Those of us who are older, approaching the more senior years of our lives, wonder often how it will be for the next generation — our children and grand-children. We see the changes that have taken place in our society, and the impact of these on Christian faith and the church, and sometimes it seems that something important is being lost. In fact, it is true. As I write today, it is evident that church participation, in the west at least, is on the decline. For months now, I have been working on a book that tries to document the reality of this shift and the reasons for it. I hope to see it released in the next couple of months. Its title is, Thoughtful Adaptations to Change: Authentic Faith in Postmodern Times.
Themes of the book have to do with the nature of change and the challenges which changes of any kind present to us. But the most important theme is about the change that has taken place in the last fifty years in our society from modernism to postmodernism. I try to demonstrate that the changes we see everywhere around us are the result of the trend in philosophical development from a God-centered way of thinking to a man-centered orientation (during the modern period) and then a self-centred one during the last fifty years, especially. In the words of Os Guinness, we now are truly living in “the age of the self and the selfie.” Practically speaking, our society has definitely moved away from an orientation toward structures of thought and a well-ordered universe to those of chaos. As a result, there is a much greater sense of uncertainty about anything, and with that development, a feeling of despair.
In the book, I try to show the implications of this change for the challenges of living as a Christian in these times. I also try to demonstrate the contradictions and difficulties with this position and how the Christian meta-narrative (or story) still provides the most sensible world-view. Through the book, I want to show that the kind of opposition the Christian faith and the church is facing today is really nothing new. I end the book with what I see as a biblical understanding of the nature of the gospel and how that gospel needs to be upheld and defended even in our times — simply because it provides the only real answer to the despair of our times.
While it seems that the generation growing up in these post-modern times has largely abandoned the faith of the “Billy Graham” generation, that really is not entirely true. Despite the disinterest that seems characteristic of these times, it is also evident that many young people do want to take the Bible and the Christian faith seriously. Though the approach taken by them is somewhat different than it was in modern times I am optimistic that the Christian church might experience a major spiritual revival because of the growing spiritual desire among these young people.
Whereas modern thinking was especially strong on taking a logical, cognitive approach to life and faith, this generation has shifted its response to more of an emotional one. It’s evident to me that today’s generation tends to deal with life on an emotional level first, and only later, on a logical one. Take, for example, the case of TV commercials, the nature of church worship, and the casual way in which most people dress and conduct their lives, and one can’t help but be impressed by this emotional response. Content is less important than feeling. And thus the interest in equality for all, tolerance (often at any price), and non-judgementalism that is so characteristic of our times.
In the end, I believe, the Bible teaches that our faith should be based on an understanding of the truths of the gospel — the coming of Jesus, His death and resurrection for our sins. Certainly our emotions are involved in our response to this gospel, but are not adequate as a foundation for faith. However, an academic faith without emotion also seems inadequate. Today’s generation is showing us the importance of emotion in that way.
Though it’s true that in the grand scheme of things, there will be a trend toward apostasy that will precipitate God’s final judgement, I don’t think we should give up on trusting God for a great spiritual revival in this generation. We should have the attitude of the writer of Psalm 78 who said, in verses 1 to 4, “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from our descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done.”