of facilities and daily activities that tend to lead to member greatly lessening their contact with the culture. A Christian can increasingly spend the vast majority of their time safely cocooned in the church away from the culture. The same can be true for youth groups which sometimes offer numerous activities, isolated from the culture. A young teen can spend most of his/her time with church activities and rarely interface with outside secular activities.

3. The increasingly complex relationship between decreasing parental authority & increasing responsibility on the part of the child, as the child matures

There is a complex interdependency between the decreasing parental authority and the increasing child responsibility as the child matures. It is progressively difficult to incorporate as the culture rapidly changes – i.e., a cell phone that permits easy “sexting” and unfiltered internet access for a teenager?

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So - How then can we practically help prepare our children and grandchildren for times of doubt?

(Continued in Part 3 here)

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