Christianity Today’s new cover story is a list of 33 “young believers who [they] think are leading today’s church in key ways—and who embody what it will look like in the years to come.” Or, as my good friend Eric Teetsel humorously put it on Twitter, a list of 32 “incredible folks”….and me.
There are, indeed, some fantastic people on the list. Eric himself has done incredible work taking up the mantle of a new social conservatism and Peter Blair has made Fare Forward one of the best places in the conservative intellectual pantheon. I had the good fortune of meeting Brannon McAllister recently, and walked away awed by both his work and his character. Trevin Wax is well known to readers of Mere-O, and Wesley Hill’s unquestionably one of the best writers and most astute theological minds of the younger crop of thinkers.
And those are just the people that I know. The rest seem to be similarly impressive. You can read the whole thing here today for free. After that, it goes behind the paywall.
Since I am (somehow) on the list, let me offer a few further thoughts about it.
My photo: Yes, that photo is taken in Oxford. Yes, I am very lucky. But what you can’t see on the website is that my shirt is untucked.
Like, one side is sticking out. I’m serious. I noticed it when I got home and uploaded the pictures and, frankly, find this particular detail amusing. And maybe a metaphor for something. I feel like you, the internets, need to know these things, especially when I show up on a list like this.
My heading: Just to clarify things, I am not a historian by profession. I just happen to think that history matters and that a core part of my vocation is to function as something of a pointer toward those who not only came before me, but have more depths to offer than I do. Like Oliver O’Donovan, who is thankfully still living but who models far better than I what a mind saturated in Scripture and tradition looks like.
Gratitude: It’s neat to have my (mostly underserving) work recognized for this sort of thing. I try not to put too much weight on these sorts of things, as youth is a fickle thing and the real meaning of my life will not be known until the end of it (and even then, it will only be known to those like my wife who know whether this kind of attention is truly deserved). But it would be a disservice to those who have formed me if I did not extend the commendation where it properly belongs: to my parents and family, to the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola who gave me such a great education and who continues to support me, to my many friends and interlocutors who I have learned so much from, and to all of you readers here at Mere-O for sharpening my thoughts along the way. There’s a “we” that stands behind the “I,” which is never to blame but which invariably sets the conditions for success and so necessarily shares in the reward.
Also, I got asked a few questions in preparation for the piece about Mere-O and my take on “millennials.” So for the sake of posterity, here are the answers to those questions.
What’s the inspiration behind Mere Orthodoxy? What do you hope readers take away from the site?
I set up the site a decade ago to carry on in my own way the kind of cheerful, thoughtful, culturally astute observations that made both C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton such important figures in 20th century Christianity. But I can’t escape a strong self-consciousness about the gap between us and them, which is why one of my main hopes is to always function as something of a signpost for other readers. There aren’t many people among the living who can think and write with the depth that previous generations of Christians had, so if my only legacy is introducing a few people into that tradition then I’ll be a relatively happy man.
As a writer and a student of Christian ethics, you’re aware of the unique cultural setting today’s Christians find themselves in. What gives you hope about this generation and the future of our faith?
The ground for hope that I have been able to stand on without hesitation is the promise that Christ will not depart from his church and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. If we step beyond this to evaluate whether we should have hope based on a particular generation’s or society’s qualities, and stay there for too long, we will be prone to overinflate both our virtues and our vices. If I am cheerful about the future of Christianity, it is only because I am aware that Christianity has been dying in every age….and being reborn in the same, even if not in the same spot. We have a faith that takes the same shape as our Savior’s life: It is new in every generation, yet still (and must be) the “same old thing.” If I am hopeful for my own generation, I am so because the whole business is true–really, deeply, down-to-the-molecules-true, and whether in this lifetime or five hence the truth will always win out. Many of my peers have demonstrated a heightened desire to inquire into that truth and understand it, and as long as we do so from within the community that has been authorized to proclaim it then our future will be secure.