The biblical record of human development lists three basic stages: infant, child, adult. Neither the term nor the concept of “adolescence” is to be found. The concept was introduced by G. Stanley Hall, the first president of the American Psychological Association, in 1904. The concept of adolescence developed by Hall rested on two primary pillars: Darwin’s theory of evolution and Freud’s theory of psychodynamics. See any red flags there?
H. A. Ironside, who lived during the time this theory was developing, did not approve of “youth ministry.” He believed that when Christians left childhood they should gather with adults, hear adult sermons, begin to take on adult responsibilities, and live and work in the company of adults. While they were quite immature, they were, nonetheless, adults. Dr. S. M. Hutchens, a modern scholar, responding to Ironside’s writings says, “I have seen plenty of evidence that the idea of ‘the teen’ as generally conceived – not just as a chronological marker, but as an attitude and set of expectations – is a kind of poison.” Indeed, Paul stated succinctly, “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Author Ken Myers made an even more striking statement in a recent interview posted at www.christianpost.com.
“One of the biggest and most consequential forms of cultural captivity of the Church is the way Christians have accepted the rise in the mid-twentieth century of what we call “youth culture,” with its assumption that intergenerational discontinuity is the norm. Given the fact that culture rightly understood is an intergenerational system of communicating moral convictions, the very term “youth culture” should be seen as a contradiction in terms.
Marketers have successfully entrenched the notion of youth culture by creating product lines that are intended to define adolescent identity as a deliberate rejection of parental expectations. Not only does this age segregation weaken the family’s ability to pursue the cultural task of moral transmission, it also weakens the understanding of the family itself. A proper understanding of the meaning of family is intergenerational in all directions.
The dynamics of youth culture segregate generations and extol the experience of the present at the expense of honoring the past and preparing for the future Youth culture isn’t good for culture. It is a form of disorder. And yet is a form that American churches were quick to embrace, apparently because they believed that adapting to the form of youth culture was an effective way to communicate a message of salvation. The question of whether or not it offered a good way to live life, of whether or not it was culturally healthy and sustaining, doesn’t seem to have been of great concern to many Church and para-church leaders for the past sixty years or so.”
Among some Evangelicals and other followers of Christ there is a growing level of scrutiny being applied to the concept of adolescence and its impact on the Church. That scrutiny is uncovering some very disturbing trends. The DVD Divided and the book by Scott Brown, A Weed in the Church, are just a couple examples.
Once again, the Church seems to have bought the product the culture offered without looking at the “country of origin” or the dangerous side effects that come with its use. Let’s be like the Bereans in the book of Acts, searching the Scriptures for direction in all matters of belief and practice.
Sincerely in HOPE of the Gospel,
J. Mark Horst
HERALDS OF HOPE, INC.
Reprinted by permission.
Reprinted by permission.