Dordt Dean of Chapel Aaron Baart shared his top-five books on ministering to millennials in October of 2014. The books that made the list were:
1. postChristian: What’s Left? Can We Fix it? Do We Care?
2. unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why it Matters
3. What We Talk About When We Talk About God
4. Our Great Big American God: A Short History of our Ever-Growing Deity
5. The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World
Obviously each book received rave reviews from Baart. The issue here?
The authors. As you will see, the authors of these books have serious problems with the Bible. As Dordt College’s Dean of Chapel (a position that undoubtedly holds strong influence over the development of millennials’ faith), it’s worth wondering if Baart agrees with these positions.
After all, he has no problem recommending their work to help minister to millennials.
Christian Piatt, a “progressive Christian,” wrote Book #1. He also wrote this about gay marriage:
“Ultimately, marriage equality and being both open and affirming of people of all sexual/gender identities and orientations in our larger Christian community are not issues: they are people. They’re human beings, stories, families, relationships, children, struggles and joyful discoveries. They are school lunches, utility bills, career moves, birthdays, weddings and funerals. They’re self doubt, a search for meaning, belonging and, often times, a desire to be connected with something bigger and more enduring than ourselves.
They’re like anyone else in these ways, and many more. They are us.”
Piatt also wrote: “To that point, progressive Christians far too often abandon identities like ‘Christian,’ particular religious practices or even the Bible because it’s come to be associated with something they disagree with. Though that’s understandable, I strongly believe that the greatest change potential for any institution is from within. This is one reason I tolerate — and even celebrate — the frequent claims of heresy cast my way. Yes, I am a heretic, in that I prefer to challenge norms, beliefs and practices that have become normalized within Christianity, but that I believe are inconsistent with the Gospel or that do emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual damage to others. Martin Luther, Origen and Galileo, among many others, were heretics. We need heretics. So I feel like I’m in good company, though my influence is far less than theirs.”
In another article, Piatt wrote: “I use the phrase ‘Word of God’ intentionally, but in a more heretical sense than to imply that God’s word(s) are contained simply within the pages of the Bible. I, like many others, believe that God still speaks.”
In Piatt’s book “Banned Questions About the Bible,” one of the questions posed is “Can I be a Christian if I don’t believe the Bible is perfect, handed down directly from God to humanity without error?”
The unanimous decision was ‘yes, you can be saved.’ Piatt’s answer was: “Some religious leaders will say you can’t be a Christian without claiming 2the perfect, inerrant authority of scripture. The good news is that you get to decide for yourselves whether you agree with them or not.”
Book #2 was written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, who positions himself against the old-school religious right and has what David Sessions calls “an aura of progressivity. Kinnaman writes in the book: “the gay issue has become the ‘big one, the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation. It is also the dimensions that most clearly demonstrates the unchristian faith to young people today, surfacing in a spate of negative perceptions: judgmental, bigoted, sheltered, right-wingers, hypocritical, insincere and uncaring. Outsiders say (Christian) hostility toward gays… has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.”
There’s an entire chapter in this book discussing Christianity’s reputation as “antihomosexual.”
Book #3 was written by Rob Bell. Bell is a vocal supporter of gay marriage. Bell famously questioned the existence of hell in 2011. In fact, Bell has been so wrong on biblical basics, that John MacArthur wrote: “We have a duty not only to expose, refute, and silence Rob Bell’s errors, but also to urge people under his influence to run as fast and as far as they can from him, lest they be gathered into the eternal hell he denies. It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell.”
MacArthur also wrote about Bell’s statements about hell: “He is wrong — seriously wrong — heretically wrong — to question the justice of God and to hold out false hope to unbelievers. He is, as we have seen from the start of this series, a textbook example of the false teacher who secretly introduces destructive heresies. Just how serious is Rob Bell’s heresy? It is not merely that he rejects what Jesus taught about hell; Bell rejects the God of Scripture.”
Book #4 was written by Paul Turner. One reviewer of Turner’s book wrote: “And so Turner’s narrative goes, pausing every now and then for a diatribe against the forces of modern white American conservative Christianity. Certainly as it relates to faith — something that the Puritans weren’t in short supply of — always leads to exaggerated displays of religiosity,” he notes with satisfaction, an observation that comes shortly after he’s discussed how the Puritans’ uncertainty about their faith led to anxiety. Later, he uses the Puritans as a case study to explain “why the likes of Rob Bell get labeled heretical by Calvinists.” His answer is simple: Calvinists aside, perhaps no group receives a more thorough tongue-lashing from Turner than the fundamentalists, a group which sometimes includes only those who were identified as fundamentalists in the 20th century, and at other times includes any evangelicals who (in Turner’s view) act like fundamentalists.”
Part of the reviewer’s conclusion: “And reachers who have mostly scorn for Calvinists, fundamentalists, Pentecostals, dispensationalists, prosperity gospelers, and politically conservative Christians will find their heart strangely warmed with affirmation.”
And, Turner offered a reaction to the legalization of gay marriage: “While a good number of people who follow Christ are celebrating marriage equality, most of those —nearly all?—who disagree with SCOTUS’s landmark decision profess a strong love and devotion for Jesus.
I have a few questions for those people—those Jesus-loving folks who seemingly believe that they own the copyright on what God thinks about marriage…”
Later he adds: “but the fact remains: you might be wrong. Think about that for a moment. What if all of your ‘God inspired’ declarations about the LGBTQ communities are incorrect? What if all those Bible verses you point to in defense of your opinions doesn’t mean what you think they mean? Of what if they do mean what you think they mean, except they were written with a context for a particular people during a particular time because of particular circumstances. What if those laws you bind yourself to are like those other laws that you don’t bind yourself to? You know, the ones that you laugh off with some mention of ‘grace’ or ‘that’s Old Testament.’ Like the law about eating shrimp or pork or the one about wearing clothes made of two different fabrics or that law that prohibits you from letting your livestock roam in the same field as other people’s livestock. Or for those of you who have invited the Apostle Paul to live in your hearts, do you adhere to his other New Testament laws with the same passion that you promote his very vague words about ‘homosexuality,’ words that might actually not be about homosexuality at all. In other words, are you a male with long hair? Are you a woman who wears jewelry or makeup? Do you promote the practice of women covering their heads when at your church talk? Do you start talking about context and timeframe whenever the gift of tongues is brought up in conversation?”
Book #5 was written by Gabe Lyons. Gabe’s organization, Q Ideas that Create a Better World explored the idea on its website whether we could learn positively from Karl Marx. While Lyons in the past has correctly shed light on the predicament of young adults leaving our churches, the reasons haven’t he has pinpointed have lacked references from Scripture. Lyons said “the next generation is leaving your church because they’re looking for a community that can come along side of them and help them learn what it means to be Christian.”
Or, as 2 Timothy 4:3 states “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aide to myths.”