To hell in a handbasket. That's the phrase I've heard from many people as I travel the country talking to people about the current state of culture. I don't agree.
In 1 Peter 1:3-5 Peter opens his letter to Rome in a decadent time. Peter referred to Rome as Babylon, where Jews faced their most intense persecution as exiles. It was in this Roman culture that Peter would ultimately find himself hung upside down in torture, martyred for his faith.
To bolster the church, Peter opened his letter with reminder, not ridicule. He didn't explain how the culture collapsed because Christians pulled out of government positions or stopped teaching their children about Jesus. Peter, the denier of Jesus, stood before a church that faced persecution, pervasive immorality, and growing pressures to concede the cultural moment and gave them a story. He writes:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
Peter turned to a new story that rode above the cultural moment. It was a move that Francis Schaeffer took in his Christian Manifesto, "The basic problem of Christians is that they have seen the world in bits and pieces instead of totals."
Following Peter and Schaeffer's path, Hillcrest's class Chaplain brought a concept to Hillcrest's Chapel Coordinators in early June. The Chaplain told of a group of friends who couldn't accept Jesus. The Chaplain's thought is his friends didn't understand the story.
Many times it is easy to run down rabbit trails we believe are pulling students away from the faith. Last week I met with a student who doesn't understand how an all-loving God could allow evil in the world. Another student finds the Bible misogynistic, saying that it was a man-made book ushering a season of male dominance to the center of culture. These ideas have come to students in a cultural moment, and it would be easy to trace these thoughts backwards, looking at parenting practices, education, and a failure in the church. But, I don't believe those would be honest explanations. The problem is the world's hollow story is repeated more than the Bible's.
It is under this banner that Hillcrest's Chaplain guided Hillcrest's Chapel Coordinators, to lead a group of faculty to see the vision of the student leader, to communicate the full story God is weaving for mankind.
Hillcrest is starting at square one. That's the title of the theme. The goal is to drive Christian students to see the Biblical narrative as if it was for the first time they heard it, rediscovering old truths in a new way. Former President Joel Egge called this, "making the familiar unfamiliar."
For new students the hope is they would see the coherency, consistency, and completeness of the Bible's story, God's story, that includes them and invites them to a life of hope, purpose, and passion.
The story will weave through each quarter of the school year. The first quarter will cover creation, going into how the Bible explains the beginning of everything. Students will get to see the consistency in modern scientific discoveries, which are best explained in the Biblical narrative. Students will find purpose and meaning in a loving Creator, who made humankind in His image and gave them a task to follow His lead in caring for creation. The second quarter will talk about the fall, where students will see how pride and a neglecting of God's design led to sin, brokenness, hurt, and pain that infiltrated God's perfect world. The fall segment will end at Christmas, a perfect time to usher in the third quarter's redemption theme. In the third quarter students will hear the perfect plan for salvation that was communicated from Genesis 3:15 to today, with the climax revealed in Easter with Jesus' crucifixion on the cross. In the final quarter of the school year students will discover that the cross didn't end salvation, but started restoration. Students will be driven to understand the significance and uniqueness in the Christian perspective of a restorative salvation in Jesus Christ, revealed first in the empty tomb and continuing as followers of Jesus repeat the hopeful purpose of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the final weeks of the school year the students will hear the fifth act of the story, the call for Christians to be restorers in communicating Christ's love for all people, made in His image.
We believe this approach is the best approach for our students, facing a culture in disarray. Peter wrote to exiles facing a tough cultural moment with a definition of hope. It wasn't wishful thinking, overlooking broken relationships and pain with a naive optimism. Peter's call to a believer's hope is secured in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The believer's hope is not subject to fickle feelings that are shaped by a cultural moment, it finds definition in the risen Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The story we are giving students this year will be like an old pair of shoes to some students, where there is a sense of comfort and security. For others, it will be a blister causing experience in breaking in a new sneaker to walk in the world. Pray for these students. We're calling them to live a story that the world, by and large, rejects and discounts. But we believe this story has shaped all the beauty we find in our culture, and in retelling it to students we pray that it would be a story that God will use to shape and guide them. A story that will cause them to ask a question: "What is salvation for?" We pray this hopeful story will propel a new generation to be creators and innovators who find purpose and grounding in God's inerrant Word and are catapulted into a world yearning for a new hope and a new story.