Regarding instructions given to Moses and the Hebrew people as they walked up out of the dry bed of the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt into the Wilderness of Sinai, or as they stood by the raging flood waters of the Jordan River, some of the clearest were regarding the generations to come. “Leave markers,” said Yahweh, “so that your sons will have signposts to follow.
Celebrate the Passover meal you shared in Egypt on that last night so that your children will understand God’s compassion and power to deliver them when they are held captive. Carry stones up out of the River Jordan and build an altar, a marker that will remind your children in generations to come of the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. Keep a bowl of Manna in the Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of God’s provision, alongside the stone tablets bearing the Law so they will know of His Holiness and Justice.
In Deuteronomy 6 and in Psalm 78, fathers are urged to diligently teach the precepts of the Law and the testimony of God’s faithful dealings with equal emphasis. This, so that it might go well with them in the land; they, their sons, and their son’s sons (Deut. 6); and, so that the generations not yet born might “set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” (Psalm 78)
I spent the weekend in the company of some 70 young people who gathered in southwestern New Hampshire for a few hours of fellowship, worship, and strong teaching from the Word of God. It was exciting to find them in the House of God filled with joy and a sense of safety. It was also encouraging to be in the company of young men and women who are not just willing, but eager to walk arm in arm with their spiritual fathers and to seek out the markers left by those who have walked before them.
I am concerned that we are a generation that is no longer leaving clear markers for our children. We are no longer leaving altars formed out of the rocks taken from the turbulent waters we have passed through. In fact, in many cases, we are pulling those signposts down; leaving our children with no clear direction to follow – so that it may “go well with them.”
Certainly in the national sense this is true. We have become a perpetually offended society, bent upon destroying any commemoration of past victories or reminder of our failures. We find ourselves in a season of pulling down statues and monuments, hiding flags, rejecting crosses, covering artwork, erasing our history and exchanging it for a “new” narrative; vilifying our forefathers, obliterating their contributions to our history and naming them now, as villains. It is as if we are intent on erasing our parents and rejecting all that has gone before. Is it because as fathers we have failed to “diligently” teach our children and have outsourced that sacred task to others? We have Gibeonites among us who have come to obliterate our narrative and replace it with another. (Joshua 9)
Even in the church, the markers have begun to fall. In an effort to move away from sterile and ritualistic religion toward a rich, relational, and dynamic faith, we have destroyed many of the powerful markers that uniquely identify us as a people of God. Walk into many of our Sunday School classes and you will find children being presented with a collection of colorful and entertaining Bible “stories” which are not clearly tied to their proper context in the Biblical narrative. Children grow up having learned a series of stories, but missing is the great metanarrative revealed in the Scriptures. The consequence is a generation of adults who remember the stories but have little or no ability to utilize the truth of those stories to guide them in making important, moral choices in their lives.
Of late, I lament that the evangelical church has abandoned the catechism; a vehicle where children are systematically taught the deep truths of the record of God’s revelation of Himself so that they have a true picture of who God is and what He is like. The fact is that many are left with a caricature of God; a cartoon which overly accentuates some aspects of His divine nature while diminishing others. The result is that we now have a generation that knows the plot line of many of the stories of our faith, but doesn’t understand the context that surrounds them or the purpose for which they were recorded.
Alas, even in the church, many of the markers left by our fathers have begun to come down. God’s truth and holiness are being rewritten into a narrative that exalts experience and relationship over truth. Like the culture around us, we are seeking to become less offensive and more relevant. We fail to realize that our task is not to make the gospel relevant to culture, but that the culture should rightly be converted, becoming conformed to the Kingdom of Heaven. As we have sought to become more accepting, we have given birth to a generation that believes that God is also now more accepting of their sin. A “transformational” gospel has been replaced by a constantly morphing, socially relevant, and culturally adaptive relationship with a God who may or may not really be there at all; but if He is, He is not really concerned about my sinfulness, my rebellion, my perversion, or any of those other morally irrelevant issues.
In order to remain comfortable with this new and more accommodating gospel we’ve had to tear down a lot of the altars left by our fathers in the faith. We now teach grace without responsibility, cleansing without confession, salvation without repentance, and an atonement that has replaced the sign of the cross with a bumper sticker. Jesus didn’t die to “pay for my sins.” Rather, His life was a metaphor for true friendship. There can’t be a real hell, for how could a “good God” condemn His own children to such a place? Churches are pulling down the cross because it is offensive to muslims and putting copies of the Koran in the backs of pews alongside the Holy Scriptures because we all serve the “same god” anyway; we just call Him by different names.
We hang banners on our churches declaring that “God is still speaking;” but this is God 2.1, who has capitulated to the wantonness of His own creation, speaking now only what we want to hear. Instead of teaching our children to form their lives around the standards of the Holy Scriptures, we sit in judgment of the Word of God and rewrite the scriptures; adapting the Holy Writ to current cultural norms.
You will often hear men lament the rebellious, undisciplined, disrespectful, and lascivious attitude of modern young people. But friend, this is a generation that has few markers left. They have all been pulled down. New markers have been erected which point to a future with little or no reference to the past and because of it we are a generation that is wandering around in a wilderness of an uncertain world, placing markers wherever our desires, experience, or libido wants them.
We have lost our way. The signposts have been burned, the cairns have been pulled down and scattered, and a new generation is engaged in clumbsy social cartography with neither compass or sextant. Leadership has been reduced to a wet thumb thrust into the wind.
Who knows where we will end up?