Monthly Archives: March 2008

 

Mar

31

2008

Trevin Wax|4:43 am CT

After the Boomers 5: Trends in Religious Beliefs

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Chapter 5 of After the Baby Boomers is fascinating, as it gives an account of religious beliefs among younger adults and how these beliefs are shifting. The statistics may surprise you. Young people are almost as likely to advocate orthodox religious beliefs as the previous generation. Why might this be so? And what does it suggest? Wuthnow lists 7 possible scenarios regarding the recent trends in religious beliefs.

  1. Orthodox beliefs have declined among young adults, but not in the American population as a whole. Perhaps the decline is attributable to the fact that younger adults may have reasons to be less orthodox.
  2. The idea of orthodoxy is more fluid than usually imagined. Could young adults be offering a secular interpretation of traditional religious teachings?
  3. Orthodox beliefs have remained constant because of other societal forces (keeping company with like-minded believers who don’t question their faith, or experiencing religious diversity that has forced young adults to better grasp their own belief system).
  4. People can be orthodox and heterodox at the same time by “cognitive bargaining.” People voice acceptance of orthodoxy, and yet hedge their bets through negotiation.
  5. Young adults are not all the same and are not all exposed to the same cultural influences (college, for example).
  6. The relationship between education and orthodox belief may be changing, so that religious tradition and higher education are no longer seen as mutually incompatible.
  7. Orthodox beliefs are faring differently in different faith communities (evangelicals feel embattled, for example, and therefore are holding tighter to orthodoxy).

The data reveals that there are few differences between younger adults and older adults regarding religious beliefs. There is no evidence of declining beliefs in orthodoxy. In fact, research shows that belief in “life after death” has actually risen among those in their twenties.

Wuthnow believes the single most telling question he can ask a young adult is their view of the Bible. His statistics on young adult views of the Bible have remained stable.

Religious diversity tends to be associated with lower levels of orthodox belief, and such is the case. But it could be that orthodox believers avoid contact with other religious groups. Most people do not have extensive contacts with people who hold to non-Western religions.

Wuthnow believes that the stability of orthodox beliefs tells a different story. People hold traditional views, while adapting to the culture in other ways, so that there is room to interpret the Bible and still be comfortable in a secular society. Examples? He quotes people who believe in evolution and creation. He shows how 64% of those who claim to be biblical literalists agree that “all major religions contain some truth about God.” He notices how many biblical literalists relativize their view that Christianity is the only way to God by saying it is the best for them personally. Increasingly, religious beliefs are personal and private, detached from the religious congregation.

Wuthnow notices that since the early 1980′s, young adults with some higher education have become more orthodox, reversing the typical view that college necessarily lessens a commitment to religious faith. This could be taking place for many reasons. Since college attendance is up, more like-minded people can join together. College is no longer for the elite.

Tomorrow, we look at spirituality and spiritual practices – the role of faith in personal life.

 
 

Mar

31

2008

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

Discipling Romanian Teenagers

Within a couple months of my work in the village, two young people trusted Christ. I spent some time discipling them, often staying up into the wee hours of the night answering questions and talking about what it means to follow Jesus.

There was another teenager who had just begun coming to the youth services. At first, I believe he attended simply because he was enamored with my American citizenship. Plus, he wanted to practice his English out on somebody. I was the prime candidate! When he was at church, he would ask us deep questions regarding the Christian faith. We believed God was drawing him to Himself, so we continued to pray for his salvation.

The first few months were exciting. I had learned enough of the language to be able to converse somewhat freely. Seeing my language skills progress was exhilarating! Spending time in the village had forced me to learn the language faster, since there was no way to communicate unless I was speaking Romanian.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Mar

31

2008

Trevin Wax|3:49 am CT

Sheep & Goats Series

For ease in sifting through my series on Matthew 25 (the Final Judgment and the Sheep and Goats), I am providing links below for each installment in the series. 

1. Longing for Judgment
2. Inheriting the Kingdom
3. Human Need
4. Serving Jesus by Serving Others
5. The Least of These
6. Depart from Me
7. You Ignored Me
8. When Did We Fail You?
9. Final Judgment

 
 

Mar

30

2008

Trevin Wax|4:35 am CT

Puritan Resurrection Prayer

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O God of my exodus,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust!

Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives forever.

He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s scepter is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is leveled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose,
in his life I live,
in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.

- Puritan Prayer, from the Valley of Vision (adapted)

 
 

Mar

29

2008

Trevin Wax|2:30 pm CT

The Peter Enns Controversy

enns_portrait.jpgOn March 27, the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary announced that professor Peter Enns would be suspended from teaching at the conclusion of this school year.

Those of us who are outside the Westminster circles should be faithful to pray for Dr. Enns, as well as for the faculty and Board at Westminster. Surely this was a painful decision for all involved.

Many people are wondering what the fuss is about. Why has Peter Enns been suspended? What are the controversial issues surrounding his 2005 book, Inspiration and Incarnation? Why has he been criticized?

The point of this post is not to take sides, but to offer a brief summary of the discussion on Enns’ work so far, in order to see what the issues are and why there has been so much controversy. 

1. Enns has been criticized for emphasizing the human nature of Scripture over against the divine.
Enns has used the analogy of Christ’s incarnation in order to reflect the nature of Scripture. Just as Christ is fully human and fully divine, so also Scripture is God’s inspired Word to us. Yet it comes to us incarnated in the language, world, and culture of its human authors. Responding to the above criticism, Enns has expressed regret over not emphasizing the divine source of Scripture more in his book, though he maintains that the intention of the book was to shine light on the human side of Scripture, as he believes this aspect to be often neglected in evangelical circles.

2. Enns has written that the first chapters of Genesis are firmly grounded in ancient myth, which he defines as “an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins in the form of stories.”
Critics have been perplexed by Enns’ description of the early Genesis stories because his definition of myth seems to leave no room for actual historical accounts. Enns has expressed regret in not being clearer in his affirmation of the “basic historical referential nature” of the opening of Genesis. Yet Enns has not been clear in affirming just what Genesis tells us about what historical events he believed actually took place.

3. Enns claims that Scripture is inspired and inerrant, however the way he describes Scripture seems to counter that belief.
Enns believes we are wrong to have a preconceived notion of inerrancy into which we must fit the Scriptures. Instead, he believes we should define inerrancy based on Scripture. Enns’ critics claim that he is the one who is allowing extra-biblical sources to define the nature of Scriptural inspiration (for example, by defining the genre of Genesis as “myth” based on the conceptual similarities with other ancient literature).

4. Enns does not seek to harmonize seemingly-contradictory parts of Scripture because he believes the diversity of Scripture is complementary.
Enns appears to affirm that the diverse descriptions of Scripture form a tension within the canon that is God-inspired. God has placed surface “irreconcilable perspectives” in the texts on purpose. Enns’ critics have charged him with overstating the apparent problems in the Old Testament. Enns has expressed regret for not laying out more clearly the fact that there is no error in Scripture. His critics believe he is redefining inerrancy by saying, in effect, that the contradictions (i.e. “errors”) in Scripture are not errant because God placed them there by design.

5. Enns rejects the idea of objective unbiased historiography.
According to Enns, no historical account is a bare statement of facts. All history has an intended purpose and a certain bias. Enns’ critics agree. However, several critics have objected to the idea that bias necessarily negates the truth of the account in question. They worry that Enns’ rejection of objective historiography will communicate a disregard for the truth of historiography.

There are several other points of conflict, but I hesitate to go any deeper right now. I encourage my readers to read Enns’ book and his reviewers and critics for more detailed information. I hope my brief outline of the issues at stake will be a resource for the curious. (Since this is a blog post and not an academic paper, I have not included footnotes and a bibliography. Below are some of the resources from which I have drawn this material.)

Reviews:
Beale and Enns Debate
MYTH, HISTORY, AND INSPIRATION: A REVIEW ARTICLE OF INSPIRATION AND INCARNATION BY PETER ENNS by G.K. Beale
RESPONSE TO G. K. BEALE’S REVIEW ARTICLE OF INSPIRATION AND INCARNATION by Peter Enns
A Surrejoinder to Peter Enn’s Response to G. K. Beale’s JETS Review Article of His Book, Inspiration and Incarnation by G.K. Beale
Brenton C. Ferry’s review
A response by Pete Enns to Ferry’s review
Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament 
Enns’ response here. 
Three Books on the Bible: A Critical Review (N.T. Wright, John Webster, and Peter Enns) by D.A. Carson
Interview with Peter Enns at Solent Green 

April 1 Chapel Message regarding Enns’ dismissal

written by Trevin Wax. copyright © 2008 Kingdom People Blog. 

 
 

Mar

29

2008

Trevin Wax|4:32 am CT

Spurgeon's Key to Church Growth

“The pastor who wants to keep his church full of people should first of all preach the gospel. Then he should preach the gospel keeping the following adverbs in mind: earnestly, interestingly and fully.”

- C.H. Spurgeon

 
 

Mar

29

2008

Trevin Wax|3:34 am CT

Gospel Definitions: C.C. Broyles

Gospel, or “good news,” designates Jesus’ message of the appearance of God’s kingdom, a message entailing liberty for those held captive to any form of affliction and demonstrated most dramatically in acts of healing. In some instances the term encompasses the whole story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus…

The reader of the Gospels must be wary of reading a post-Easter definition into the Evangelists’ use of the term gospel (such as is found in Pauline writings). In the Synoptics, it is found in the mouth of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry… They use the term to designate Jesus’ message without prior definition, implying that it was a term known to their audience.

- IVP Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, pg 282, 283

 
 

Mar

28

2008

Trevin Wax|4:20 am CT

In the Blogosphere

A brief summary of Bill Henard’s sermon at Southern Seminary about pastoral integrity. 

What we can learn from other cultures’ Easter traditions 

Check out this interview with Timothy George, one of my Baptist heroes. 

Russ Moore reviews the biography of Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts

Justin Taylor interviews New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg.

One reason the Kingdom of God is so awesome!

Tony Kummer reflects on saying goodbye to his foster girls.

Let’s hope that those who are “post-” something will be “post-pride” too.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World

 
 

Mar

28

2008

Trevin Wax|3:11 am CT

After the Boomers 4: The Major Faith Traditions

In this chapter, Wuthnow provides an analysis of the different religious traditions to see which ones are best reaching the younger generation. Wuthnow breaks down the religious traditions this way:

  • Evangelical
  • Mainline
  • Black Protestant
  • Catholic
  • Jewish
  • Other Faith/Nonaffiliated.

The charts reveal how important younger adults are to the major traditions. At least 40% of the adherents of every major faith tradition are between the ages of 21 and 45. Still, younger adults make up a smaller proportion of the adherents today than they did a generation ago.

Evangelicals have done well in retaining a good percentage of younger adults, but the proportion of evangelicals in their twenties has dropped dramatically. It’s even worse for the mainline denominations – from 1 in 6 in the 1970′s to 1 in 10 today.

Catholics, black Protestants and Jews have maintained a high proportion of younger adults and show remarkable stability. (Wuthnow offers some reasons later in the chapter to explain why this is so.)

Wuthnow believes that media reports have exaggerated the “tremendous growth, vitality, and rising influence” of American evangelicals. Among younger adults, the proportion of those who identify themselves as evangelicals has not risen. Compared to the mainliners, evangelicals have indeed done well in successfully attracting new recruits. But the result of evangelical growth has not come from mainliners (in fact, the number of younger adults switching from mainline denominations to evangelicalism has decreased), but from former Catholics.

Evangelicalism has seen dramatic shifts in recent years, most notably in the move from the small towns and rural areas to the suburbs. One of the key reasons why evangelicals have grown is because of their outreach to new movers. 66% of converts to evangelicalism have moved somewhere other than where they were living when they were 16.

Evangelicals and mainline Protestants have faced the same social changes, but evangelicals have definitely adapted better.

Evangelicals have the upper hand also when it comes to retaining younger adults. Why is this the case? First, geographic mobility is higher for people in mainline denominations, causing doors to other denominations to open more readily. Secondly, the two traditions differ in the timing of marriage (evangelicals marry younger). Also, the education level of evangelicals is 30 years behind their mainline counterparts.

I won’t go into as much detail regarding the black Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Suffice it to say that the Catholic numbers, at least, have been bolstered by immigration.

Regarding other faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.) and the non-affiliated, these numbers are rising sharply. Retention rates are very high (above 90%), as many immigrants hold on to their religious identities as they come to the United States. 25% of those in the “other faiths category” have converted from another faith.

On Monday, we pick back up and take a look at recent trends in religious beliefs.

 
 

Mar

27

2008

Trevin Wax|4:10 am CT

After the Boomers 3: Going to Church

04_01.jpgIn Chapter 3, Wuthnow examines the statistics surrounding religious participation, specifically – who is attending? Among younger adults, there has been a decline in the percentage of those who attend regularly, while there has been an increase in the percentage of those who seldom or never attend. After the breakdown, Wuthnow estimates that the average congregation has lost 21 younger adults.

Why is religious participation declining? Wuthnow offers 4 reasons.

  1. Marriage – religious participation is a traditional role. Married couples are attending religious services at the same rate now as a generation ago, but because marriage is being delayed, there are significantly fewer young married couples.
  2. Children – wanting to set a good example for children is one reason adults attend church. Those who have more than one child are more likely to attend, but the number of married couples with more than one child has declined.
  3. Employment Patterns – full-time employment means less time for other things. Women (who outnumber men at church) are working full time and still doing most of the housework. A woman’s self-identity is no longer invested in the church, but in one’s work.
  4. Education – religious attendance is generally higher among men and women with higher education, but those with higher education still constitute a minority.

Put all these together and you have a cumulative impact that significantly reduces the number of younger adults who attend church. Wuthnow then takes a closer look at some of the key findings.

First, he shows that marriage is a stronger influence on church-going than having children. Secondly, he points out that young men are significantly less likely to attend church than young women, no matter their family status. Third, he observes the cutting of geographical ties from churches. Church attendance is no longer rooted in neighborhoods and local communities.

Wuthnow addresses the inevitable comparisons of American religion to the European religious trajectory. Is the United States becoming more like Europe? One graph quickly dispels that myth. The United States is still far more religious than Europe.

The chapter ends with a profile of regular church-goers. Most younger attenders are disproportionately female. Younger adults in their twenties are nearly absent. Regular church attenders are usually married.

The post-boomer generation is so different from the boomers. The major difference regarding church attendance is that the social influences that reinforce religious participation are weaker than they were a generation ago. This has caused fewer younger adults to be involved in churches.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Chapter 4′s take on the major religious traditions.