It seems like I should be encouraged by Time Magazine’s story on the religious lives of American thirteen year olds. After all, a large percentage of these teens are interested in God and active in local churches. However, the following anecdote gave me pause:
Tristan Osgood, 13, who plays electric guitar in Grace Chapel’s band,
needed help when his grandfather died last year. He knew that the Bible
says he would see his grandfather again someday, but he didn’t feel
certain enough. Then came the Grace Chapel winter retreat in New
Hampshire. "I just went out into the snow," says Tristan. "I was cold,
but suddenly I didn’t care. It was like there’s this barrier around
you, just you and God, like you could bawl your eyes out and nobody
would care." It was the moment that Tristan had been waiting for. He
had met God, and his heart told him what his mind couldn’t: that he
would definitely see his grandfather again someday.
Tristan’s personal encounter also gave him the confidence to challenge
family members on some aspects of their faith. He thinks gay people
were made that way by God, but his dad thinks it’s a choice. Tristan
believes that practicing his guitar glorifies God, while his parents
wish he would do more homework. He’s slowly making his own decisions
about right and wrong. It’s a skill that will keep him safe, he says,
from the myriad temptations that will bedevil him between middle school
Is this what passes for Christian epistemology these days? That the feelings of your heart should be your guide rather than reason or scripture? Tristin seems to think that he can disregard clear biblical injunctions against homosexuality and disobeying your parents while carving out for himself a personal standard of morality based on a view of God that came from some place inside of himself. This is not only unchristian-Christian, but also self-contradictory and therefore false.
For example, on what basis does Tristin challenge his parents view of the world? What if their inward spirit guide tells them that homosexuality is a choice? And how will Tristin’s subjectivism "keep him safe" from anything. After all, what is a temptation if not an outside appeal to transgress an objective moral law that exists quite independent from our own wishes and desires. By definition, a temptation is something that asks a person to take part in an activity that on some level they want to take part in. Our "hearts" quite often tell us to go ahead and do it, while in our mind we know it is wrong. The way to overcome temptation is to follow the heads rather than the hearts. By letting his heart be the arbiter of right and wrong, Tristin has made this impossible. He will not have to worry about succumbing to temptation, because in a subjective, relativistic world where everyone does whatever they feel like doing, temptation doesn’t exist.