The Loss of Our Young Adults
For the last few years, I have been trying to grasp why it is that so many young people in the West are being lost from our faith. This is also happening in Messianic Judaism, and to a degree also in Israel.
Of course, we can give many reasons. I have written in the past of two primary factors. First is a lack of a deep spiritual experience in New Covenant realities, including the experiences of forgiveness in Yeshua, the Father’s love in Yeshua and the presence and power of the Spirit. The second is the lack of discipleship in the kind of apologetics that prepares the young adult for what he or she is to face in the world outside of our believing community. The world’s message is massively powerful and influences our young people from childhood, through college and, in Israel, the Army. It is pervasive in the media and is more contrary to Biblical faith than ever.
The Loss of Commitment to Seek the Truth
I want to stress one aspect of the second reason, specifically the loss of a commitment to truth and the search for the truth.
After a personal breakdown and semi-loss of faith in college, at age 19 I began a search, hoping against hope that I would find ultimate truth and meaning. After almost four years, I once again became convinced of the truth of the Bible through exposure to overwhelming scholarly evidence and profound personal spiritual experiences.
For well over 100 years, the academic world has had professors who taught that there is no ultimate meaning to the Universe; that there is no ultimate Truth; that human beings are radically free and can choose to define themselves however they might desire. These philosophies were refuted by very capable thinkers: secular, Jewish and Christian. Yet people do not often make decisions on the basis of truth, instead generally choosing their orientation to life on the basis of subjective factors that have little to do with evidence.
Today’s culturally pervasive post-modernism teaches that there is no ultimate narrative to explain existence (meta-narrative) so that on the level of religious truth we have no way to judge one world view over against another. As such there is an equalization of all religions, and one preference becomes as good as another. Indeed, suggesting that one is superior to another is considered gross prejudice. Of course, this trivializes claims of religious truth. Consistent radical post-modernists also apply this to a world-view of naturalistic evolutionary naturalism. As the famous American philosopher Thomas Nagel argued, the theory of evolution is today’s controlling myth, the narrative for those who do not want to believe in God. Those who try to oppose evolution or point to its difficulties are labelled and persecuted as being anti-scientific.
A Relativist Society
After 100 years of trying, the relativists have now captured the society at large. It is not so much that young people today lose their confidence in our faith after seriously seeking the truth. It is that they imbibe an orientation to life that does not care about the truth! Caring about the truth as I did in college would be looked upon as a waste of time. The orientation is already to reject the quest. So, many young adults do not search for the truth, but instead choose how they want to live on the basis of emotional proclivities with perhaps some mental reflection. Consequently, you rarely see a young adult who is leaving or has left the faith saying that they are in pain over questions about faith, and that they will enter a time of searching, study and evaluation to see if what they had been brought up to believe is true. Or to dialogue with the best educated proponents of the Biblical worldview. There is no inclination to do such a search! The drive to fit into the larger culture is a major motivation.
It reminds me of two people in our congregations in America who walked away from our faith. One was a highly educated professional. In a moment of honesty, he conceded that it was not about evidence. It was about wanting to be in the mainstream of the Jewish community. The other was a businessman who walked away because being a believer was contrary to the hard-nosed attitude associated with business success.
Love the Truth
Our young adults are brought up in a culture that does not pursue truth. We are in great danger because this orientation prepares the way for the Anti-Christ: “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (II Thessalonians 2:10, NIV). Over the decades I have found that if a person can be brought to the place of asking God to reveal the truth, and then orient to study and seek the truth, the person usually becomes a believer in Yeshua.
Our challenge is to orient our young people to be truth seekers and to believe that there is an ultimate Truth. It is also to teach that the loss of seeking the truth and replacing it with the desire to be in the mainstream culture, is actually choosing self-centeredness above living by the Truth. Showing and teaching this approach gives an essential foundation for young people in defending their faith.
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration newsletter, June 2017, and reposted with permission.