Unbelievable 2019 and the Millennials

At the Unbelievable Conference 2019, Kristi Mair gave some great and vital observations about how to position Christianity’s absolute truth claims for millennials.

The plain fact is that our culture does not sit well when an absolute truth is held up. What is an absolute truth? It is “inflexible reality; fixed, invariable, unalterable … there are absolutely no square circles.”[1] Here’s another absolute truth claim. Jesus said it. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[2] Christianity is built upon absolute truth claims like this one; we can only get to God or ultimate truth through Jesus, not Mohammad, Buddha, etc.

Kristi reminded us there are big problems here:

 

1 – How Dare Christians Impose Truth On Anyone?

Kristi reminded us that this sort of thinking is viewed as archaic, but also highly divisive. How dare anyone put their own “truth” above anyone else? This culture views tolerance as everyone agreeing with everyone else (impossible), and so anyone who makes a unique and absolute truth claim is starting to sound hate filled and just plain wrong.

 

2 – Scepticism is the Norm for Millennials

They tend to deeply mistrust people, viewing us as offering much but delivering little. They’ve been burned once too many times by people. Scepticism is the norm for millennials and is viewed as a healthy way to live because:

  • there are so many options in life, we’ve always got to suspend judgement to achieve mental tranquillity.
  • compelling arguments exist for and against everything, so there is no single way.
  • truth is not absolute. Rather, truth is a culturally conditioned part of our environment.

 

3 – Absolute Truth Claims are Dangerous

Kristi pointed out that the two big historical events for most millennials are 9-11 and the Iraq War, both of which were rooted to some extent in religious truth claims. If this is what religion does, then it is to be feared. Religion is dangerous.

 

 

Yet before truth was a “WHAT” – it was an “I.”

“I am,” Jesus said. The truth is a person. And not just any person. He claims to be God himself. And as such, he is in a position to threaten our desire for self-rule in our own lives. So how does the church engage with sceptical millennials on the person of Jesus? Kristi suggests three important points:

 

1 – Do Not Treat Truth as the Hook

Millennials don’t want to know what your truth claim is in some abstract way. Rather, they want to know how the Christian gospel applies to their lives. This is about reframing their understanding of their humanity and showing that they are part of something much bigger that God is already doing.

2 – Let Them See the Tangible Outworking of Christianity

Because truth claims are often viewed as power plays, we under cut this by actually showing them a tangible outworking of the gospel. How? Invite them into the community of the church.

Kristi positioned the Christian gospel in these terms (I think I’m stating this correctly):

Jesus came so that you can be free to be you to ultimately bring this world to goodness.

3 – I Need to BE A Disciple to Make Disciples

The millennial scepticism radar is looking out for fakes and can spot them. So, the challenge for the Christian wishing to reach millennial culture is to open a portal to our own personal joy and suffering in life. As followers of Christ, and ambassadors of his, we must genuinely be disciples and be willing to invite people into the reality of this in our lives.

 

Kristi pointed to Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” as a picture of what Christ wants to do for us. He wants to love us in a way that both restores and renews us. This is what Christianity is.

 

Stuart’s thoughts:

I appreciated Kristi’s talk and I find her points timely, helpful and challenging. She wants the church to reach millennials, and she’s thought about how we can do that.

Yet, I have been pondering on her millennial definition of Christianity.

“Jesus came so that you can be free to be you to ultimately bring this world to goodness.”

Assuming I’ve stated this correctly, I think this poses some questions:

  • What does “free to be you” mean? Does this feed the desire for self-rule? Because unfortunately, the Bible says that self-rule is the thing that got mankind into the mess it’s in today. Our “eyes were opened and we were free to live independently of our loving Creator.[3] I think we need to clearly define what “free to be you” means in terms of our dependence on and worship of God, not on our own self-rule.
  • Are we really supposed to “bring this world to goodness”? This sounds like it might be a job that is beyond the church’s pay grade? But we sure are called to steward the world’s resources better,[4] call people to belief in Christ, and when everything created is finally wrapped up,[5] we are to enter the next reality that’s to come.

As D L Moody apparently said, “I look upon this world as a sinking ship, and the Lord has given me a lifeboat, the only thing that can be retrieved from the wreckage of the world is individual souls; the earth itself is beyond redemption.”

 

 

 

 

UPDATE:

I spoke with Kristi after publishing this blog and she clarified a few things for me:

First – the quote is from Josh Chen:

“Jesus came, lived and died to free you to be who you’re created to be and to restore the world to goodness.”

Second – Kristi feels these ideas resonate strongly with the millennial desire to shape the world, to contribute and bring change in there here and now. This desire is real, and is relevant whatever our eschatological perspective may be. I think she makes a great point here.

 

[1] Absolute Truth, All About Philosophy, accessed 24th July 2019, https://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/absolute-truth.htm.

[2] John 14:6, NIV.

[3] Genesis 3:4.

[4] Genesis 2:15.

[5] Hebrews 1:10-12.

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Respond

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

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