I don't know if anyone reading this will relate, but I have come to a shocking conclusion. Assurance of salvation just isn't "the thing" anymore. Now I know that sounds crazy. From the late baby-boomers down to the millennial generation no topic was more important as a Christian than assurance. It was our war cry. Legalism was the top antagonist and everyone's theology was hyper dissected to make sure none of it was creeping around in there. We wrote, published and read armies of books on assurance. We preached endless sermons on it and no conversation on faith and spirituality was complete without a discussion on assurance. We even branded people as heretics if we felt they didn't fit the assurance bill quite like we thought they should. When I first started this blog (originally known as "Jesus Adventism and I"), my main topic was assurance of salvation in the context of Adventist theology and almost every single post was in some way related to it.
But now I am a pastor ministering not only to baby-boomers, but to millennials and post-millennials in a secular post-modern context. And I have discovered they just aren't into the grace-wars quite like I was. Part of it is because many of them have never experienced the legalism I experienced (be thankful for that, by the way). But there is another reason that I believe is even more fundamental.
In the article "Study Finds Millennials Are Ready to Change the World" the author points out that, "Millennials are a driven crowd.... [with] a passion to change the world and they are ready to take on the challenging aspects of making a positive difference in the lives of people locally and globally." This sentiment is present in even stronger terms for the post-millennials at our heels who "[possess] a belief in the possible and a commitment to the ideals of leaving our community and the planet better places than we found them." This desire however, has been met with a challenge within the church. While we have been running around talking about "grace not works" as if works was some terrible thing, younger generations have been craving less theological formulas intended to make us feel comfy and assured and more action found only in the oh-so-horrible "works thing". Perhaps few have said it as well as Marc in his blog "Why Millennials Want to Change the World" when he wrote,
Wanting to change the world is a fundamentally religious sentiment. My generation’s idealism is not suffering a lack of practical goals, but a lack of practical Christianity.This lack of practical Christianity, I dare suggest, comes partly as a result of an unhealthy obsession with assurance of salvation that left us frowning upon anything related to "works". For us, works only comes up when we are criticizing them or explaining how useless, meaningless and unprofitable they are in the spiritual journey. But what I have discovered from giving Bible studies to this generation its that justification doesn't excite them near as much as sanctification. For them justification sets the foundation and its all good. But they don't want to linger there. They are ready to change the world and they want to know, did Jesus death do anything to make the possible? Sanctification is, to this wild generation, the key to true social justice, humanitarian service and community transformation. They see sanctification, not as a solo experience wherewith you attain some level of intrapersonal holiness but as a communal experience by which you learn to love and be loved. It is this love, revealed in relationships, sacrifice and standing up for the marginalized that they see as true practical Christianity. And that is what they want.
Assurance of salvation? Got it. Can we move on now?
That seems to be the new mantra for a new generation ready to change the world. Let's nurture that. It may just be the thing that takes the gospel to the whole world.