I’ve not seen this new book by Kenda Creasy Dean, but from what I’ve heard it looks very interesting. In the tradition of sociologist Christian Smith, Dean argues that the “Christianity” of American teenagers is more akin to “moralistic therapeutic deism” than the real McCoy. Interestingly, the endorsements for Dean’s book are coming from a more left-of-center Christian bunch (e.g., Tony Jones, Mark DeVries) whereas Smith seems to have a high acceptance among more conservative protestants like Albert Mohler and Michael Horton. Not sure if that’s a coincidence or if there’s some reason for that.
If I’m not mistaken, emergent folks like Jones are less keen on the teaching and preaching of propositional truth. Yet isn’t robust teaching of propositional truth (such as the exclusivity of Christ and the trustworthiness and perspicuity of Scripture), and the gospel-pleading (2 Cor. 5:11, 14-15) and gospel-adorning (Titus 2:1-15) which flow from such truth, a big part of what’s needed to fortify the faith of the rising generation? They need to see the connection between a true, biblically-robust, content-rich faith and good deeds in order to avoid the sentimental mushiness of “moralistic therapeutic deism.”
In their editorial review, Publisher’s Weekly writes:
Dean (The Godbearing Life), a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, opens this absorbing portrait of teenage religiosity by throwing down a gauntlet: the faith of America’s teens is “not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school. One more thing: we’re responsible.” Dean, who worked on the National Study of Youth and Religion with sociologist Christian Smith, says that American Christians’ emphasis on “a do-good, feel-good spirituality” at the expense of deep discipleship may cost them the rising generation, which is (with the exception of Mormon teens, the subject of an admiring chapter-long case study) largely apathetic about Christian faith. How, then, can religious leaders and teachers inculcate what Dean calls a “consequential faith”–i.e., one that bears fruit for the long haul? She identifies four factors teens need: a personal encounter with God, a strong church or youth group, a sense of being called to duty, and hope for the future. In a refreshingly personal final chapter, Dean outlines her frustration at the daunting task ahead but emphasizes the possibilities if the Christian church decides to take up its cross and follow Jesus.
HT: Troy Lamberth