At the website for EFCA East a former student from Messiah College, Coleman Rafferty writes about truth and the millennial generation. This post while older was retweeted by EFCA East a couple of days ago. This blog writes a response to Coleman on what he says about truth and looks at the issue of truth and evangelicalism.
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
Henry David Thoreau
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV
Bill Clinton and “It’s the economy stupid…”
When Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992 he’s strategist was James Carville. Carville is a fiery individual from Louisiana with a Southern drawl. But he created one of the most well known political phrases in American history. He constantly reminded Clinton that “It’s the economy stupid.” When the Clinton campaign moved and set up shop, Carville hung a banner each time saying, “Its the economy stupid.” That phrase has entered the American history books. This blog however, likes to write about issues in American evangelicalism. And I would like to take that phrase and tweak it. I would like to tweak it in light of a post at the EFCA East website by Coleman Rafferty who attended Messiah College outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from 2016 until 2019. After looking at what Coleman said this blog will write a response to his claims.
Coleman Rafferty on Millennial and Truth
Back in 2017 at the EFCA East website Coleman Rafferty wrote a post about millennials and truth. This older post was retweeted the other day by EFCA East on Twitter. Here is how Coleman starts his post.
“Despite its self-contradiction, the principle that exclusive, objective truth is unknowable has gained much traction in younger generations today. Our postmodern age has indoctrinated specifically the millennial generation with claims such as, “the truth is relative,” and, “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” But Jesus said that all His disciples, “will know the truth” (John 8:32). He even called Himself, “the Truth,” at the exclusion of all other options (John 14:6).
Claims like these are scandalous today where exclusive declarations of truth are considered unloving, unfair, and outright false. However, the problem with our postmodern concept of truth is that it leads people to relativism, insecurity, and eventually causes them to feel lost and unfulfilled in the middle of a truth-less sea. Thankfully, Jesus did not support our modern conception of truth. Jesus spoke of a type of truth that leads to an objective, confident, satisfied life—that being, the life of a person who has heard and seen, in the living Word of God, that Jesus is the culmination of their quest for truth.”
He goes on and talks about how many millennials are struggling because they lack truth. They are drowning to use Coleman’s words. He goes on to talk about how he Word of God can be used to reject unhealthy relativism. And then lets look at the final two paragraphs that close out Coleman’s post.
“While our society tells us to look inward to find our security, Jesus instructs us to do quite the opposite. The quest for security that looks inward often leads to insecurity, but Jesus gives the hope of confidence and security because He promises freedom based on His own merit and not our own. Jesus says, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). To the insecure, unfulfilled younger generation, God’s word provides a confident and satisfied hope found in Christ alone.
While the contemporary postmodern movement has only led people to be insecure, unconfident and unsatisfied, the Word of God provides the hope we need. While some may say the Bible is an antiquated book, the truth is that, “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12a). So, for anyone aspiring to encourage younger generations, take Jesus’ advice and never stop insisting on His living, sufficient and unbreakable Word. In doing so, many will come to be secure and satisfied in the objective, exclusive, wonderful Truth Himself.”
For context I would encourage you to read the entire article. The name of it is, “The Key to Ministering to Millennials.”
The Evangelical Bubble and Truth
What Coleman Rafferty wrote may sound new, but anyone around evangelical ministry knows that it is not new. Instead its quite old. When I was planting a Campus Crusade chapter at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin truth was a frequent topic. We have presentations and even viewed our Crusade chapter as an island in a see of college relativism. One of the takes aways that haunted me from that experience is that many evangelicals are taught to fear the secular world. They are taught to view others with contempt and skepticism. Campus Crusade was like that and it was something that bothered me for the longest time.
What individuals inside evangelicalism such as Coleman Rafferty are doing is functioning inside a bubble. Much of American evangelicalism lives inside a bubble. What is taught, explained, and looked at is done in the context of the bubble. Its also why much of evangelicalism fails when people leave that bubble. In some cases people realize that they have been lied to. For example inside evangelicalism it has been taught that atheists are not moral people. Or that people are gay because they were sexually abused. Evangelicals are known for this kind of disinformation. In other cases people go along until their faith does not work as taught or something such as abuse happens which turns a person’s world upside down.
Evangelicals Don’t Believe in Truth
But aside from the evangelical bubble issue there is another point that needs to be made. Many American evangelicals don’t believe in truth. Just look at evangelical culture and see the fads and waves of that keep popping up. The Left Behind fad, Prayer of Jabez, Purpose Driven Life fad, the Calvinist fad, etc… It feels like evangelicalism puts your mind in a blender and turns it on at high speed. It felt confusing to hear this is truth, then to hear another pastor say, this is truth. There can be so much push and pull it begs the question what is truth? Today in 2021 what is a threat to truth is Christian nationalism. I think back on some of the ministries I have done and I saw people commit a Faustian bargain to where they taught others, including me that faith is a lie. There were no principles, morals, or firmly held Biblical conviction. Because as we all know Jesus died at Calvary not for the sins of the world, but for a Supreme Court sear and control of a unicameral legislature.
“It’s the Corruption, Stupid…”
But the biggest issue with truth and evangelicals comes down to corruption. To take a variation of what James Carville said, “It’s the corruption, stupid.” The single, greatest bearing of evangelicalism rejecting truth is the brazen and widespread systemic corruption. And it is shocking. This blogger has written about almost every single church that I was involved with. The scandal and corruption remains staggering. Do you know what it is like to meet with a family and hear about a sex abuse situation, and then go to the church they were involved in, and hear an expository sermon about being sold out for Jesus? I almost vomited. Do you know what its like to talk with a mother who had a daughter get involved in a cult like evangelical church and the church turns the child against the family? To hear a mother on the verge of tears is heartbreaking. Do you know what it was like for me to be a whistle blower at Fairfax Community Church here in the Washington, D.C. area? To report to the media and a sex abuse advocacy organization that the church employs a sexual predator and to blow the whistle because you came from another church in Wisconsin where the youth pastor sexually abused over ten children before committing suicide in a motel room as police were closing in. Do you know what its like to watch a man deep into John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and Tim Keller who uses his military rank to trigger a false accusation that takes aim at your career? Does Solo Dei gloria also mean learning why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military? I am sure John Piper taught that somewhere on his Desiring God website.
As a former evangelical who is nothing spiritually it amazes me how many evangelicals turn a blind eye to corruption. Do you want to know how healthy a church is? Watch what happens when its learned that a child is raped inside a church.
Final Words to Coleman Rafferty
This post may come across hard hitting. This blog wishes you well in your journey but it also offers some advice. I’m in my 40’s and watched so many people I knew from Campus Crusade and other churches be burned out and walk away. My advice to you Coleman is not to drink too much of the evangelical Kool Aid. The worst thing you could do is invest deeply in a ministry, disciple others, plant other ministries and then face spiritual abuse and watch it go up in flames and then be told you were never a Christian to begin with. Some of the cruelest people in the world that I have dealt with in my life and encountered are evangelical Christians. That is what drives me to write a blog like this and write about issues that others don’t want to talk about or they downplay. In my life the die has been cast and the bridge has been burned. In my experience evangelicalism is nothing but a smoldering, ash heap that leaves nothing to show. Again I wish you well in your endeavors.