Frank talk about the instrumental role of boomers in our civilizational collapse
Notes on Manhood will be changing its name to Discipleship & Dominion, to better reflect our ongoing focus. Keep an eye out.
Here are five facts you must hold in tension as you consider what we write below.
First, generations can and often do share a general character:
And there arose another generation after them, that knew not Yahweh, nor yet the work which he had wrought for Israel. (Jdg 2:10)
This generation is an evil generation: it seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah. (Lk 11:29)
Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see the good land, which I swore to give unto your fathers… (Dt 1:35)
Second, not everyone who belongs to a generation necessarily shares its general character:
…save Caleb the son of Jephunneh: he shall see it; and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed Yahweh. (Dt 1:36)
Do all things without murmurings and questionings: that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world. (Php 2:14–15)
Third, there is such a thing as an old fool and a wise youth:
Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who knoweth not how to receive admonition any more. (Ecc 4:13)
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame. (Pr 10:5)
Fourth, we are commanded to honor and show deference to the aged:
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and thou shalt fear thy God: I am Yahweh. (Lev 19:32)
The hoary head is a crown of glory; it shall be found in the way of righteousness. (Pr 16:31)
Fifth, a young man must not be despised merely on the grounds of his youth:
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim 4:12)
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (Tit 2:15)
It is right to show respect and deference to older men, especially if they are pastors.
But we beseech you, brethren, to respect them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work’s sake (1 Th 5:12–13)
That being said, we have noticed a pattern of many older pastors who fail—often proudly—to return that respect to younger men, simply because they are younger.
Note that this isn’t a question of these men putting punks in their place. We have no problem with that. It is a question of them withholding honor simply on the basis of age.
For instance, Michael recently had one of these men talking down to him as if he were a teenage boy—even though Michael has been in the ministry the larger part of his adult life, and is the married father of seven.
It’s the “Know your place, Sport, I was preaching Bible when you were still in diapers” mentality.
It is unwise to get bent out of shape over this. Demanding respect is something weak men do. But it is also unwise to ignore patterns.
These men lack the self-awareness to develop Timothys who will lead the way after they are gone. Instead, they work to consolidate authority and power in themselves, clinging to it as long as they can, and treating the younger generation as either unworthy or incompetent to inherit it.
But the cornerstone of a man’s legacy is the successors he leaves in his place.
What a failure of leadership and fatherhood!
Older men who invest in younger men can cultivate in them a holy ambition to do great things for the glory of God—things that the older men cannot achieve by themselves, or things that are beyond their reach in the time left to them. Things that can only be achieved by working together with the next (and then next next etc) generation.
But boomer pastors, and some older gen-X, seem to be characterized by a hoarder mindset, rather than a provider mindset. This issues in the kind of behavior we have noticed above, but it also has far greater ramifications. It is the ecclesiological and pastoral equivalent of the cringe bumper sticker, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.”
Like dragons, these men they jealously guard what they have built and accumulated, spending it on themselves rather than pouring their substance out into their spiritual sons. Their philosophy is “All that is mine is mine,” (cf. Luke 15:31). Or, “it is more blessed to receive than to give” (cf. Acts 20:35).
This mindset is perhaps most obvious in the way that they handed off their children to state-run discipleship programs (school), so they could pour themselves into the pursuit of worldly riches instead (careers, reputation, vacations, the American dream). And since they had to work their way up from nothing, coming as they did on the heels of the Great Depression and World War 2, so they expected their children and grandchildren to do the same. “Back in my day…” It is like parents who were bullied in high school, and therefore treat it as a matter of honor that their children should be bullied also. It doesn’t even occur to them that it is good to give your children a better life than you had—not to make them retread the same hardships.
Now, there is no doubt that millennials and gen-z have a work ethic problem, and that some boomer criticisms of younger generations are correct. But the problems are not as one-sided as they think. In fact, perhaps the most frustrating thing about these men is how deeply-ingrained their mindset is. Hence, “OK boomer.” Now, this is not an OK boomer piece—it is a safe bet that the vast majority of the times anyone says this, it’s a fifth commandment violation. But we understand the impulse, because we have given up trying to enlist boomers in the work we do unless they already show that they understand the problem. Too many of them simply lack any self-awareness—they are blind to the instrumental role they played in building the culture they now decry, and the culture we are working to reform. They will not grapple with the implications of Luke 6:40, that a disciple when fully trained is like his teacher, or Proverbs 22:6, that if you train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. They cannot face that it was they themselves who planted the seeds which are now blossoming into putrescence. The modern church is the fruit of the seeds they planted. Modern civil society is the inheritance they left us.
Although the problems we now face are multicausal and multifaceted, who can deny that fundamentally they stem from a failure of discipleship? The boomer “You’re on your own” mindset is fundamentally an anti-discipleship mindset. This reflects the skewed way that the gospel is preached in the West: when you reduce the gospel to justification, you naturally see sanctification—being trained in righteousness—as legalism. When you reduce the gospel to justification, you naturally see political work as “of this world.” But the gospel is about salvation through the kingship of Christ—and so Christian life is about discipleship and dominion. It is about being fitted to represent God and act on his behalf, and training others to do the same—even the nations themselves:
All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you… (Mt 28:18–20)
The term “make disciples” in Greek is a single word. Were we to translate it into a word that doesn’t really exist, it is “disciplenate” or “disciplinize,” meaning to train or instruct someone, to cause them to become a disciple, to develop in them mature knowledge and behavior. In Matthew 13:52 Jesus uses the same word, where it is typically translated “train.” The Great Commission is a directive for the church to train the nations in the word of God, which is why Paul describes the gospel as being “unto obedience of faith among all the nations” in his summary of it in Romans 1:5; 16:26.
The failure of boomers to engage in this discipleship is egregious. But it is not the worst sin of their generation. As we have said, the thing that most characterizes boomer mentality is a complete lack of self-awareness or self-reflection: they see themselves as in the right. In other words, there is a lack of repentance for the part they have played, and instead a self-righteous promotion of it. The attitude is, “Our generation didn’t have these horrible modern problems—therefore, the problem is with those who came after us. Dang kids these days. Why can’t they be like we were?”
They see the harvest, but they staunchly conclude that since they don’t like it, they couldn’t have planted it.
To borrow an analogy, their solution is to rewind the tape to the point just before they started to not like the story, and then press play again. They see the failures and errors of the generations beneath them as fundamentally disconnected from their own actions.
But what is it that God said about the third and the fourth generation of those who don’t keep his commandments? And what do you get when you count back three generations from gen-Z (those born up until 2012)? And what number is the generation now being born? We’re in for a bumpy ride.
Boomers, for the most part, are an active impediment to reform at this point. Instead of recognizing the problems, and their sources, they are frequently in denial about both. Their generation has a repentance problem. And when they do recognize the problem, the answer is to preach the gospel harder.
The gospel is the answer. But who can doubt that if we preach it the way they preached it, we will get the same results? An antinomian gospel will always produce antinomian churches and an antinomian society that hates God and his laws.
And just to remind you of what we said at the beginning of this piece, remember that men like Doug Wilson and John MacArthur are boomers too. We are not making blanket condemnations. We are describing general patterns.
Our time dislikes strong men – even though I think we’re waking up to the fact that we could use a few. Our time dislikes men with convictions, who speak up, who confront society, who disturb the status quo, men who know what they believe and why they believe it and are not intimidated about saying it. Such men today are branded as troublemakers. They’re branded as controversial. —John MacArthur
Antinomianism is where the pendulum was. Look for it to swing. Those trying to correct the problem and reform the church will naturally tend to oversteer. If antinomianism is what characterized the gospel and churches of the past couple of generations, we must be careful that legalism doesn’t characterize the gospel and churches of the next couple.
New content this week: #
Michael talks the slow death of biblical manhood with Joel Webbon.
A culture of death: Brazilian Deaf-Mute Trans Woman sings Whitney Houston “I will always love you”
The Population Problem | Marcus Roberts | The Common Room - YouTube. This is for NZ—apparently the situation in the US is worse overall. He puts a brave face on it, but he is talking about civilizational collapse.
Michael’s friend, Jeff Younger, and his courageous battle to save his son: A judge stripped away Jeff Younger’s parental rights and banned him from speaking out because he refused to call his son James a girl. But he tells me he’d rather go to jail than comply: “I’ll appear in handcuffs, her in the judge’s robe, but I’m not taking this tyranny.”
Talk again next week,
Bnonn & Michael