Meet Generation Z (2017)

zJames Emery White, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 219 pp. $10.11

Most people are familiar with the respective generations which are generally designated as the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Older Millennials (born 1981-1989), and the Younger Millennials (born 1990-1996). But a new group of people is emerging: Meet Generation Z. Born after 1996, this fascinating people group is the first truly post-Christian tribe. And as the author ofMeet Generation Z says, they “will be the most influential religious force int he West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the Christian church.”

James Emery White is the author of Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. The author alerts readers to the growing secularization of culture. Built within this unique secular culture lies the “squishy center,” which includes people who are shapable but bear little in the area of convictions. These people have a propensity to move in the direction of the prevailing culture winds, which creates a special challenge to Christ-followers who long to make an impact on this generation.

James Emery White writes with urgency and passion. But he also writes with a sober-minded concern. His chief concern is that the church is missing an opportunity to reach Generation Z: ”But this is about more than losing an ideological bridge. We are also losing a relational bridge – one we can walk across to reach the largest generation in American history.”

The book is divided into two parts. Part One explores the New Realityand captures the pertinent demographic data that concerns Generation Z. The author introduces readers to the nones, that is, people are have little to no religious affiliation. This growing group represents one of of every five Americans. The nones are characterized by their commitment to secularism. They have been influenced by an age pummeled by economic recession. They are linked to computers and Wi-Fi. They tend to be multi-racial and sexually fluid. That is, they offer strong support to social causes such as transgender rights and “gay marriage.” They are, for the most part, biblically illiterate, that is, they fail to understand the redemptive themes in the Bible, let alone the basic stories in the Bible. And the nones, as described above, are radically post-Christian.

Part Two explores A New Approach. The author reexamines ways of reaching Generation Z and encourages pastors and Christian workers to think outside the box. He cites Ron Dreher approvingly: “Christians must pioneer new ways to bind ourselves to Scripture, to our traditions, and to each other – not for mere survival, but so that the church can be the authentic light of Christ to a world lost in darkness.” Our task, then is to be truly Christ-centered by modeling the gospel to a lost generation.

There is a plea here for “finding our voice,” something that appears to be increasingly difficult for many evangelicals: “There is a thin line between maintaining an earned voice through which to speak to culture and compromising the very message we long to share.” Ultimately, our task is to communicate the gospel in an uncompromising way to a generation that does not understand the Bible. The problem is that many people are compromising. The author notes, “If we harden ourselves against revelation’s voice, then again, like clay, we can only crumble in response to its touch.”

Finally, there is a challenge to rethink apologetics and evangelism directed to the Generation X generation. James Emery White offers these wise words: “At the most basic level, the goal is to hold both grace and truth together. Truth without grace is just judgment. Grace without truth is license. Only authentic Christianity brings together both truth and grace … The only kind of voice that will arrest the attention of the world will be convictional in nature, clear in its message, substantive in its content, and bold in its challenge.”

Meet Generation X is a much-needed book, especially in light of the challenges we face in the days ahead. For me personally, there are some things in the book that could be discarded. But to throw out the baby with the bathwater would be a huge overstep. Much of the wisdom here is sound and biblical. I commend this book to a new generation of pastors and Christian workers who have a heart for building a bridge to the next generation, namely, Generation X.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Story of Reality (2017)

a-reality

Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017, 198 pp. $9.31

Reality is a subject that every person should be interested in. Reality stares us in the face each day and reminds us of the bare facts. Perhaps the most important reality to come to grips with is the Christian worldview. Gregory Koukl presents the major components of the Christian worldview in his newest work, The Story of Reality.

Every worldview has four important ingredients: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Koukl adds, “Every worldview means to tell a story like this one, a story of reality. It means to make sense of the way the world actually is – the world as we find it – not simply the world as we wish it to be.”

After Koukl orients the mind readers to the importance of reality, he weaves five critical subjects into the fabric of the Christian worldview described above. These subjects include God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection. Each topic is explained in detailed and opposing worldviews are challenged along the way.

At the center of Koukl’s argument is the Story:

That is the Story about how the world began, how the world ends, and everything deeply important that happens in between: the beginning filled with goodness, the rebellion, the brokenness, the rescue, the trade, the mercy, the final justice, the end of evil, the ultimate restoration to perfect goodness, and – for those who trust the Rescuer – the unending friendship with a Father who, finally, satisfies the deepest longings of their hearts.

The author challenges readers to participate in this Story – for each person is an active participant whether they realize it or not. Each person will either find unending friendship with God through the completed work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Those who repudiate the offer of eternal salvation will bear the weight of their own sin – or as Koukl writes, “You can reject the gift, stand alone at the judgment, and pay for your own crimes against God, such as they are.”

The Story of Reality is a very important book. This book should be devoured again and again by Christian people. And this book should be gifted to people who have not yet embraced the Story. Koukl writes with an engaging style. He steers clear from philosophical buzzwords but never dumbs down the content. This is a Story that needed to be told. Readers who take the time to digest this excellent material will be blessed beyond measure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

NO FINAL CONFLICT – Francis Schaeffer (1975)

“It is my conviction that the crucial area of discussion for evangelicalism in the next years will be Scripture.  At stake is whether evangelicalism will remain evangelical.”  So stated Francis Schaeffer in his 1975 landmine, No Final Conflict.  While this treasure was penned nearly thirty years ago, it remains relevant and applicable to 21st century culture.

It was not unusual for Schaeffer to warn Christians.  He did it often during the seventies and eighties.  His chief warning in No Final Conflict is to cling to the propositional truth of the Scriptures:  “We must say that if evangelicals are to be evangelicals, we must not compromise our view of Scripture … The issue is clear: Is the Bible truth without error wherever it speaks, including where it touches history and the cosmos, or is it only in some sense revelational where it touches religious subjects?”  Schaeffer smelled a “rat” in 1975.  He always had a good sense of smell!  The pesky “rat” that Schaeffer detected continues to scurry about in postmodern culture; in fact that “rat” has produced offspring.  The liberalism of the 70’s is flourishing in the 21st century.  Schaffer’s antidote is simple – We must embrace the truth of Scripture: “In our day that point is the question of Scripture.  Holding to a strong view of Scripture or not holding to it is the watershed of the evangelical world … We must say most lovingly but clearly: evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not.”

One of Schaeffer’s key points is to clear up the confusion between reason and faith.  Indeed, this was one of the major notes of his writing.  He saw a unity between faith and reason; a unity that is marginalized especially by the new atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.  Schaeffer posits, “There may be a difference between the methodology by which we gain knowledge from what God tells us in the Bible and the methodology by which we gain it from scientific study, but this does not lead to a dichotomy as to the facts … if both studies can be adequately pursued, there will be no final conflict.”  Truth is unified as Nancy Pearcey has reminded us.  There is no conflict between reason and faith.

Dr. Schaeffer went to be with his Lord in 1984.  If he were still with us, I’m convinced that he would never have a “I told you so attitude.”  Rather, he would continue to admonish believers to hold to a strong uncompromising view of Scripture.  He would challenge Christ-followers to cling to the rock of propositional truth.  And he would warn disciples of Christ to flee from anything that looks like a rat, smells, like a rat, or walks like a rat.  His warnings mattered almost thirty years ago.  They continue to be as relevant as ever!

4.5 stars

WHY FRANCIS SCHAEFFER MATTERS: The Church in Culture – PART 7

The Church in Modern Culture

Francis Schaeffer’s view of the church in modern culture is multifaceted yet cuts straight to the point.  He does not mince words or play clever evangelical games.  He believes one major problem with Christians is that they see things in bits and pieces.  They have failed to see that modern man’s despair has come to fruition because of a shift in worldview.  He contends that Christians should begin to think in terms of the big picture.  They should have a view of spiritual reality that is authentic and covers all areas of life.  Indeed, the Lordship of Christ covers all life and all life equally.

The Church in Postmodern Culture: Marks of Postmodernism

It is interesting to note that Dr. Schaeffer may have been the first to write in-depth about post-Christian culture.  It is important to understand Schaeffer’s view on culture in order to understand his position on the church in these perilous times.

Postmodernism essentially posits the view that there is nobody in the universe.  There is “nobody to love man, nobody to comfort him, even while he seeks desperately to find comfort in the limited, finite, horizontal relationships to life (Death In The City, 215).   The result is that “God has turned away in judgment as our generation turned away from Him, and He is allowing cause and effect to take its course in history” (Death In The City, 216).

The postmodern generation is inherently humanistic.  Schaeffer mentions six key planks of the humanistic world-view including:

  • A rejection of the doctrine of creation.
  • A rejection of total depravity.
  • Sees human nature as part of a long, unfolding process of development in which everything is changing.
  • Casts around for some solution to the problem of despair that this determinist-evolutionist vision induces.
  • Can only find a solution in the activity of the human will.
  • Therefore, encourages manipulation of nature and tinkering with people (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 288).

Humanism in a nutshell.  This is what the church must contend with.  She cannot isolate herself or flee the surrounding culture.    Rather she must face it head on or lose any chance of influencing the culture for the sake of the kingdom.

Hope For a Post-Christian Culture

Despite the degradation of the culture, Schaeffer believes there is hope for the Christian church.  But if the church is to truly thrive, not merely survive, she must boldly proclaim and defend at least seven foundational truths including the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ and His Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death, the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the literal return of Christ (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 350).

The Christian Perspective on Postmodernism

Schaeffer helps clarify the Christian perspective on postmodernism.  First, he notes that much to the chagrin of many evangelicals, our culture and country is under the wrath of God.  The net effect should not be alarming.  Man has forgotten his purpose and consequently forgets the meaning of life.

Second, Schaeffer helps Christians understand that turning away from the truth of God not only results in decay but ends ultimately in death.

There will be death in the city until people turn to the truth . . . This must be our perspective [emphasis added], for only as men turn back to the One who can really fulfill, return to His revelation, and reaffirm the possibility of having a relationship with Him as He has provided the way through Jesus Christ, can they have the sufficient comfort which every man longs for (Death In The City, 222, 224).

The Christian Response to Postmodernism

First, he warns the church to guard against using worldly methods.  If the church chooses to engage in “worldly” ministry the all ready cynical post-modern generation will surely reject the organized church.  Rather, the church must stand strong in this age and boldly proclaim the mysteries of God.  “Our generation needs to be told that man cannot disregard God, that a culture like ours has had such light and then has deliberately turned away stands under God’s judgment.  There’s only one kind of preaching that will do in a generation like ours – preaching which includes  the preaching of the judgment of God” (Death In The City, 232-233).

Second, he alerts Christians to the danger of compromising the truth.  “Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth.  There is only one word for this – namely accommodation; the evangelical church has accommodated to the spirit of the age” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 320).

He notes two general areas of accommodation, namely, the accommodation of Scripture (which Schaeffer calls the watershed – the inspiration and authority of Scripture) and accommodation on the issues, with no clear stand being taken even on matters of life and death.  He points out that the results of this accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of God’s Word to confront the spirit of the age; and second, in allowing the further slide of our culture.  Dr. Schaeffer regularly takes the church to task for accommodation and makes it clear that the two sure ways to destroy the church are to compromise the truth and to engage in a “dead orthodoxy.”

Schaeffer’s Challenge to Christian’s Living in a Postmodern Generation

Given Dr. Schaeffer’s scathing indictment of the church, it should come as no surprise that his greatest challenge concerns not only believing the truth but standing for the truth.  He recognizes the potential risks involved in this endeavor.  He writes, “We must realize that to know the truth and to practice it will be costly . . . We must keep on speaking and acting even if the price is high” (Death In The City, 254).

Second, Schaeffer calls Christians to infiltrate the culture for God rather than being molded and corrupted by it.  “As evangelicals, we need to stand at the point of the call not to be infiltrated by this ever-shifting fallen culture which surrounds us, but rather judging that culture upon the basis of the Bible” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 340).  Schaeffer holds that Christians should penetrate the culture and engage the political arena, the justice system, the media and the arts just to name a few.

WHY FRANCIS SCHAEFFER MATTERS: His Approach to Apologetics – PART 6

Francis Schaeffer’s holds a rather basic view concerning apologetics.  He explains there are two purposes of Christian apologetics.  “The first is defense.  The second is to communicate Christianity in a way that any given generation can understand” (The God Who Is There, 151).

Schaeffer begins his approach to apologetics by pointing out that every non-regenerate person enters the discussion with a set of presuppositions.  Some have taken the time to analyze their presuppositions.  Most have not.  But each non-regenerate person is caught in the horns of a dilemma because it is impossible to be consistent in logic or practice.  This holds true along the whole spectrum of people.  Every person whether a University student, housewife, businessman or disgruntled teenager is stuck and boxed in by the logic of his or her presuppositions.  Thus, Schaeffer writes, “You are facing a man in tension; and it is this tension which works on your behalf as you speak to him . . . A man may try to bury the tension and you may have to help him find it, but somewhere there is a point of inconsistency” (The God Who Is There, 133).  Schaeffer adds, “To have to choose between one consistency or the other is a real damnation for man.  The more logical a man who holds a non-Christian position is to his own presuppositions, the further he is from the real world; and the nearer he is to the real world, the more illogical he is to his presuppositions” (The God Who Is There, 133-134).

Therefore, the place to begin in the real  world with real people is to find out where the tension exists.  Once the point of tension is uncovered the apologist  must push the non-regenerate man toward the logical conclusion of his presuppositions.  Schaeffer warns, “Pushing him towards the logic of his presuppositions is going to cause him pain; therefore, I must not push any further than I need to” (The God Who Is There, 139).

Schaeffer calls this approach “taking the roof off” because every man has constructed a roof over his head to protect himself at the point of tension.  “At the point of tension the person is not in a place of consistency in his system, and the roof is built as a protection against the blows of the real world, both internal and external” (The God Who Is There, 140).

Taking the roof off involves showing man his need.  His need is addressed in the Scriptures which show his lostness and the answer found in the person of Jesus Christ.  Schaeffer admits that this process is extremely unpleasant “but we must allow the person to undergo this experience so that he may realize his system has no answer to the crucial questions of life.  He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is; and then we can talk to him about the storm of God’s judgment” (The God Who Is There, 141).

As soon as the person is ready to hear the gospel it is not necessary to push any further.  Schaeffer departs from the typical evangelistic approach at this point.  He writes, “We must never forget that the first part of the gospel is not ‘Accept Christ as Savior,’ but ‘God is there.’  Only then are we ready to hear God’s solution for man’s moral dilemma in the substitutionary work of Christ in history” (The God Who Is There, 144).

Schaeffer believes that there are two vital principles in communicating the gospel (Escape From Reason, 269).  First, there are certain unchangeable facts which are true.  Here again the idea of antithesis is prominent in Schaeffer’s thinking.  If a given proposition is true, it’s opposite is false.  Second, we need to know the thought patterns of the culture at large.  Unless we do this, the gospel will fall on deaf ears.

Schaeffer proceeds to discuss biblical faith which begins with the fact of God’s existence.  “True Christian faith rests on content . . . The true basis for faith is not the faith itself, but the work which Christ finished on the cross.  My believing is not the basis for being saved – the basis is the work of Christ . . . The call to Christian believing rests on God’s propositional promises” (The God Who Is There, 146).

Schaeffer militates against easy believism and goes to great lengths to promote a biblical paradigm for faith.  Here he stands in the historic tradition of the Reformers who taught that biblical faith is a combination of notitia (know the facts of the gospel), assensus (believing the facts of the gospel) and fiducia (trusting or banking one’s hope on Christ alone for salvation).  Schaeffer outlines his scheme for biblical faith and is worth quoting in it’s entirety to get the full flavor of his thinking.

1. Do you believe that God exists and that He is a personal God, and that Jesus Christ is God – remembering that we are not talking of the word or idea god, but of the infinite-personal God who is there?

2. Do you acknowledge that you are guilty in the presence of this God – remembering that we are not talking about guilt-feelings, but true moral guilt?

3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died in space and time, in history, on the cross, and that when He died His substitutional work of bearing God’s punishment against sin was fully accomplished and complete?

4. On the basis of God’s promises in His written communication to us, the Bible, do you (or have you) cast yourself on this Christ as your personal Savior – not trusting in anything you yourself have ever done or ever will do? (The God Who Is There, 147).

To sum up Dr. Schaeffer’s approach to apologetics one must understand that he embraces Paul’s method of preaching to man without the Bible.  He suggests telling the sinner, “You’re under the wrath of God because you hold the truth in unrighteousness.”  (Death In The City, 266).  The reason:  Sinful man needs to come to grip with the fact that he is a law-breaker and will ultimately face the white-hot wrath of God apart from Christ.

The end result of man’s fascination with breaking God’s laws is a breakdown in morality which we shall examine in our next section on the church in the twentieth century.

WHY FRANCIS SCHAEFFER MATTERS: Epistemology – PART 5

Dr. Schaeffer’s epistemology is integral to his approach to apologetics and may be described simply as follows.  First, one must understand that pagan thought endorses a belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  Propositional and verbal revelation is nonsense in this scheme.  Christian epistemology stands in stark contrast to the non-Christian worldview.  The presupposition of Christianity begins with the God who is there.  God is the infinite-personal Being who has made man in His image.  God made man a verbalizer in the area of propositions in his horizontal communications with other men.  Thus God communicates to us on the basis of verbalizations and propositions by means of the written Word of God (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 326-327).

Thus the Christian epistemological system brings three things together in a unified whole; the unified field of knowledge that modern man has given up on.  “The infinite personal God who made the universe; and man, whom he made to live in that universe; and the Bible, which He has given us to tell us about that universe” (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 329).

Schaeffer goes one step further by noting that the presuppositions of Christianity is in line with every man’s experience.  “The fact is that if we are going to live in this world at all, we must live in it acting on a correlation of ourselves and the thing that is there, even if we have a philosophy that says there is no correlation . . . In other words, all men constantly and consistently act as though Christianity is true” (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 330).

The reason for the shift in society leading to despair comes as a result of buying the lie of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  The result delivers a deathblow to any possibility of epistemology.   Schaeffer adds, “Man’s attempted autonomy has robbed him of reality.  He has nothing to be sure of when his imagination soars beyond the stars, if there is nothing to guarantee a distinction between reality and fantasy.  But on the basis of the Christian epistemology, this confusion is ended, the alienation is healed.  This is the heart of the problem of knowing, and it is not solved until our knowledge fits under the apex of the infinite-personal, Triune God who is there and who is not silent” (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 343-344).

Therefore, there are only two alternatives in the search for the source of knowledge according to Dr. Schaeffer.  Either a person attempts to find the answers to all his questions alone (autonomously) or he seeks truths from God and His revealed Word (the biblical world-view).

The former view mandates that a person begin with himself.  However, as Schaeffer notes, “Starting with himself, a person cannot establish an adequate explanation for the amazing possibility that he can observe the world around him and be assured that his observations have a correspondence with reality” (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 365).  Herein lies the problem: Sinful man is forced to provide the answers to the ultimate metaphysical questions, but because they have limited experience they can know nothing with a high degree of certainty.  The end result is a hellish tension which leads down the road of meaninglessness and the relativity of morals:  “The truth is that everyone who rejects the biblical world-view must live in a state of tension between ideas about reality and reality itself” (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 369).

The later view that derives truth from God’s Word is the only sure way to engage in epistemology.  Dr. Schaeffer gives three testimonies found in the Scripture.  First, the Bible gives us the explanation for the universe.  Second, the Bible explains the mannishness of man (which is described below) and third, the Bible is open to verification by historical study.  “From the Bible’s viewpoint, all truth finally rests upon the fact that the infinite-personal God exists in contrast to His not existing” (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 393).

WHY FRANCIS SCHAEFFER MATTERS: Consequences of Pitting Rationality Against Faith – Part 4

The decisive result of falling below the line of despair is a pitting of rationality against faith.  Schaeffer sees this as an enormous problem and details four consequences in his book, Escape From Reason.

First, when rationality contends against faith, one is not able to establish a system of morality.  It is simply impossible to have an “upstairs morality” that is unrelated to matters of everyday living.

Second, when rationality and faith are dichotomized, there is no adequate basis for law.  “The whole Reformation system of law was built on the fact that God had revealed something real down into the common things of life” (Escape From Reason, 261).  But when rationality and faith are pitted against one another, all hope for law is obliterated.

The third consequence is that this scheme throws away the answer to the problem of evil.  Christianity’s answer rests in the historic, space-time, real and complete Fall of man who rebelled and made a choice against God.  “Once the historic Christian answer is put away, all we can do is to leap upstairs and say that against all reason God is good” (Escape From Reason, 262).

Finally, when one accepts this unbiblical dichotomy he loses the opportunity to evangelize people at their real point of despair.  Schaeffer makes it clear that modern man longs for answers.  “He did not accept the line of despair and the dichotomy because he wanted to.  He accepted it because, on the basis of the natural development of his rationalistic presuppositions, he had to.  He may talk bravely at times, but in the end it is despair” (Escape From Reason, 262).  It is at this point that Schaeffer believes the Christian apologist has a golden opportunity to make an impact.  “Christianity has the opportunity, therefore, to say clearly that its answer has the very thing modern man has despaired of – the unity of thought.  It  provides a unified answer for the whole of life.  True, man has to renounce his rationalism; but then, on the basis of what can be discussed, he has the possibility of recovering his rationality” (Escape From Reason, 262).

Schaeffer challenges us, “Let us Christians remember, then, that if we fall into the trap  against which I have been warning, what we have done, among other things, is to put ourselves in the position where in reality we are only saying with evangelical words what the unbeliever is saying with his words.  In order to confront modern man effectively, we must not have this dichotomy.  You must have the Scriptures speaking truth both about God Himself and about the area where the Bible touches history and the cosmos” (Escape From Reason, 263).

The Tension of Being a Man

Before proceeding to Dr. Schaeffer’s basic approach to apologetics one must understand the concept he calls “mannishness” or the tension of being a man.  The idea is essentially that no man can live at ease in the area of despair.  His significance, ability to love and be loved, and his capacity for rationality distinguish him from machines and animals and give evidence to this fact: Man is made in the image of God.  Modern man has been forced to accept the false dichotomy between nature and grace and consequently takes a leap of faith to the upper story and embraces some form of mysticism, which gives an illusion of unity to the whole.  But as Schaeffer points out, “The very ‘mannishness’ of man refuses to live in the logic of the position  to which his humanism and rationalism have brought him.  To say that I am only a machine is one thing; to live consistently  as if this were true is quite another” (The God Who Is There, 68).  Schaeffer continues, “Every truly modern man is forced to accept some sort of leap in theory or practice, because the pressure of his own humanity demands it.  He can say what he will concerning what he himself is; but no matter what he says he is, he is still a man” (The God Who Is There, 69).

Thus, the foundation for Francis Schaeffer’s basic approach to apologetics is simply to recognize that man is an image-bearer.  Man even in his sin has personality, significance, and worth.  Therefore, the apologist should approach him in those terms.  The apologist must not only recognize that man is made in the image of God;  he must also love him in word and deed.  Finally, the apologist must speak to the man as a unit; he must reach the whole man (for faith truly does involve the whole man) and refuse to buy into the popularized Platonic idea that man’s soul is more important than the body.