Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Loss of our Children

There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.

Randy Alcorn has identified two reasons why children who grow up in Evangelical homes often abandon the Christian faith (here is his article). While I think he has rightly identified the two issues, namely, the problem of suffering and pain and the problem of sexual impurity, I am not sure he sees how churches contribute to the problem, rather than addressing the problem.

Issue number one, the problem of suffering and pain, points to an inadequate understanding of the consequences of man's rebellion, and the suffering involved in following Christ in the world. The modern church avoids teaching sin and grace, law and gospel, and the truth that we have enemies, namely, the world, the flesh and the devil.

Furthermore, churches devalue the Word of God by falsely believing intimacy with God comes through music/feelings rather than through Word and meal, so that music replaces, in most churches, the public reading of God's Word, pastoral prayer, and the Supper, and introduces a subtle form of idolatry in our worship.

Issue number two, the problem of sexual impurity, points to our need of a better understanding of sexuality. I have had to turn to John Paul II's theology of the body for a deeper understanding of sexuality. Reformed and Evangelical people seem to be content to baptize lust, while containing it within marriage. But it is hard to contain lust within the bounds of marriage.

What is needed is a more biblical and deeper view of sexuality. Once we begin to see our bodies as a sacrament, inscribing the mystery of fellowship with God in our creation as as male and female, then we are in a better position to forsake a lust-filled world and our lust-filled hearts that destroy the self-giving intimacy we were made for in relation to God and others. If we have eyes to see it, the sexual union is about self-giving, not lust or self-grasping. Only the beauty of God's original intention inscribed in our bodies as male and female can overcome the lust that corrupts the world and our hearts.

I agree with the author that we need to better equip our children in these two areas, but we are not doing it because of our inadequate understanding of Scripture. We have abandoned the bad news of suffering, sin, the flesh, the world and the devil in our preaching, resulting in a different gospel/Jesus. This different, gentler, kinder, "happier" gospel demands music rather than Word and meal and prayer, falsely believing music is the way to intimacy with God, as opposed to Word and meal. And we have baptized lust in marriage and are surprised when lust overflows the bounds of marriage.

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