White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Response to Alan Chambers

 

An interview in a recent issue of The Atlantic provoked more debate over evangelical views toward same-sex relationships. Christianity Today asked me, among others, to respond. My response was posted this morning.

Can Christians embrace a same-sex lifestyle and still be members in good standing in a Christian church?

I’ve been asked to comment on the controversy provoked by a recent interview in theAtlantic with Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International—an evangelical ministry founded to help Christians and non-Christians find freedom from the guilt and power of a same-sex lifestyle.

Christians may debate public policy, but in this interview, Chambers raises issues that are very clearly addressed in Scripture. Especially when we are dealing with human lives, daring to draw our counsel from God, we need to affirm the simplicity of biblical teaching on the subject while rejecting an over-simplifying of the issues involved.

The problem (sin and death) as well as the solution (redemption in Christ through the gospel) are simple, but hardly simplistic. In terms of sin, Scripture is quite clear about the condition (original sin—guilt, bondage, corruption leading to death) and the acts that arise from it. There are versions of the pro-gay and anti-gay agenda that assume a simplistic rather than simple understanding of the issue—at least from a biblical perspective. Reject it or embrace it: that’s the easy choice that makes for great sound-bites but ruins lives.

So let’s apply this “simple but not simplistic” formula to homosexuality.

To read the rest of the article head to Christianity Today’s website.

Also check out this Modern Reformation article “Such Were Some of You”

Culture-Changers: Mainline Denominations Losing Members but Making Their Mark

 

U. C. Berkeley professor David Hollinger tried to put wind in the sails of liberal Protestants in his recent presidential address for the Organization of American Historians. Not having read the address, I can only refer to the interview that recently arrived in my in-box from the Christian Century.

According to Professor Hollinger, mainline Protestantism may have lost its members in droves, but at least it has decisively shaped American culture—especially politics. So cheer up, heirs of Harry Emerson Fosdick! Funded by parishioner John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Fosdick’s campaign especially targeted the scholarly defense of historic Christianity by the likes of J. Gresham Machen. Fosdick’s 1922 sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” upped the ante in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy and in this interview Professor Hollinger holds him up as a model for a reinvigorated social gospel.

It’s always interesting to hear partisans describe their own defeats as victories. However, Professor Hollinger includes himself among the “Post-Protestants”: secularists who hope that liberal Protestants will revive their spirit enough to combat evangelicals. In so doing, they might still lose their own members, but they will at least win the respect of urban intellectuals like himself and perhaps stay in the game of shaping high culture.

There is a lot that could be said about the views expressed in the interview. If anyone is looking for a good example of Machen’s claim that liberalism equals secularization, they will find it here. What I want to challenge is a historical point.

Professor Hollinger is no mean encourager of the downcast. A historian of American intellectual culture, he has contributed an impressive body of work. Nevertheless, one of the central points he makes in this interview is worth a little push-back, even from a non-specialist such as myself. It is the claim that while evangelicalism hails from the sticks–a coalition of fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and Holiness folks who were basically racist, sexist, and with “Red State” political agendas– liberal (he prefers “ecumenical”) Protestantism paved the way for racial, gender, and economic equality. Mainliners, Hollinger believes, need to have more face-time in the media, exposing America to the latest biblical scholarship—which, ostensibly, debunks the Bible. (Never mind the fact that evangelicals are among the leading biblical scholars in the Society of Biblical Literature and have arguably injected new life into New Testament studies in recent decades.) The Christian Century needs to get back its groove to go head-to-head with Christianity Today.

If I am aware of it, I’m sure that Professor Hollinger knows that the Social Gospel movement at the turn of the twentieth century was a mixed bag—even from a twenty-first-century secularist’s perspective.

First, evangelicalism was American Protestantism until the turn of the 20th century. Second, it’s also anachronistic to project backwards today’s liberal-conservative profiles. Evangelicals in Britain and America did more to bring down modern slavery and the industrial exploitation of women and children than any other group—certainly more than latitudinarian Anglicans (overwhelmingly Tory) and American Unitarians.

I’m not exactly cheering when I say that the Social Gospel movement arose largely out of the evangelical movement—in particular, the Second Great Awakening.

Washington Gladden (1836-1918), a founding father of the movement, at first opposed local workers who went on strikes. Fellow Congregationalist pastor Charles M. Sheldon (author of In His Steps, which coined the famous query, “What would Jesus do?”) changed his mind on the subject. The German Baptist minister Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), author of Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907), joined forces with Unitarian minister Francis Greenwood Peabody. So far, so good on the claim that theological and political liberalism go hand-in-hand.

However, the most popular sermon of the movement—and indeed the decade—was Russell H. Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds”: “Because to make money honestly is to preach the Gospel…You ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich…Ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men in America are honest. That is why they are rich….The number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins, thus to help him when God would still continue a just punishment, is to do wrong.” This distinctively American message was heard on both sides of the theological and political aisle. The conservative evangelist D. L. Moody was at least as energetic as the others in extending concern to the poor and needy (founding scores of rescue missions, not to mention the YMCA). Yet he too said, “Show me a business man who has accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior and I’ll show you a successful business man.” Both the Social Gospellers and their critics in American Protestantism remained fluid on how exactly to restructure the world’s economy. Socialism, however, was not a live option for either camp, as it certainly was for evangelicals as well as others in Europe at the time.

Nor were Social Gospellers less racist or imperialistic, by and large. Many were in the vanguard of those who defended the Spanish-American War. The Reverend William Rainsford, a Social Gospel Episcopalian, opined, “This war has not been cunningly devised by strategists. America is being used to carry on the work of God in this war, which no politician could create, control, or gainsay.”

Following Charles Finney, New School Presbyterians and Congregationalists were, ironically, the fountainhead of both wings of Protestantism before the fundamentalist-modernist split. In an Oberlin address, “A Perfect State of Society,” Wheaton president Jonathan Blanchard was hardly less serious in his postmillennial vigor when he said, “What John the Baptist and the Savior meant when they preached the kingdom of God was a perfect state of society.” Lyman Beecher, whose trial over denying original sin and the substitutionary atonement finally split the Presbyterian Church in 1835, was a staunch abolitionist as well as defender of prohibition and the restriction of Roman Catholic immigration. Beecher unflinchingly supported America’s “manifest destiny” in conquering the natives in the West.

An especially peculiar figure, both an evangelical and social gospel advocate, was Josiah Strong (1847-1916). A Congregationalist minister, Strong argued in Our Country: Its Promises and Its Crisis (1885), that Anglo-Saxons have a duty from God to “civilize and Christianize the rest of the world.” There are Seven Perils, he announced: Catholicism, Mormonism, Socialism, Alcohol, Wealth, Urbanization, and Immigration. Unlike other European races, whose religion is bound up with external rites and institutions (Rome and state Protestantism), Anglo-Saxon religion is “pure spiritual Christianity.” Thus, the Anglo-Saxon (especially American) race is “destined to be for all men its brother’s keeper.” Missions brings development: “Commerce follows the missionary.” “Christianizing talent on a wide scale,” including “the money power,” will bring enormous gains, along with prohibition of alcohol. Yet this strength of Anglo-Saxon America, uncorrupted even by British monarchism, cannot be limited to one continent. We are about to see “the final competition of races, for which the Anglo-Saxon is being schooled.” His chilling words continue:

Long before the thousand millions of immigrants are here, the mighty centrifugal tendency, inherent in this stock and strengthened in the United States, will assert itself. Then this race of unequaled energy, with all the majesty of numbers and the might of wealth behind it—the representation, let us hope, of the largest liberty, the purest Christianity, the highest civilization—having developed peculiarly aggressive traits calculated to impress its institutions upon mankind, will spread itself over the earth. If I read not amiss, this powerful race will move down upon Mexico, down upon Central and South America, out upon the islands of the sea, over upon Africa and beyond. And can anyone doubt that the result of this competition of races will be the ‘survival of the fittest’?…The United States is destined to dispossess many weaker races, assimilate others, and mold the remainder until, in a very true and important sense, it has Anglo-Saxonized mankind.

This will lead to “God’s final and complete solution of the dark problem of heathenism among many inferior peoples” (392).

After Our Country, Strong was made General Secretary of the American Evangelical Alliance, then founded his own League for Social Service with its magazine, The Gospel of the Kingdom. He also wrote The New Era (1893), where he coined the terms “Christian socialism” and “the Social Gospel,” and continued his vision in The Next Great Awakening (1902). Strong became a pioneer of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ, forerunner of the National Council of Churches—which, once again, shows that any talk of a clear divide between evangelicals and social gospel advocates at the turn of the century is anachronistic. (By the way, a note to Emergent brothers and sisters: all of this was called “modernism,” not “postmodernism.”)

Lyman Abbott (1835-1922) was another liberal evangelical, whose central message was “What Jesus saw, humanity is becoming.” He too called for the conquest of the native Americans “and other inferior peoples.” “Barbarism has no rights which civilization is bound to respect. In the history of the human race, nothing is more certain than that civilization must conquer and barbarism must be subdued.” President McKinley, an evangelical Presbyterian close to Abbott, spoke in an interview of the “benevolent assimilation” of the Philippines—but it was an atrocious and bloody war with Spain. McKinley told the interviewer, “I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me…that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” Not to be outdone, even Pope Leo XIII endorsed the war, while Mark Twain wrote, “I fail to understand how the Filipino has been lifted up by the Gospel that was rammed into him with bayonets.”

Although Abbott was an outspoken liberal (basically, Unitarian), when the aged Charles Finney published his self-congratulatory Memoirs, it bore this endorsement from Abbott: “This is the most fascinating religious biography that I ever read. It is as dramatic, full of surprises, almost as marvelous in its manifestation of divine power, as the Book of Acts. It is coming out at just the right time.”

If Professor Hollinger’s historical narrative is open to question, his simplistic portrait of evangelicals and “ecumenical Protestants” is as black-and-white (or “Red” and “Blue”) as that of any fundamentalist. Readily available, a host of recent studies show that evangelical Protestants give far more of their income per capita than their neighbors, including mainline Protestants. And they give not only to missions but also to myriad causes for the relief of human suffering around the world. Organizations like World Vision continue a long history of pioneering benevolent work by evangelicals. Nor can evangelicals, who helped to elect Jimmy Carter as well as Ronald Reagan, be considered a predictably Republican voting block.

I get the secularist narrative, and why its proponents find it persuasive—indeed, need it to be persuasive. But this interview illustrates how history can be the hottest resource and the greatest casualty when you’re engaged in a culture war.

WHI-1109 | Understanding Islam (Part 2)

Islam is in the news a lot these days, but what do we really know about this world religion? Who was Mohammed, and why did he set out to write the Koran? How did Islam evolve into its present state? Can it coexist with other religions and political regimes? On this program, Michael Horton continues to discuss these questions and more with Islamic specialist Adam Francisco.

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Michael Horton

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Dave Hlebo

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Should You Pray for God to Save Your Loved Ones?

 

Calvinists hear Arminian friends ask this question all the time. It’s usually intended as a rhetorical question. In other words, it’s really a statement: If you believe that your unbelieving friend is dead in sin until God unilaterally regenerates him or her, and that God has unconditionally chosen whom he will save, then what’s the point? Que sera, sera: Whatever will be, will be.

Of course, this is a terrific objection to hyper-Calvinism, but misses its Reformed target. Our confessions teach that God works through means. Though the Father has chosen unconditionally some from our condemned race for everlasting life in his Son, the elect were not redeemed until he sent his Son “in the fullness of time,” and they are not justified until the Spirit gives them faith in Christ through the gospel. To invoke Paul’s argument (on the heels of teaching unconditional election), “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:14-15, 17).

For years now, I’ve reversed this rhetorical question, asking, Why would anyone pray for the conversion of their loved one if God were not sovereign in dispensing his grace? Arminians shouldn’t pray for God to save their loved ones, because God could reply, “Look, I’ve done my part; now the ball is in your court.” Yet, I note, Arminians are typically no less zealous in praying for the salvation of the lost than Calvinists. We’re at one on our knees.

Not so quickly, says Roger Olson, a distinguished Baptist professor and author of Arminian Theology. By now, readers of this blog may know that my friend Roger and I have been engaged in conversations about these things. He wrote, Against Calvinism, and I wrote For Calvinism, and we have taken up these issues in person as part of our White Horse Inn “Conversations” series. We’re both trying to understand each other’s views charitably, if nevertheless critically. In that spirit, the following…

In a recent post, Roger stirred up a hornet’s nest by suggesting that “Arminians should not pray to God to save their friends and loved ones.” It may be that one is using “save” differently. However, “Normal language interpretation would seem to me to indicate that asking God to save someone, without any qualifications, is tantamount (whatever is intended) to asking God to do the impossible (from an Arminian perspective).”

He adds, “So, if a person asks me about such praying I will lead off the discussion with ‘What do you intend for God to do?’ If the person says ‘I am asking God to intervene in their life to force them to repent and believe’ I will say ‘That’s not possible’ and explain why.”

(Now, Roger, I do have to quibble here: Who on earth, including the staunchest Calvinist, is going to mean by that, “I am asking God…to force them to repent and believe”? Again, you have to look at our confessions for our views on the subject and they all unanimously teach that in effectually calling us the Spirit does not coerce or force our will, but frees it from its bondage to sin and death. Faith is entirely the gift of God and entirely the free response of a human being who has been made alive by the Spirit through the gospel.)

Roger’s point is that an Arminian who prays this kind of prayer is acting like a Calvinist, but in fact asking God to “force them to repent and believe” is not a Calvinist way of praying.

Having said that, I do think that Roger has consistency on his side when it comes to his own position. “‘Lord, save my friend’ (without qualification) normally reflects monergism, not synergism.” (Since Paul said that “my heart’s prayer to God for [fellow Jews] is that they may be saved” [Rom 10:1], I’m delighted now to find that this is yet another proof-text for monergism!)

Professor Olson is not being picky, going around telling fellow Arminians not to pray for folks; he just wants their prayer to be consistent with their theology. He explains, “If I hear my pastor or Sunday School teacher or a student pray something like ‘God, please save so-and-so’ I will probably go to that person and inquire what they meant and suggest changing the words in the future to match the intended meaning. Why? Because public prayers also teach. People hearing a pastor or Sunday School teacher or student pray such a prayer will probably get the wrong idea (unless the prayer was intended monergistically).”

I’m glad that most Arminians are not consistent on this point. Since God does use means (including our prayers) to accomplish his purposes, it is a good thing indeed that Christians of any stripe are asking God to bring their loved ones—and ours—to saving faith in Christ, just as God used the prayers of all sorts of people in our case. And it’s a good thing that God can in fact answer that prayer, isn’t it?

Muslim Persecution of Christians

As we have seen the Arab Spring turn into a scorching summer throughout many countries in the middle east, we are also beginning to hear more and more about the difficulties faced by minority Christian populations in those regions. Even where somewhat democratic regimes have offered promising hopes for religious freedom (as in Indonesia), the pace of persecution is stepping up around the world. A recent article by the Gatestone Institute provides an up-to-date summary:

Muslim Persecution of Christians: May 2012

Unlike those nations, such as Saudi Arabia, that have eliminated Christianity altogether, Muslim countries with significant Christian minorities saw much persecution during the month of May: in Egypt, Christians were openly discriminated against in law courts, even as some accused the nation’s new president of declaring that he will “achieve the Islamic conquest of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam;” in Indonesia, Muslims threw bags of urine on Christians during worship; in Kashmir and Zanzibar, churches were set on fire; and in Mali, Christianity “faces being eradicated.”

Elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa—in Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, the Ivory Coast—wherever Islam and Christianity meet, Christians are being killed, slaughtered, beheaded and even crucified.

To read the rest of this article click here: Muslim Persecution of Christians: May 2012.

To read more about Christianity and Islam, check out the July / August 2012 issue of Modern Reformation “The Cross and the Crescent

WHI-1108 | Understanding Islam (Part 1)

Islam is in the news a lot these days, but what do we really know about this world religion? Who was Mohammed, and why did he set out to write the Koran? How did Islam evolve into its present state? Can it coexist with other religions and political regimes? On this program, Michael Horton discusses these questions and more with Islamic specialist Adam Francisco.

RELATED ARTICLES

Christ & Islam,
Michael Horton

MUSIC SELECTION

Dave Hlebo

PROGRAM AUDIO

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Review of Simonetta Car’s Weight of a Flame

Olympia Morata (1526-1555) was without doubt a woman full of potential, even from her earliest years. As a brilliant young scholar with a passion for knowledge and an immense capacity to learn, she held the opportunity for an illustrious career in the palms of her hands. However, Olympia’s legacy lay not in her contributions to any field of academic study, nor in the power and fame she easily could have attained through her work. Rather, she lived, worked, and endured persecution for a goal that she considered to be far greater than any recognition of men—her faith in her savior. Simonetta Carr’s novel Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata recounts the story of this godly woman and her growth from a young girl brimming with an eagerness for knowledge to a mature adult striving for the sake of the gospel. As part of the Chosen Daughters series, this novel is intended for an audience primarily comprised of young girls, but Olympia’s riveting story and inspiring example is beneficial for any Christian to read.

The novel begins with Olympia’s early teenage years just before she leaves her home to work as a tutor in the court of the Duke of Ferrara. While employed there, Olympia is exposed to a wealth of learning and opportunities, and at this time her highest goal is to attain academic excellence and recognition. The plight of the Protestant faith, both in her native Italy and throughout Europe, is well known to Olympia, as her family and members of the court constantly fear for their safety due to their beliefs. However, the young teenager doesn’t place great importance on the issue at first. She questions her faith and is full of doubts, but she doesn’t seek advice or help with her struggles because her academic pursuits are her first priority.

At this point, Carr masterfully communicates the transition in Olympia’s character that grants this novel its power. After serving the court for many years and growing in academic knowledge, Olympia suffers two losses: the death of her father and the end of her position in the court. The first tragedy brings her faith to the forefront of her mind, as her devout father was always an inspiration to Olympia. However, it is the second event that causes a turning point in the young woman’s life. Without a position in the powerful court and a budding reputation as a brilliant scholar, Olympia is stripped of the earthly power that made her feel secure in the world. She is forced to realize that truly, the accomplishments of men are merely temporal and can be snatched away in a second. It is here that Olympia finally relinquishes her pride, her abilities, and her service, taking them away from focusing on worldly pursuits and instead dedicating her life to the glory of God.

After this turning point, Olympia’s example is even more inspiring. She continues to write and work diligently over academic activities, but now her first priority is using her talents for the benefit of the faith she confesses. The rich history of this time period is explored as Olympia and her husband, Andreas Grunthler, endure persecution, war, and sickness in their struggle to survive the harsh anti-Protestant climate that engulfed most of Europe. Sadly, Olympia died from the lingering results of a fever acquired during wartime; she was not quite twenty-nine at the time of her death.

At first, it may sadden the reader to realize that, due to Olympia’s brief life, she was never able to impact the world around her to a greater extent through her prodigious learning and academic abilities. However, thanks to Carr’s beautiful portrayal of Olympia’s spiritual dedication and maturity, the reader is reminded that Olympia’s true legacy is far greater than any written work or course of study. Her brief but shining example of godliness and devotion to her faith is more inspiring than all the temporal achievements and accolades of a long and prolific life. Carr’s novel is intended to share Olympia’s story with young girls, but the lessons contained in this tale are ones that would benefit a Christian of any age. Olympia Morata is a powerful example of the importance of dedicating one’s ambitions, talents, and life to God, and striving not for glory here on earth, but desiring ultimately “to live in that heavenly home in which it is more pleasant to dwell for one short day than it is to spend a thousand years in the courts of princes” (141).


Madeline Taylor is a member of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA.

The Parent as Youth Pastor

“Doing youth ministry without parents is like driving a car without the engine.”
- Mark Devries[1]

It’s no secret anymore, youth ministry is in a state of crisis. Polls of recent years report over and over the dire percentages of youth who leave the church after high school. Whatever the exact percentage actually is, what seems clear enough is that more young people are choosing to leave the church than choosing to stay. [2] The million dollar question is, of course, “Why is this happening?” And while there are certainly multiple factors involved in this mass exodus, I believe that a primary contributing factor is the loss of emphasis on the central role of the parent in the spiritual nurture of their children. Much of the youth ministry done in recent decades seems to have forgotten that parents are commanded to be, and by God’s design will necessarily be, the primary youth pastors for their children—for better or for worse. And when the central role of the parents is neglected, a major deviation from God’s design for youth ministry has taken place that can only be harmful for youth in the long term.

In order to start righting the ship, churches must first of all re-embrace the responsibility given to parents by God to be the front line “youth pastor” for their children. In the Old Testament, the priests had the general responsibility to teach all of the people the Word of God, but parents were given a special responsibility to teach their children. Moses commanded the people of Israel “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut 6:6-9). The same principal is in the New Testament. Pastors have the general responsibility to preach and teach God’s word to God’s people (including the youth), but the only command regarding the training and discipling of children is given directly to parents: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). This does not necessarily mean that there is no place for a church to have a “youth ministry” apart from parents, but it does mean that youth ministry must be built on this central foundation. Proverbs 22:6 states “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This proverb is not a universal promise that every child who is trained by his parents will grow up to be a Christian, but it is a general principal that God has given for us to live by. Generally speaking, God uses the means of Godly parents who prayerfully and diligently seek to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” to convert them. God has designed the home, not the youth group, to be the spiritual nursery where the Christian faith is taught and modeled to children from their earliest years.

Secondarily, parents and churches must embrace a more sober estimation of what youth ministry actually accomplishes. Part of what has created the current crisis in youth ministry is that churches have assumed that the youth pastor and youth programs are more important than they really are. Again, this is not to say that there is no place for a youth pastor, youth group, or youth programs. When these things are Biblically grounded they can be a real blessing to youth. The reality is, however, that in most cases the overall influence of a youth pastor and youth group on a child will be insignificant when compared to that of the parents. “It’s time for a reality check,” says Mark Devries, “Youth ministries, in and of themselves, have limited power to produce lasting change in young people’s lives.” [3] As case in point, let me use myself as an example. As a youth pastor, one of my priorities is to spend as much time as I can with the youth. On a good week, a week that I am able to see a specific youth in several different venues, I may be able to spend 6-8 hours with him or her, although most of that time is in a group setting. On other weeks, the only personal interaction I may have with them is at Church on Sunday morning and a text or facebook message during the week. I pray that God will bless the time that I have with them, but I know that it is not enough.

Parents, by contrast, spend every day with their children. For 18 years they live life with them: waking, eating, sleeping, praying, playing, laughing, crying, arguing, and the list goes on. As a result, parents know their children like no other adult will ever know them, and they will have more influence on them for spiritual good or ill than any other adult ever can. Thomas Manton, writing in the 17th century, called on the “Heads of Families” to recognize this special influence:

How much the serious endeavors of godly parents and masters might contribute to an early seasoning the tender years of such as are under their inspection, is abundantly evident, not only from their special influence upon them, in respect of their authority over them, interest in them, continual presence with them, and frequent opportunities of being helpful to them; but also from the sad effects which, by woeful experience, we find to be the fruit of the omission of this duty.” [4]

If a child has a negligent youth pastor, Godly parents will easily counter his influence. But if a child has negligent parents, very rarely will a youth pastor be able to overturn the “sad effects” of which Manton speaks. Jonathan Edwards put it boldly: “…Family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are duly maintained, all other means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful.” [5]

Thus, if we are going to stem the tide of youth leaving the church, I believe a key component is a fresh awareness of the centrality of the parents for youth ministry. Parents are the church’s primary youth pastors, and a central place in youth ministry today must be given to helping parents embrace that privilege and responsibility, and equipping them to do it. Youth ministry has a valid and important supporting role to the parents, but it must never become a substitute. Our youth are too important to allow that to happen.


Scott Korljan is an assistant pastor at North City Presbyterian Church in Poway, CA.


1. Mark Devries, Family Based Youth Ministry, (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 1994), 85.[Back]

2. www.christianitytoday.com/le/2009/summer/istheeraofagesegmentationover.html?start=1 This is not an isolated report, the Southern Baptist convention in a 2002 Report on Family Life reported that 88% of children in evangelical homes leave church at the age of eighteen. [Back]

3. Devries, Family Based Youth Ministry, 78. [Back]

4. Document online at www.reformed.org/documents/index.html. [Back]

5. As quoted in Devries, Family Based Youth Ministry, 85. [Back]

What are you reading?

Thad Bergmeier is a pastor in Ohio who recently blogged about his experience reading through Mike Horton’s Christless Christianity with a group of other pastors in his area. He says,

I would recommend this book with one caveat. Make sure you know what you are in for when you pick up this book. He withholds no punches. He is sarcastic at times. It is a sad, but accurate, picture of the current church in America. And it is not the easiest book to read. But if you want to come face to face with a message that speaks truth and isn’t afraid to use names, this will be a good book for you.

Thad’s recommendation got us thinking: what are you reading right now and how is it making a difference for you? Especially in light of our recent White Horse Inn episode on Scatterbrains, we want to encourage you to do some heavy intellectual lifting, maybe even turn off the computer (gasp!), and equip yourself with tools for ministry (like Thad) or information that expands not just your head, but also your heart.

Go ahead: close the browser, then pick up a book. After you read it, come back and tell us what’s changing in your life.

WHI-1107 | The Narcissism Epidemic

Many churches in our day offer entertaining music, fluffy sermons, and demand nothing. In short, they give people what they want. But what if “what they want” is informed by a culture of narcissism? On this edition of White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with psychology writer Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me and coauthor of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (originally aired Aug 2, 2009).

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MUSIC SELECTION

E-Pop, I’ll Fly Away

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RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Narcissism Epidemic
Twenge & Campbell
Generation Me
Jean Twenge

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