Seminary is a dangerous thing. It gets you thinking. And I’ve been thinking a lot. Fortunately, at Our Savior’s (my home congregation) we are Encouraged to Think! So I’d like to share with you something I’ve been thinking about, it’s called: youth theology.
Youth theology is a perspective that values the theological insight of youth. Have you ever been amazed at something a young person has said about God? Just the other day one of our pre-school teachers told me about how a pre-school student, who is also a member of our congregation, explained the Trinity to one of her classmates. She was able to explain the Trinity in a way her four-year-old friend could understand. This is an example youth theology.
Young people have a way of interpreting classical ideas about God in a way that makes sense today. This is a gift that they have. If something does not make sense to a young person, they are not afraid to question and ask why. Some churches might be afraid of this. But thankfully, we are a part of a church that does not shy away from questions. But when we ask difficult theological questions (questions about God) who as the authority to answer? Do young people have any authority?
I recently made a video asking this very question and put it on the Internet to see if any young people would respond. They did! But the answers might surprise you. When we talked about this question at youth group, the youth were quick to point out two things. One, yes young people do have authority because they have a unique experience and therefore insight about God. The Bible supports this notion. See: 12 year old Jesus in the temple, 13 year old Mary, David the shepherd boy, Samuel the boy in the temple, etc., etc. Two, they did not want to say that adults had no authority. Rather our youth were quick to affirm the authority of their elders! Because the longer you live, they said, the more life experience you have. The concluding point is that the experience of young people is not necessarily better or worse than that of adults, but it is different. Therefore, if experience matters when it comes to talking and thinking about God, young people matter!
If the church leads the way in acknowledging the authority of young people when it comes to thinking and talking about God, then what would result if the rest of the world followed suit? I encourage you to both speak up to share your experiences, and to listen to the experience of others around you. In this way our theological understanding will be enriched by the insight of young people.