ARTICLE

Millennials & Evangelism: The Plague of Emotivism

News Image By John Stonestreet/Breakpoint.org February 15, 2019
Share this article:

In 1957, the social psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term "cognitive dissonance" to describe the stress that results from holding two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time.

According to Festinger, people will attempt to alleviate the stress by either changing their minds about one of the ideas or, more commonly, convincing themselves the ideas really aren't contradictory. The latter usually results in an incoherent mess, something a recent Barna report amply demonstrates.


The report, entitled "Reviving Evangelism," found that virtually every practicing American Christian believes that "part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus." Similarly, virtually all of them agree that "the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus."

This sounds like a solid foundation for "reviving evangelism," doesn't it? Yet, the same study found that "nearly half (47 percent) of practicing Christian millennials--churchgoers who consider religion an important part of their lives--believe that evangelism is wrong."

Specifically, they believe it's "wrong to share one's personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes they will one day share the same faith."

If you're wondering how one can simultaneously believe that knowing Jesus is the best thing that could happen to a person and that telling that same person about Jesus is somehow wrong, you understand what cognitive dissonance means.


Making matters even more, well, dissonant, is that the same group "is more likely than any other generation to say they are gifted at sharing their faith." Nearly three quarters of them describe themselves that way.

At this point, it's tempting to talk about how participation trophies and self-affirmation statements have ruined the millennials. But the problem isn't our misguided strategies of boosting this generation's self-esteem. The problem is theological anemia.

Specifically, it's a failure of catechesis.

Evangelizing like you mean it requires going against the cultural grain. As Barna president David Kinnaman told Christianity Today, "Cultivating deep, steady, resilient Christian conviction is difficult in a world of 'you do you' and 'don't criticize anyone else's life choices' and emotivism, the feelings-first priority that our culture makes a way of life."

Notre Dame philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has suggested that emotivism is at the heart of our current post-truth culture, and turns all statements about the good and the true into mere claims of personal preference.

Overall, the church has done a poor job of catechizing both ourselves and future generations against emotivism. In fact, as writer Samuel James argued, "The data here strongly suggests that Christian millennials are being catechized by their colleges, not churches."


Actually, I would argue that across our culture, emotivism is pushed on us way before college, and too often, it's even pushed by churches when they talk about "knowing Jesus."

What is meant by "knowing Jesus" by so many Christians is closer to "I love Swiss Almond Vanilla ice cream" than it is what the Apostles meant by it. It indicates a strong preference, but not a life-altering conviction.

The late biblical scholar Francis Martin used to tell his students "Christianity is a way of knowing, not a warm fuzzy." By "way of knowing" he meant something akin to what we at the Colson Center mean by "worldview": the truth about God, creation, and ourselves as ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ.

That's not to say our faith isn't personal. Of course it is, but for the New Testament writers, "knowing" God and Jesus Christ whom He sent isn't about making us feel good. It's about being rescued from the dominion of darkness for the kingdom of Christ.

When was the last time you heard Christianity described this starkly? If we can't remember, then we ought not be surprised by the cognitive dissonance described by the Barna report.

Originally published at Breakpoint.org - reposted with permission.




Other News

July 22, 2024Who Will Kamala Harris Pick As Her Running Mate?

It appears that the Democratic party machine was absolutely determined to slam the door shut on anyone that would even think of challengin...

July 22, 2024The Leftist Media And The Plot To Demonize Christian Political Engagement

Many in our society are trying to push Christianity out of the public square in order to protect the new religion which has been establish...

July 22, 2024Switzerland’s New Suicide Pod Is Not The 'Solution’ To Our Troubles

Society, it often seems, craves complete subjectivity, the death of truth itself. And yet, death has another sly sickle swinging in the li...

July 22, 2024The Long Arm Of Israel - Strike On Houthis A Warning To Iran

Israeli Air Force 'Operation Long Arm' against the Houthis has sent a clear message to Iran: If the air force can attack the port of Hodei...

July 19, 2024The Left Has Been Spreading Wild Conspiracy Theories About Trump Shooting

Ever since the moment that Donald Trump was shot during a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, the left has been pushing wild conspiracy theorie...

July 19, 2024Xi Jinping And China: Running Out Of Time, Ready To Strike

Xi is engaged in the fastest military buildup since the Second World War. In addition, he is purging military officers opposed to war, try...

July 19, 2024The Anti-Christian Bigotry Of The Canadian Elites

The last remaining acceptable bigotry in Canada is anti-Christian bigotry. It is not news that Christian institutions generally adhere to...

Get Breaking News