Can A Conservative Evangelical Millennial Still Have A Voice?

If there’s anything the recent World Vision issue has taught me, is that I am increasingly going to be on the short end of the stick. I am someone who sponsors a child through World Vision and was concerned when they changed their employees stance on same-sex marriage. No, I wasn’t going to abandon the child I sponsored, but I was uneasy about identifying with an organization that I cannot agree with theologically, especially when there are other organizations that do the same thing World Vision does without compromising their beliefs. This issue isn’t simply about marriage, but about the authority of Scripture. Yes, there is room for different interpretations of Scripture, but not for questioning what God has clearly commanded. And despite what many have tried to argue, the Bible is clear that homosexual acts are a sin (not the only sin, mind you, but still a sin).

As these issues begin to become more frequent, I am continually seeing that people don’t want to listen to or agree with me because I am a conservative Evangelical who looks to Scripture as my final authority and look back to church history to help me understand the issues of today. As soon as Scripture begins to be questioned the rest of the Christian worldview falls apart. So what do we do when, as a writer at Desiring God put, the Bible is the controversy?

I know that there are a number of Millennials who are in the same boat as me. After all, the “Young, Restless, Reformed” movement is still on the rise among many of the people I talk to. There’s a growing awareness of the need for biblical authority and understanding to help us deal with issues like what happened with World Vision. People are willing to change the message of the Gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable. But the Gospel isn’t palatable. It’s offensive. Jesus said things that got him in a lot of trouble. He said things that were incredibly offensive, like “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Our whole faith hinges upon the brutal execution of an innocent man. This is how God showed his love to the world. By hanging his one and only Son on the cross in our place. How can you soften that blow? How can you being a sinner sound rosy and cheerful? And it’s not a one time event, it’s not saying a sinner’s prayer and having fire insurance, it’s a daily act. I think Luther said it best when he said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

With all this concern that Evangelicals are shooting themselves in the foot by being too controversial, I think it’s necessary to look back at Jesus’ ministry to see just how offensive the Gospel really is. And I hope that drives people away! I’ve been saying for a while that I hope I offend people regularly. Not because of the things I do, but for the sake of the Gospel and Jesus being lived out in my life. I know I’m not always going to take the popular road, or the easy road, but I know that I will do my best to continue to follow the Lord’s leading and guiding in my life as I continue to live as a saved sinner in a sinful and broken world. I eagerly look forward to the day when Jesus will make everything right with the world and there won’t be controversy like this, but until that day, I will continue on.

For another look at this issue, see Trevin Wax’s article on this issue, it’s very helpful.

More Confessions Of A Millennial Evangelical Christian

Last week there was an uproar over a change in stance of the well known company World Vision, who changed their employee agreement form to allow same-sex sex within a same-sex marriage. Just two days later, they reversed their policy and wrote an apology letter to those they had offended. I was thrilled when World Vision changed their stance back, am glad they did so and think it was the right decision. But that also means that instead of getting criticism from the more conservatives, they are now getting criticism from the more liberal “Evangelicals.” Enter Rachel Held Evans.

Rachel burst onto the scene with her book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” which I have yet to read (to see why I haven’t read it, read this review from Kathy Keller). Claiming to be an Evangelical Christian, Rachel has been blogging for years and has spoken very strongly against many within the Evangelical movement. I’ve never considered her to be an Evangelical, but just another liberal Christian, and I’ve never heard anyone who I respect who is an Evangelical Christian consider her to be an Evangelical either. She wrote an article for CNN titled ‘How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation,’ that gets to the heart of the issue for me. In the article she says the following:

There is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that consistently dehumanizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes gay and lesbian people and, at least in this case, prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.

Evangelicals insist that they are simply fighting to preserve “biblical marriage,” but if this were actually about “biblical marriage,” then we would also be discussing the charity’s policy around divorce.

But we’re not.

As I grieved with my (mostly 20- and 30-something) readers over this ugly and embarrassing situation, I heard a similar refrain over and over again: “I don’t think I’m an evangelical anymore. I want to follow Jesus, but I can’t be a part of this.”

I feel the same way.

Whether it’s over the denial of evolutionary science, continued opposition to gender equality in the church, an unhealthy alliance between religion and politics or the obsession with opposing gay marriage, evangelicalism is losing a generation to the culture wars.

First, I’m not sure where she can accuse Evangelicals about not dealing with divorce. Divorce is something that has become commonplace in our culture, but the Evangelicals that I know and read have never supported divorce in any way shape or form. In fact, I’ve read the opposite from all of them! (See these articles here and here) And most of the ones I read take an even more stringent stance toward divorce than I do. But that also doesn’t take away from the fact that same-sex sex is a sin. It isn’t something exclusively taught in the Old Testament, and it isn’t progressive like slavery.

Secondly, this paints Evangelicals in the worst possible light. Rachel accuses us of denying evolutionary science, opposing gender equality, aligning religion and politics and an obsession with opposing gay marriage, none of which I see to be true. In fact, I know many Evangelicals who support evolutionary science (Tim Keller), who also support gender equality (but that doesn’t mean that men and women should have all the same roles in the church) and most Evangelicals I talks to try to keep their politics separated from their religion. I don’t see who Rachel is trying to paint in this bad light.

And finally, I’m glad that Rachel feels she can no longer identify herself as an Evangelical. It’s been clear to me as I’ve read more of the things she’s put out that she has never been an Evangelical, but is more like Brian McLaren, who are trying to claim association with Evangelicals while still belittling and continually ostracizing themselves from the Evangelical community. Yes, the Evangelical community is broad and includes differences of opinion on many issues, but to deny the role of Scripture as the sole authority is a train wreck. As soon as Scripture is questioned, people tend to take a liberal approach to Christianity, and it needs to be realigned.

This push back to the Evangelicals seems to be what the Emergent church of the early 2000s morphed in to. I’m looking forward to the day when we can all focus on Scripture together, using it as our sole authority and living that out. This doesn’t mean we hate those who are sinners, but welcome them in to the church, love them, and point them to Christ. This means we all are going to need to give up our sins and be willing to admit when we are wrong as we all stumble toward maturity.