Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Recently I had a conversation with Michael, my son, who sent me an article written by a contemporary of his. The experience described by this person explains the plight of a number of young evangelicals or former evangelicals. As Michael notes, this differs markedly from his own experience, for which I am humbled and grateful to the Lord. I thought including this dialogue shared between Michael and me regarding this shift would be helpful.
Michael wrote: “This is an interesting and very strongly written article on someone who "left" evangelicalism: Confessions Of An Ex-Evangelical, Pro-SSM Millennial Their experience is almost the opposite of mine and saddens me that they didn't make their faith their own.” (Michael also responded: “Confessions of a Current Evangelical.”)
It would be interesting to see and experience what he now remembers and describes of his past to see how similar his description of it is in comparison or contrast to what actually occurred. Though our memories are our memories, and though most of them contain some elements of what actually did occur, many of those memories are interpreted and remembered through our own personal lens. It does not make then untrue, but they are subjective and have a bias. This is not to call the person or his recollections into question, or to read this merely with suspicion. This is actually the experience of us all. Rather I state this as a reminder to read it with this awareness.
Though I disagree with this young person’s solution, he raises some legitimate issues. Here are a few thoughts/responses, based on his observations.
Michael described briefly his experience: “My opposite experience was that some people over-emphasized the intellect to me at the expense of emotions. I had to learn that I could connect to God emotionally, which revolutionized my faith. It was amazing to me that I could connect emotionally to the Bible and to God and saw that my faith was both/and not either/or.”
I concluded our dialogue in the following way:
You will not generally find anyone who has all of the Christian life in “perfect” balance, apart from the Lord Jesus. This means that one needs to extend grace recognizing we are all in process and will be until we reach glorification. All believers generally know more and better than they live. The “damned disjunction,” as noted by Carson, is doctrinally disastrous and results in the truncated view of the Christian life as one applies doctrine to life.
Carson writes (Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005], 234), “So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of the airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antithesis to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ.”
This is partly why some wisely focus on dead people as models because dead people don’t sin! There is truth to that. But if we only focus on dead people something important is also missing!
Remember Jaraslov Pelikan’s fitting words: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” (The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities)