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Raising Kids in an 'Anything Goes' Culture

In the minds of most teenagers, there is no universal standard for sexual morality of absolutes beyond a person’s own view as to what makes sexual activity right or wrong.
By Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell


For 16-year-old Samantha, sexual intercourse is okay at age 18. "My boyfriend and I talked sex over," she said, "and we both agreed that doing it [sexual intercourse] sometime in our senior year would be a good decision." According to Samantha, premarital sexual intercourse is right for her at the "appropriate" age.

Samantha and her boyfriend engage in oral sex but do not define that as "having sex." She says, "People have begun saying that oral sex is a type of sex, so I have had sex and that I am no longer a virgin, but I find this very inaccurate. I think people should have their own view on what their virginity is."

Samantha goes on to explain that to her, virginity is "a frame of mind." She concludes, "Right now I consider myself half a virgin … until you have felt the full thrill and intimacy of sex to its greatest extent with someone you truly love, you are still a virgin in my mind, but maybe that's just me."

This 16-year-old determines for herself the definition of virginity and when it's right to engage in sex. Her moral compass is aligned with a cultural narrative about truth. Her attitude represents that of the majority of young people today.

In the minds of most teenagers, there is no universal standard for sexual morality of absolutes beyond a person's own view as to what makes sexual activity right or wrong. As Samantha said," I think people should have their own view," and, "we both agreed that doing it sometime in our senior year would be a good decision."

A matter of opinion

This perspective is reflected in such oft-heard statements as these:

  • "No one has the right to tell me what's right or wrong for me."
  • I can't tell you what's right or wrong; you must decide that for yourself."
  • It's wrong to try to impose your morals on someone else."
  • I have the right to do whatever I want as long as I'm not hurting anyone."
  • "Those may be the values your parents taught you, but my parents taught me different."
  • "Look… that's your opinion."
  • "Listen to your heart."

Cultural tolerance has had a significant influence on this generation in a number of areas but most notably in the area of sex. Mary Eberstadt, an author and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, makes this point: "Rather than a product of any rich philosophical tradition, the new tolerance is, at root, about sex; it's a descendent of the sexual revolution."

Yet the damaging influence of cultural tolerance is not limited to sexual morality. We need to be aware of how an "anything goes" culture is influencing our children's perception of the authority of the Bible, their concept of what is virtuous, their ideas of honor and courage, and even their understanding of justice. All of these values, for the most part, have been shaped by the culture rather than Scripture. The Bible is the very foundation on which our faith and morals rest. When that foundation is eroded, almost anything goes.

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  The Bible is the very foundation on which our faith and morals rest.

How authoritative is the Bible?

To you perhaps the Bible is the source of moral truth, even though you likely value tradition, the wisdom of elders, the conclusion of experts, and a variety of other sources. To many of our young people it is a source of moral truth. In other words, the Bible is not considered to be authoritatively true for everyone. It is only true and authoritative to those who choose to believe it to be so. Therefore, if each of us is responsible for creating his or her own truth, then it follows that the Bible may be one's chosen reference guide in developing one's own brand of morality. This is how many Christian young people see the Bible today.

Most people in today's culture see the Bible primarily as a religious book that arose from the religions of Judaism and Christianity. In their midst, these are merely two among many viable religions in the world. If you choose to adhere to Judaism or Christianity, you are free to glean from their religious teachings and rituals as you like. Or you can choose from hundreds of other world religions and their subdivided groups. In fact, you can pick and choose your beliefs smorgasbord style and create a religion tailor-made just for you. It doesn't really matter what religion or religious book you choose to believe—the one universal truth is that you have the right to create your own truth.

Countering the culture

If this thinking has influenced your children, and it probably has, how do you counter it? Can you just come right out and say, "Wait just a minute! What the Bible teaches constitutes the only true religion in the world. If you don't believe the Bible, I'm sorry, but your beliefs are just dead wrong."

As you can imagine taking that approach is not a wise choice.  Having been influenced to believe it's up to the individual to create his or her own truth, our young people are naturally uncomfortable with any suggestion that one particular viewpoint is true for everyone. 

When you discuss the Bible, do not refer to it simply as a spiritual book that teaches us how to live, but as a road map leading one toward the discovery of true reality. The biblical narrative about moral truth teaches that the Creator God revealed Himself to Moses and the prophets at given points in history. While the Bible contains poetry, psalms, apocalyptic literature, and parables, it is ultimately a true account of God's relationship with humanity. Moses and the other writers of Scripture documented their encounters and messages from God, and these encounters are substantiated by historical evidences and fulfilled prophecy.

Yes, Scripture is the source of Judaism and Christianity, which are religions. Yet the Bible is unique among all other religious writings in that it is based on historical events backed up by credible historical evidence. The Creator of the world revealed himself first to Moses and the prophets saying, "I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you… so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:5-6). He then took on flesh and revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, God's Son. The New Testament writer said, "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe" (Hebrew 1:1-2).

The one true God's communication to humanity and the whole of Christianity as a religion is based on three primary realities supported by evidences. These are often referred to as the pillars of the faith. These pillars, as listed below, need to be taught and ingrained within our young people.

  • The historical reliability of Scripture. "All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture is not merely an inspirational book. All Scripture is "God-breathed," which means the written words in the Bible are from Creator God. Since its words come from God, the Bible can be trusted as a reliable historical document, and we have credible evidence e to substantiate that reality.
  • The deity of Christ. We also have credible historical evidence to back up Christ's claim that he was and is the Son of God "who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). If Christ is not who He claims to be, Christianity is not true.
  • Christ's bodily resurrection.  Without Christ literally rising from the dead, His promise to give those who trust in Him eternal life would be meaningless. The apostle Paul put it this way, "If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost" (1Corinthians 15:17-18). But Christ did rise from the dead, and compelling historical evidence supports this reality.

Historically reliable

If the Bible can be proven to be historically inaccurate, if Christ's claim to be God is not historically credible, and if Christ's resurrection can be shown to be a hoax, then Christianity is not a religion worth trusting in. By this view there are certainly good moral teachings in the Bible on how to live and treat one another. But without assurance of the authenticity of Christ's deity, death, and resurrection, they are nothing more. If the Bible were no more than that, it could offer no hope of a life after death. The apostle Paul concluded that if Christ wasn't who He claimed to be and did not bodily rise from the dead "we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world" (1 Corinthians 15:19).

But of course that is not the case. Considerable evidence exists to prove that the God-breathed words of Scripture are historically reliable. And when you share those evidences with your children, they inevitability come face-to-face with the claims of Christ. At that point, if they're honest with themselves, they will encounter an inescapable conclusion: Scripture accurately reveals that Jesus is the risen Christ and the only way to the one true God. Of course, that conclusion flies in the face of their cultural conditioning. But with repeated emphasis on how the Bible is historically accurate and reliable, you will likely be able to equip your children to see God's Word for what it is—a true revelation of the one true God and His Son Jesus as the Savior of the world.

Let your young people know the Bible isn't a mere resource or a set of inspirational stories and helpful guidelines from which we can form "our own truth." It is the means by which the one true God has chosen to reveal details of Himself to each of us. When we hold a Bible in our hands, we are cradling a holy book to be reverenced and hungered after because its reliable words reveal the God who offers us eternal life.

Showing that the Bible is the true, inspired Word of God is an important first step. But the ultimate question is whether we will personally obey God's teaching. Do we really consider the Bible an authoritative moral source for how we live our lives? Will we follow God's truth even if it makes us uncomfortable, unpopular, and upset?

 

Excerpt was taken from The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell with permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc. and Josh McDowell Ministry.

Next Steps

1. Listen as speakers and authors Josh and Sean McDowell give parents practical ways to help their children embrace values based on God and His Word, rather than cultural tolerance.

2. There is a spiritual struggle for the hearts and minds of young people today. Order Josh and Sean McDowell’s book The Beauty of Intolerance.

3. Listen as FamilyLife staff members John Majors and Michelle Hill talk about Passport2Identity™, a new resource created to answer the most pressing questions young men and women have about life’s issues. Passport2Identity getaway kits are available for young women and for young men.



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