I was just reading some comments by 18 year olds on facebook about religion. A young woman, H, wrote passionately that the the Bible was written by God and religion – or at least Christianity – was good for the world. She was in a tussle with a young man, T, who sounded like a seasoned atheist, asking how the Bible could have been written by God when it was riddled with ‘contradictions’ and ‘errors’? I assumed T’d been brought up an atheist, but then a third person commented that until a few months ago T had believed the Bible was written by God too. Perhaps T is a young man turned off Christianity by his first year of uni.
Evangelicalism sets its young adults up to lose their faith. Too many of them are given a stark, unthinking choice: either God wrote the Bible and thus it is perfect OR God does not exist and religion is a harmful delusion. It’s not that evangelicals actually put the choice directly like this to their young adults. Instead, it’s that a perfect Bible is put up as the centrepiece of faith and other expressions of Christian faith are dismissed.
Instead of this, young people should be shown the wide, diverse riches of Christianity, its many expressions, its wide river and many branching streams. Warned perhaps that some parts of the river are stagnant and stinking or dried up or lead to places you don’t want to go. But at least made aware that the perfect Bible is one particular tradition, a response to problems of the 19th and 20th centuries. Few of them are even shown the riches and diversity within the evangelical tradition, let alone the other streams. Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water should be required reading.