Musings on Almost Christian

Since finishing Kenda Creasy Dean’s excellent book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, I find myself repeatedly going back to ponder its insights.  (For those of you who follow my “recommend” books with Cokesbury, I have it as one of the books I recommend.)  Dr. Dean (she teaches at Princeton Theological Seminary) develops deep insights about both youth ministry and the church in general through her work and reflection on National Study on Youth and Religion (NSYR). Dean argues (based on a wealth of supporting data) that “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is supplanting Christianity as the dominant religion in the United States.”  Moralistic Therapeutic Deism holds to an essential set of 5 guiding beliefs. “1. A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth. (Passionate worship and intentional faith development are built on the premise that God is active and with us.) 2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.  (Radical hospitality and extravagant generosity are about a lot mor ethan just being nice.) 3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.  (Risk-taking mission and service reflect the teachin of Jesus that those who save their life loose it, and those who lose their life for the sake of the gospel save it.) 4. God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.  (Christmas presumes an incarnation.  God is more than a butler or therapist.) 5. Good people go to heaven when they die.” (The Christian faith is grace based and not reward given.) (Kenda Dean, Almost Christian, p. 14) Contrast this vague deism with the Apostle Paul’s words to the religious anarchy and chaotic pluralism of Corinth (not unlike our day!).  “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (I Corinthians 1:18, 24b-25).  I wish to be part of a gracious yet robust Christian faith.  We have compromised too much to the world of our day and sought too little the ways of the Lord. Dean’s book is a fine piece of theological work that moves far beyond simply youth ministry.  I commend its careful reading.