Boomers and the Church

I came across an interesting essay regarding the powerful impact that a single generation has had on Christian life in the U.S. The author of “The Six Commandments of the Boomers” is Reverend Todd Wilken, a blogger, speaker, and pastor within the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Wilken, himself a member of the “Baby Boom” generation (those with birth dates between 1946 and 1964), begins his piece with a sweeping critique of his cohorts as being generally narcissistic and self absorbed. They are now 28 percent of the U.S. population, and all of our societal institutions and power centers are firmly in their control.

Their influence on the churches of our land has been no less sweeping than it has been on other aspects of life.

Boomers seek to recreate the institution in their own Boomer image. The Boomers have brought this imperative of the individual to bear upon the Church. The Church is here to provide whatever the Boomers want or think they need… The Church has undertaken more innovations in the last generation than in all the previous generations combined, mostly at the insistence of the Boomers.

One area has been music:

And in the Church of the Boomers music is THE issue. Music was the Boomers’ voice. In large part, their music was what defined them as “hip.” Suckled at the breast of what began as tinpan alley and quickly became the music industry, the Boomers can’t wean themselves. Their kind of music is hip and that imperative of hip extends even to the Church. Again, Veith observes:

“Certainly Baby Boomers often do demand their kind of music in church. This is another of their traits —to be demanding and self-absorbed and intolerant of other styles. The World War II generation never demanded worship styles with Big Band music.”

I have been fond of saying that we seem to be stuck in a dichotomy: Boomer theology and traditional music (your average mainline denominational church), versus boomer music and traditional theology (a typical evangelical church). I now realize that I underappreciated even the sinister influence that the “Boomer worldview” has had on theology that is otherwise outwardly orthodox:

In the Church of the Boomers this rebellion against authority manifests itself as a skeptical approach to the Church’s doctrinal standards, pastoral authority, and polity.

However, the bigger problem is that in the Church there is an unquestioned authority: the authority of the Bible. The Church of the Boomers rejects this authority in one of two ways; they either deny the authority of the Bible outright, as in liberal Churches, or they relativize the authority of the Bible, as in much of Protestant Evangelicalism. The first kind of rebellion against Scripture’s authority is obvious. The second is much more subtle, and therefore more dangerous.

The relativizing of the Scripture allows the Boomers to affirm Scripture’s authority in theory while denying it in practice. They can say that they are Bible believing, that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, and even authoritative. The problem isn’t in what the Boomers say about the Bible, the problem is in how they use the Bible.

When studying the Bible there is a big difference between asking, “what does it mean?” and asking, “what does it mean to me?” The former seeks objective truth, the latter seeks subjective, relative truth. The former affirms Scripture’s authority, the latter denies it. Bible study in the Church of the Boomers is mostly the latter. If the meaning of the Bible is determined by each individual’s private interpretation, then the issue of the Bible’s objective authority is rendered moot.

Read it all at the link above.

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