Yesterday I talked about the need to understand that twentysomethings place a premium on honesty. I’m focusing on something tangential today. Honesty is so important primarily so few people and entities of the current day are perceived as honest by my peers. In short, everything is suspect to today’s youth. Everything.
This is especially important for Christians to remember because we are, if anything, a convinced people. We place presuppositional faith at the top of the list and work down from there. Our lives are a continual process in which we add truths to our minds, much like a shopper at the grocery store. We work through salvation, and add either Calvinism or Arminianism to our cart. We work through eschatology, and become pro-Israel, though that takes on radically different meanings according to one’s position. We do this over and over in our lives, continually adding (to use another analogy) rooms to the structure that is our philosophical and theological home. As we do so, we assume that this is so for everyone. But it is not.
Sure, there are some of Generation Next (or X, or whatever you want to call it, I don’t care) who do rigorously work through their beliefs and principles. Certainly, some engage in such a program. But many do not. Many of my contemporaries live by a loosely structured code composed of inherited beliefs, favored teachings picked up along the way, and a firm commitment to not pick up many more. Yes, that’s right. Many people today do not want to define their beliefs. This seems shocking to the Christian–in fact, it’s downright unfathomable. How can one not strive for certainty and then live by what certainty is found? It seems incomprehensible, and in fact it is. But this is the way that many people live, and this is the way that many people want to live. They’re not there by accident. Some are genuinely confused, but many simply want to live, in true postmodern form, according to the dictates of their whims, impressions, and tastes. These guides change according to the day. Unlike the life of your average Christian, my peers live an unstructured, fluid, come-what-may, play-it-as-it-lies kind of life. And they like that. Everything’s easier and nicer that way.
Which is why the emerging church appeals so much to my generation. It’s not fixed or firm or fastidious about doctrine. Yes, there are vague commitments. There’s a Nicene Creed here and a church covenant there and an apoliticism here. But by and large, theological fluidity dominates. Many of the movement emphasize the mystery of the Bible and downplay its absolutes. Not surprisingly, such an attitude attracts my peers, who are used to its secular ideological cousins. This makes things a bit tricky for those of us who do emphasize absolutes (it seems conservatives and liberals simply differ on what they emphasize–the former, absolutes, the latter, mystery). We cannot make the same moves as the emergent folks. We are tethered to our belief in absolute truth. But we can be helped by knowing this trait of my generation. We can speak truth more winningly when we realize that those we talk with evangelistically likely don’t have twenty reasons why they believe in atheism, like we do for Christianity. We will approach conversation less like a debate and more like a conversation, albeit one in which we declare truth unapologetically. So that’s the second thing about my generation: everything is fluid. May we stand firm in response.