Monday, November 16, 2009

Are boomers and young adults all that different, spiritually?

I am fortunate to have a college campus minister in my congregation. She keeps me up on fresh research and perspective. Last week, she shared insights from Lost in Transition, Christian Smith's look at the spirituality of young adults.

One of the author's statements in an interview reveals little difference between young adults and my own baby boom generation:

"Most emerging adults view religion as training in becoming a good person. And they think they are basically good people. To not be a good person, you have to be a horrible person. Therefore, everything's fine."

Compare that with today's Morning Prayer lesson:

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:12-15

Do we believe that the "first death," the "natural death" we must all face is a consequence of humanity's sin and estrangement from God?

Do we believe that Jesus Christ is "taking names" of those who will follow him through this first death into eternal life?

Do we believe that there is a "second death" that is eternal torment hopelessly separated from God's new creation?

Or are we all sold on (and preaching) a therapeutic religion, in which the first death is to be ignored (science or positive thinking will eventually overcome it), and in which eternal joy is an entitlement for all but the "Hitlers" of the world, so there's no "Book of Life" to worry about?


Rick Lannoye said...

Well let's hope that both young and old can finally be rid of the idea that God intends to torture billions of people for eternity!

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website:, but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

TLF+ said...

The main problem I see with the advertisement posted above is that it is the same old argument: "Everything in traditional Christian belief is an historical accident based on cultural dilution of the pure Gospel."

But this same criteria is never applied to the baby boomers and what now appear to be a significant cohort of their offspring, who import the therapeutic notions of their own time and culture to Biblical interpretation.

Every culture reads the Bible through its own lens - that is why tradition is so important for core teaching. Some "manners and morals" will indeed change over time. But to say that "Hell" is simply a Greek import of Hades seems a weak argument - Jesus used the very local, very Jewish site of "Gehenna" to describe a place of eternal fire and decay; and Hades itself had various sections, only one of which (Tartarus) is a place of torment and is mentioned only in one of the letters of Peter.

What's interesting in the Revelation passage is that most are judged by the record of their own works, but those in the Book of Life are not judged. Whether you believe in eternal torment, "separation from God," "extinction" or any other theory of hell is secondary to the fact that eternal bliss is assured only by faith in Christ Jesus.