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The Teenage Spiritual Crisis

This generation is rejecting the god made in the image of their parents' generation for a god made in their own image. The heart of the issue is ethics.

  • Roger Oliver,
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The June 13, 2017 the Wall Street Journal had an article titled, The Teenage Spiritual Crisis. The tagline reads, “As adolescents form values and ideals based on personal experiences, many question their religious beliefs more intensely. The author wrote that most teens in America still believe in God but have different ideas about Him than their parents. She picked on a young man, Thomas, as representative of his entire generation. The editors think this is news.

Questioning and searching is not abnormal for a young person of Thomas’ age. Such could be said of any generation in history, including mine. Says something about the editors' religious commitments. In case you were wondering, they are not Christian. What is more important is what Thomas believes and that the Wall Street Journal seems to approve.

This generation is rejecting the god made in the image of their parents' generation for a god made in their own image. The heart of the issue is ethics. That should be no surprise for a serious student of the Bible.

Thomas was baptized and confirmed a Methodist and still believes in God but does not believe in an afterlife. He goes to church because he likes to play in the youth band. He says he gave up praying because it did not seem to matter. He prayed that God would kill an elderly man with Alzheimer’s so his wife would not have to suffer. The man did eventually die, said the teen, but it was messy and painful. His mother says he is very compassionate.

Thomas thinks the elders in his Methodist church are hypocritical because they talk about God’s love but disapprove of his friends’ homosexual lifestyle. He said, “When you see people behave in wrongful, hurtful, hypocritical ways, it’s kind of hard to believe that God cares.” Now, he claims to doubt everything.

Thomas still believes in God, according to the report, because, “The earth and our solar system are too complex and fragile not to have something influencing and connecting everything.” “Whether whatever created us, loves us, is a different matter,” he continued.

What is Thomas’ foundational belief? “The equality of all humans from birth to death, and that the only meaning we have in this world is that which we inject into it.” This is what humanism teaches and has always taught: that man is his own god determining good and evil for himself. Thomas’ spirituality worships the creature and rejects the creator.

Where did he get the idea that the creation is fragile or, that equality is the highest goal, and meaning is what we make of it? Why would he conclude that the necessary God who sustains the universe is impersonal? Why believe in God but not in an afterlife?

Praying for God to kill someone? Judging the older generation for not approving of the homosexual lifestyle? This is compassionate? Well, yes, from Thomas’ point of view. It is the same “compassion” that justifies killing the unborn. Do you see the ethical/judicial thread running through all these thoughts about God? It is a war over who will rule, who will determine right from wrong, good from evil.

This new god is a syncretism of the sentimental pietistic Christianity Thomas received from his parents, and the religious ethical standards he learned in the temple of humanism, the local public school. The new god cannot be the personal God of the Bible because their ethical standards clash. No hope for an afterlife is a vain hope that there is no eternal judgment. However, God says, “It is appointed to man once to die and after that the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Thomas claims to doubt everything. No, he does not. He is lying, especially to himself. Like Descartes, he doesn’t doubt his big fat head. He is whistling in the dark hoping that the God of the Bible does not exist. But he knows better and is suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-32). So is the Wall Street Journal. 

  • Roger Oliver

Roger Oliver serves as a missionary in Puebla, Mexico. He and his wife, Marcy spend most of their time at the Pierre Viret Learning Center, a Christian academy, preschool through high school. Their local church meets in the Learning Center. They sponsor a web page to promote Christian reconstruction in Latin America. Roger is a partner in a furniture manufacturing company. The business exists to provide employment to the families in the community, to help the community become independent, to generate capital for other family businesses and as a venue for vocational discipleship. He retired from the US Army in 1992. He earned his MBA at Syracuse University for the Army and completed a ThM in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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