INTRODUCTION: Are you part of Generation Z? In other words, were you born sometime between 1991 and the early 2000s and characterized by the following things?
- You have grown up using savvy technology such as the World Wide Web, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 players, mobile phones, iPods, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and YouTube.
- You essentially carry the internet in your pocket on mobile devices such as iPhones or iTouches.
- You or many of your friends enjoy gaming, blogging, and vlogging.
Whether you know it or not, your generation has also been born completely into an era of postmodernism, religious pluralism, and relativism. You may not know what all those big words mean, but the point I'm making is that those big words represent mindsets that affect the way you and the rest of your compadres think. Let me give you a few examples:
- Postmodernism: How many times have you been in a conversation about the Bible or religion and kind of got "stuck" in the conversation when someone said, "that's just your interpretation?"
- Religious Pluralism: How many times have you been in a conversation about religion when you heard someone say something like this, “All the religions of the world basically teach the same things and get you to the same god”?
- Relativism: Or have you ever heard something like this when it came to arguments over religion? - “Look man, you’ve got your truth and I’ve got my truth. There is no one truth for all people, so stop trying to push your religion on other people!”
Since the 1960’s, America has been a post-Christian nation. The truth is, we never really were a Christian nation per se (as if the New Testament actually envisioned one of those), but before the 1960’s, public expressions of Christianity were accepted as part of the warp and woof of American society. But since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, that has all been turned on its head. While putting chewing gum under desks was one of the biggest discipline problems in public schools in the 1950s, gang violence and school shootings are the biggest problems now. So what happened?
The 1920s through the 1960s were a time of great social, philosophical, and religious upheaval; both in society in general as well as the educational system and evangelical churches in the United States. After the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925, American Christianity was labeled as backwards and dimwitted with the help of the media after John Scopes, a high school substitute science teacher was fined for teaching evolution, which at that time was illegal to teach in the state of Tennessee. When evangelical Christian statesman William Jennings Bryan failed to give credible Biblical and scientific refutations of the supposed evidence for evolution offered in the interrogations of agnostic ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow at the Scopes trial, the news media promoted this as a sure sign that fundamentalist Christians were backwards, dim-witted, narrow-minded, obscurantist, anti-intellectuals that were in a war against scientific truth. Almost a decade later, the founders of modern public education were well into training the next generation of educators in their educational philosophy that implicitly promoted a godless humanistic ideal. These students eventually founded educational departments at major universities throughout the United States and thus public education in America has been formally secular ever since then. When the “space race” of the late 1950s and 1960s proved successful, Americans began to generally trust the conclusions of the professional scientific consensus. This paved the way for a greater acceptance of evolutionary theory for up and coming university students. All of that, combined with the assumption of naturalism laid the foundation for skepticism regarding claims of divine involvement in the world and the Bible being accepted as God’s revealed truth to mankind.
When husbands went off to war in World War II, the wives had to take to factory jobs to provide income for the family while dad was away. Before, the wives were stay at home moms while dads worked to provide. However, when the dads came back from war, many moms stayed on the job, and for the first time in American history, many families became dual income households. Thus, the consistent loving care of mothers in the home was replaced by day-care workers, after school programs, and the hunger for that second income that mommy now provided. This was a clear step away from the Biblical pattern that women were to be known as “workers at home” (Titus 2:5).
The evangelical church of the mid to late 1950s saw its lightening rod appear in evangelist Billy Graham. Billy started well and strong as a young evangelist, but due to ecumenical pressure, he eventually caved into religious pluralism. Sadly, the watered down nature of Graham’s ministry has also been reflected in various evangelical denominations since the 1950s. As a result, many large churches today look more like a shopping mall or Starbucks coffee than they do the church that we find in the pages of the New Testament. This has all been caused by a pragmatic desire to do what works to bring in more people through the front doors of a church building than it does to protect and proclaim the truth of the gospel while promoting holiness in God’s people. Such is the case when success is measured by man’s standards rather than God’s (Psalm 118:8).
The civil rights movement of the early 1960s, combined with the influences of postmodernism coming from the secular universities of the mid-1960s caused a massive social and philosophical upheaval; some for the better (i.e., ending racism), and some for the worse (i.e., promoting the acceptance of open societal wickedness). The rapid spread of rock-and-roll music and the promotion of the drug culture fostered a rampant hedonism that developed among many young people in American society from 1965 to 1969. This set the stage for the hippie movement, “free-love” (i.e., the sexual revolution), the famed “Woodstock” concert that occurred in the late summer of 1969, and the open acceptance of what was heretofore considered evil and unacceptable behavior. The post-Christian era had dawned and the older era of societally accepted Biblically based morality was gone.
That very brief outline of historical events explains why Generation Z doesn’t have the philosophical and religious foundation to believe in truth, certainty, or absolutes. Worse yet, combine that brief historical overview of philosophical and spiritual meltdown with a 30 second sound-byte mentality that has been programmed to subconsciously think “you can’t hold my attention longer than 10 seconds without me being entertained via fast, flashy images and sounds” and suffers from an internet information fog, we wonder why Generation Z seems to be a little “distracted” and skeptical when it comes to religious truth claims. Thus, regardless of form, many older, mature teens and college students I've talked to have told me that most Christian churches they have visited seem fake, trite, and irrelevant to answering the world's problems. At best, many of them view professing Christians as people who work hard in trying to solve the world's problems by going about in all the wrong ways. I’m sad to say that I agree with many of these types of objections. So, if the problem is that the Gen Z’ers lack truth, certainty, and absolutes because of their spiritual and philosophical baggage, what is the solution?
The solution is simple but profound. It’s so simple that it’s scandalous, and it’s so profound that theologians and philosophers are still overwhelmed by it. The solution is the person and work of Jesus. When people reject Jesus they are telling God that He is cosmically insignificant in their lives, that He isn’t interesting; that He’s underwhelming. They are telling God that Jesus wasn’t really Truth incarnate, that He didn’t come to set the captives free, that He didn’t come to free us from the willing and voluntary enslavement to our own evil passions. No, they are actually doing worse than this; they are telling Jesus to shove off. Wow. Can you imagine telling this Jesus to shove off?
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NAU)
- Verse 15 says that if you want a visible picture of what the invisible God looks like look at Jesus. And we tell that Jesus to shove off.
- Verse 16 says that Jesus created everything, and we tell that Jesus to shove off.
- Verse 17 tells us that everything is held together by Jesus, including our own beings, yet we tell that Jesus to shove off.
Imagine being a soldier in the military, and your commander-in-chief gives you a direct order and your obedience to that order involves the fate of the entire nation, and instead of being obedient to the order you tell him to go take a jump in the lake. The order doesn’t involve causing harm to anyone. It merely involves refraining from doing something, namely, from thinking that you know better than the commander-in-chief. But lets make the situation more dicey than that. Let’s say that you betray that confidence of your commander in chief to his chief enemy after telling him to take a long walk off of a short cliff. Not only would you be subject to charges of treason; you would likely be hanged or subject to execution by a firing squad in many countries. Now I ask, given the heinous nature of this crime as committed against a human commander-in-chief, how much more heinous and aggravated would it be with the Ultimate Commander-in-Chief? Can you imagine any greater example of heinous arrogance than that which involves essentially telling the transcendent Creator that He’s irrelevant, uninteresting, and vapid? Such is the deceitfulness of sin.
This same lie was there at the beginning with the first human beings God ever created. God told them not to eat and the deceiver told them to, thus, a direct contradiction. What was the motive for disobedience that Satan gave to the first people? Very simple: “God is holding out on you. God isn’t looking out for your best interests but only His own interests. God’s agenda is to destroy you, but I have come that you might have the knowledge of both good and evil and have it abundantly. So if you’re weary, heavy-laden, and ignorant because of the heavy yoke of obedience to God’s law, then cast off that heavy yoke and take and eat your fill of the knowledge of good and evil!” And so they did. As a result of that act of disobedience the entire universe has been thrown into a cataclysmic storm of hurt and sin ever since (Romans 8:20-22).
But there’s more: God is deceitfully put forth to you as a hate-monger; as One who takes joy in your hurt. You see, that’s the most cruel part of the lie; for what God intends for our good Satan twists as an intention for our hurt and we buy into that masterful deception, hook, line, and sinker, just like Adam and Eve. In the end, apart from Christ, we too are left joining in chorus with Satan, “Did God really say? . . . .” (Genesis 3:1) Such is the history of Western philosophy and all other modes of thinking that seek to determine truth and reality apart from reference to God.
However, in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). Wisdom and knowledge can’t be had with autonomous skepticism, for skepticism is self-defeating since to be consistently skeptical we’d have to be skeptical of skepticism. Only people locked up in padded rooms really live that way, while the rest of us show by the way that we live that we really believe in our heart of hearts that the Creator is there and that we can’t escape His presence. We expect uniformity, regularity, and consistency in nature, yet the best that secularism can do to explain those things is to appeal to irrationality, while Jesus has told us all along that He’s responsible for holding everything together and sustaining it by His power (Genesis 8:22; Colossians 1:17). Barring disease and drug use, we expect people to be reasonable and rational, but we can’t make sense out of that either without an appeal to irrationality, while Jesus has told us all along that He’s created our minds to function in such a way that we can reason with Him, know Him, and love Him (Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37-40). When repentance and faith comes, so comes an enhancement of the image of God in the new believer. The image of God for the believer is defined in Scripture as “righteousness and holiness of the truth” and “a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). I take that to mean that over and against the knowledge that the deceiver offered and the world now offers in its many varied forms, this knowledge is God’s knowledge found in His written word, the Bible, and most importantly, in His incarnated word, Jesus. This written and incarnate form of knowledge counters the false knowledge of the world, which offers itself to us in both written and incarnate forms. The world offers its autonomous skepticism in the gift-wrapping of hedonistic, incarnated, bodily pleasure, whereas Christ offers escape from the shackles of that deception and provides us the true light; i.e., the true interpretation of reality as well as the concomitant spiritual effects that go along with it, viz., being a God-lover, full of the joy of the Holy spirit as well as being eternally grateful for Jesus’ sacrificial provision and redeeming, transforming love.
IN CONCLUSION, if you are in Generation Z and find yourself skeptical of traditional and institutional expressions of Christianity, then get in line. I do too. However, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, for Jesus died for messes like that, just like he died for messes like yours. What I mean by “mess” isn’t a “boo-boo”, but sin. Sin is the breaking of God’s law, and it occurs when we determine that we are going to take up arms against the God of heaven and earth (1 John 3:4). Our first parents did it, we’ve all done it, and it’s evident in all of us. The mess that they created in their rebellion feeds into us today in its many and varied forms. We all like to defy God in our sin, but Christ has come to set us free from that Satanic “Kool-Aid” that wants to bring us under bondage and a heavy yoke of despair. This is why He says,
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 NAU)
 Naturalism is the belief that only the natural world exists; i.e., that there is no supernatural, otherworldly realm.
 The “ecumenical movement” was/is a movement within Christianity that seeks to promote unity among professing Christians that deny essential doctrines of the Christian faith. These beliefs would include things like the absolute necessity of repentance and faith in Christ as the only means of salvation, the Bible as the only inspired and infallible word from God, the literal, physical, resurrection of Jesus, the literal, bodily second coming of Jesus, the virgin birth, and the existence of the supernatural. According to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, false unity is no unity at all.
 The “internet information fog” was a phrase coined by Dr. James White. It occurs when someone is overwhelmed by too much information about a particular subject such that they can’t decide what to think about it.
 This is what philosophers have called “The problem of induction”. The problem of induction says, “How do we know that the future is going to be like the past without appealing to past instances of the future being like the past?” The problem is that when the skeptic responds with, “Well, we don’t know it with absolute certainty, but we have a high degree of probability that the future will be like the past because its always been that way in the past” then they are committing the informal logical fallacy of begging the question because they’re assuming the very thing they’re trying to prove. This is a basic problem in philosophy that can’t be solved by appeals to secular solutions. For an extensive treatment of this, see Dr. James Anderson’s paper here: http://www.proginosko.com/docs/induction.html
 How does one who believes in naturalism and evolution know that the deliverances of their mind are giving them a true picture of the world when the very brain that produces those thoughts is itself the product of mere time, chance, and natural processes? Natural selection doesn’t answer this problem because it would only guarantee that our supposed evolutionary hominid ancestors that had beliefs that produced survival value would be passed on to succeeding generations, not that those beliefs themselves give us a true depiction of the world. Thus, beliefs that produce survival value don’t necessarily equal true beliefs. They could just as easily be false yet produce survival value. This is what is known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. See here: http://philofreligion.homestead.com/files/alspaper.htm