Millennials and Jesus: Affirmations

Stephen Mattson, who teaches at Northwestern in Minneapolis and writes for Sojourners, affirms millennials as like Jesus in four ways:

1. Jesus avoided labels.

a large part of his ministry was breaking down preconceived titles, trying to bring about a world where there would be no differentiation between Jew or Gentile. He promoted the idea that loving God trumped racial, ethnic, social, religious, and political identities….

2. Jesus avoided theological certainty.

…Much of Jesus’ teaching was confusing, complex, and often created more questions than answers, and that’s OK. Even His own disciples were constantly misinterpreting his words, and they were continually asking Jesus for clarification and understanding. Knowledge and wisdom were not the disciples’ strong suit, but they followed Jesus despite their fears, doubts, defeats and failures — and so should we….

3. Jesus was groundbreaking.

4. Jesus believed love trumped theology.

Over and over again, Jesus repeatedly reveals the redeeming power of love. Within a culture and world that was steeply embedded with a strong concept of what was considered right and wrong, Jesus throws everything off by promoting love over rules, forgiveness over revenge, humility over power, and redemption over bondage….

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rory Tyer

    While I appreciate the spirit behind his post and the attempt to think differently in the face of much recent millennial buzz, the false dichotomies & reductionism are making my eyes hurt. For instance: theological certainty is really the opposite of complexity? Jesus’ motivation for avoiding “labels” is the same as millennials’ motivation? “Labeling” (and self-labeling, which is another matter) has the same social significance in the first century as it does in the social media age? “Love” is different than “theology”?

  • scotmcknight

    I found the article insufferably shortwinded: Avoided “labels”? Who did we learn “you hypocrite” from? Theological certainty? What is more certain than “I am the way, the truth, and the life”? Groundbreaking is about nothing. Love trumped theology? Fashionable but squishy.

  • labreuer

    Jesus throws everything off by promoting love over rules

    This is false, unless you are extremely narrow in what you mean by ‘rules’. The greatest commandment is not to love your neighbor, but to love God, with all you’ve got. This means loving truth and becoming like God. God is love, but he’s other things, too.

    Romans 9:30-10:13 is instructive on this matter. Paul differentiates the righteousness that comes from following a set of man-made traditions which flowed from a finite and never-changing revelation from God (see Not in Heaven), and the righteousness which comes from following Jesus, from wanting what he wants. How do we not covet? (Note that this is the commandment Paul was convicted by in Rom 7.) Coveting is wanting something we ought not want; the only way to avoid that is to never want what we ought not want, but lest we get seven more demons (Mt 12:43-45), we must replace that want with what God wants.

    God very clearly has rules about how reality works. The difference is that his rules are the actual rules—not the man-made tradition that so pervaded the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ thoughts.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    So, do you believe God arbitrarily set rules serving no purpose whatsoever? Completely independent of love and well being?

    And Jesus NEVER said that the second command is less than the first one.

    Actually he made it clear that non-Christians who were loving and caring for the poor were loving Him.

    I argue these points in more details here:

    https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/the-central-message-of-jesus-die-zentrale-botschaft-von-jesus-unten/

    Friendly greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    As long as the dogma of Biblical inerrancy is not abandoned,the exodus of the millennials will continue.

    Some of them will realize that there are contradictory descriptions of God and become agnostic.

    But other will believe that the ugly verses that their parents picked out are the right ones, that they gave us a CONSISTENT description of God’s moral character as a genocidal monster.

    And this will turn them into angry, nasty militant atheists wanting to utterly destroy every religion.

    Friendly greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • labreuer

    So, do you believe God arbitrarily set rules serving no purpose whatsoever? Completely independent of love and well being?

    Nope; I’m not sure what I said that provoked this thought. Indeed, Jesus notes in Mt 22:36-40 that “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, take out these commandments, and the Law and Prophets crumble. Loving truly is harder than obeying the OT law!!

    And Jesus NEVER said that the second command is less than the first one.

    He did: see Mt 22:36-40. But hypothetically granting you this claim, it is still not possible to love someone well if you are not in obedience to truth when you do so. C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold makes this point exceedingly well. By the way, it was his most favorite book to write, and readers’ least favorite book to read. I suggest that is because loving truly is

  • attytjj466

    Glad I read the comments before I commented b/c what you posted above Scot was basically my reaction as well.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Okay, if I understand you correctly,

    the laws and the prophets cannot be reduced or traced back to the two greatest commands, but they are additional and JUST depend on them?

    That’s a very weird exegesis.

    And what is your evidence that it was “true” and good for Isrealite soldiers to have killed babies and pregnant women alike?

    Or to predetermine most of mankind to suffer eternally?

    If a supernatural being existed and had the attributes you believe him to have, I would neither believe in nor obey him but passionately hate him.

    And I hope that one day you will do that too…or conclude he is only a human creation.

    Friendly greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • labreuer

    the laws and the prophets cannot be reduced or traced back to the two greatest commands, but they are additional and JUST depend on them?

    I don’t understand this question. Perhaps it would help for you to tell me your interpretation of Mt 22:36-40?

    And what is your evidence that it was “true” and good for Isrealite soldiers to have killed babies and pregnant women alike?

    Or to predetermine most of mankind to suffer eternally?

    I suggest you refresh your memory of the series on Peter Enns’ blog, starting with Did ancient scribes update Yahweh? Probably. (and that’s OK). I don’t know what to think about the Israelites killing babies and pregnant women; it certainly is horrible, but there’s also this terrible attribute that humans have, whereby they can’t seem to realize a behavior is terrible until it is done to them. With respect to predestination, I’m an Arminian and think that the predestination verses culminate in Rom 8:28—they’re contemporary attempts to prove that Rom 8:28 really is true. Chapter 9 of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce gets at this issue.

    If a supernatural being existed and had the attributes you believe him to have, I would neither believe in nor obey him but passionately hate him.

    And I hope that one day you will do that too…or conclude he is only a human creation.

    You seem to have extrapolated a lot from what I actually said, in a way that adds to my viewpoint things that never belonged there. If you wish to continue this tangent, please show me how you got the above from what I said.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Sorry Labreuer, I confused you with another fellow who is a fundamentalist Calvinist.

    I apologize for this and recognize I should have been much more careful.

    Do you believe the Isrealites slaughtered people if if this wasn’t God’s will?

    Or do you consider this as a symbolic tale?

    My view on the two greatest commands can be found here:

    https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/?s=central

    If you wish you can criticize my views there or here.

    Once again sorry.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • labreuer

    Do you believe the Isrealites slaughtered people if if this wasn’t God’s will?

    Or do you consider this as a symbolic tale?

    I’m not entirely sure what to think about the slaughter of the Midianites and Canaanites. It’s interesting that the latter probably didn’t happen (at least we can’t find archaeological evidence that it did, and the extant evidence indicates a mutually exclusive model); I don’t know about the former.

    One way to possibly think about that is to define ‘life’ as “Do these people have any chance of continually drawing nearer to God over the generations?”, and then declare a nation to be ‘dead’ once that once a nation has nobody who does right (e.g. Jer 5:1) and refuses to be taught about God. If so, then the massacre of the Canaanites and Midianites could have been the least evil route to go, given the frailties of all human beings involved. But this is just a theory—I do not hold to it strongly, and I derive little if anything from it in my daily walk. I hold very strongly to the belief that humans can be extraordinarily hard-hearted, and that God prefers not to use more force than is necessary; God prefers to work through humans than to do things deus ex machina.

    My view on the two greatest commands can be found here:

    https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/?s=central

    If you wish you can criticize my views there or here.

    Your lack of emphasis on Truth deeply concerns me. Love without truth kills, because it ultimately shapes people and things in one’s own image, instead of building them up into what God wanted them to be. We humans must prioritize knowing truth over loving, lest we make this error. God, having no falsehood, needs not prioritize this way.

  • Bryan

    Some scriptural citations would have been appreciated.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Hello, it is just unbelievable that a whole nation became wicked. This is why I don’t buy the (literal interpretation of the) flood tale.

    “Your
    lack of emphasis on Truth deeply concerns me. Love without truth kills,
    because it ultimately shapes people and things in one’s own image,
    instead of building them up into what God wanted them to be. We humans
    must prioritize knowing truth over loving, lest we make this error. God having no falsehood, needs not prioritize this way.

    This is a very complex topic but I know one thing for sure: making the pursuit of truth one’s priority can lead to many atrocities. The ruthless capitalists who cause starvation and social catastrophes might very well pursue truth and be fully rational, it is just that they don’t love anyone but a few people.

    The German old lady who wanted to love and to save Jews at all costs might have been frequently lying to the SS having come to her house, can we say she was wrong?

    Friendly greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • labreuer

    FYI you can use blockquote HTML.

    Hello, it is just unbelievable that a whole nation became wicked. This is why I don’t buy the (literal interpretation of the) flood tale.

    From where do you get your conception of human nature? In a sense, I want to agree with you: it is hard to imagine there being zero righteous people in a culture. Then again, have we seen any truly wicked cultures (e.g. Nazism, Stalinism) persist for tens of generations? The Amorites had 400 years to rectify their ways before the Israelites were scheduled to march out of Egypt (Gen 15:16). You might be shocked to learn about how effectively morality was destroyed as a concept within the lifetime of the USSR.

    With respect to the flood, see Isaiah 59:14-21. In particular, that passage indicates a lack of righteousness, and a lack of any man to ‘intercede’—see Ezek 22:30. So God sent Jesus—the redeemer in Is 59:20. In Noah’s time, there was a single righteous person; in the time of spoken of in Is 59, there were apparently none.

  • labreuer

    This is a very complex topic but I know one thing for sure: making the pursuit of truth one’s priority can lead to many atrocities. The ruthless capitalists who cause starvation and social catastrophes might very well pursue truth and be fully rational, it is just that they don’t love anyone but a few people.

    The German old lady who wanted to love and to save Jews at all costs might have been frequently lying to the SS having come to her house, can we say she was wrong?

    Knowing what is true is not the same as always uttering what is true. We are not to cast pearls before swine, and truth must be spoken in love. Furthermore, truth can be pursued in many ways—that, after all, is the lesson in Gen 3. Consider Unit 731: they figured out true things, but at incredible cost.

    Christians believe that while there is an end which is hugely valuable—the kingdom of heaven—one can only get there by specific means. A major way is via self-sacrifice, as indicated by Mt 10:38, Col 1:24, Rom 8:17, etc. Prohibited ways are returning evil for evil, lacking in zeal, grumbling, refusing to emotionally engage with others, etc. All of this requires knowledge, though. To love requires to know how to love. Notice the progression in 2 Pe 1:5-7—love comes last! Godly love is the hardest thing humans can possibly do. For some reason, you seem to think it’s easy. I don’t understand you.

  • Stephen Hale

    I’d suggest it’s because it’s lengthy and subtle. Most of his popular works are not.

    -Stephen

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Hi. The problem is that it is obvious many innocents were punished alongside the culpable ones.

    But if universalism is true, I could perhaps accept that, if they eventually ushered into the blissful presence of God.

    Friendly greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Yeah it’s definitely too postmodern. We need huge change in the Church, but the concept of absolute truth is non-negotiable, tough it is indissociable from love.

    Friendly greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • labreuer

    Yep. Most people don’t want to judge below the surface. :-(

  • labreuer

    I trust God to be just.

    We should be careful to not get on high horses, given the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. If you examine human motives with respect to the “many innocents”, you’ll find that we don’t care about such things enough to make the requisite sacrifices to deal with them. People can care about them just fine in discussions on the internet, but when it comes to the question of sending sons and daughters to save innocents, we’re quite reticent.

    I’m always a bit perplexed by the raising of the OT massacres, because I honestly don’t see how it informs my view of God or humans much, today. As I mentioned above, it reminds me that humans can be utterly terrible. Human nature knows no lower bound in how evil it can get. But it’s not like I learned that genocide is an awesome thing to do. I think the Israelites were largely commanded to do it because they were too weak to do anything else. But this is not a strongly held conviction. To a large extent, I still “don’t know what to think”, as I said in my first post on this topic.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    Sounds interesting! I agree with his four observations, though I am not sure if he fleshes them out the same way I would, since I did not read his article. Thanks for the synopsis.

  • Nemo

    Jesus said if your faith in him is not absolute, he would spit you out of his mouth. He was very explicit that he would label people as his servants or enemies. A lot of religious figures were groundbreaking in some way or another. And he also made it clear that if you don’t submit to his authority (rules), he would be unable to show love to you on Judgement Day.


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