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Faith In Focus

Odd Faith

By Joshua Rutledge, September 20, 2022

Training up a Remnant to Follow Christ in a Confused World

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” 

No one knows who first said that, but this is not a new revelation. Jesus warned his disciples to expect opposition from the world. To be a Christian, no matter the context, is “odd.”

Our Campus Community series this fall is called “Odd Faith,” and our aim is to show students that keeping the faith means coming to terms with being odd.

This is easier said than done. Over the last decade, the Barna Group has surveyed 18-to-29-year-olds who grew up Christian. Although 70 percent still claim to be Christian, close to two-thirds have left the church, and 20 percent have left the faith entirely. Only 10 percent make up what Barna terms “resilient disciples.”

Joshua Rutledge speaks at a Campus Community during this semester.

Why this trend? There are many reasons, but one is illustrated by former Christian musician Jon Steingard (of Hawk Nelson), who announced last year, “I no longer believe in God.” He compared the Christian faith to a sweater, and his deconversion as pulling on the thread. He said he eventually realized he could account for his life without needing God for any of it. “The sun is shining. It is a beautiful day. No sweater needed,” he wrote.

The reason many young people leave the faith is not because they encounter non-Christians in the world who are wildly different from them. Rather, they often care about many of the same issues and often share the same interests and hobbies. 

A key difference, of course, is that the non-Christians will not go to church on Sunday. They might go to brunch instead. 

This realization startles many Christian young people who are unprepared for it. They go out expecting a battle with non-Christians and instead are greeted with, “Want to grab brunch?” The invitation feels completely reasonable, and, in contrast, the Christian faith over time starts to feel … unnecessary. It feels like a sweater you thought you needed but apparently did not. This is why those who have left the faith often talk about now living in “the real world.” They have determined that faith is something believed in spite of what is real. 

But odd faith is not irrational faith. 

The oddity of the Christian faith is not that it offers an escape from the otherwise real world but instead offers new eyes to see the world rightly. Yes, it is a fallen world, but it is one in which the Creator has entered and proclaimed that the “Kingdom of God is near,” and now through Christ every person is invited to become who they were created to be — children of God, called to live forever in Him. 

The problem is that in imagining a reality without God, reality is reduced to something far too small.

C.S. Lewis wrote that a sinful human is “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” This holiday at sea is not some alternative reality. It is reality, and faith is the means to see it.

If a new generation of Christians is to keep the faith, it must understand that the real temptation of the world is to nod along lazily with everyone else. Odd faith refuses to reduce life down to such an insignificant “normal,” but instead holds fast to the truth that, “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”   

As Vice President of Spiritual Development, Rutledge oversees the LU Send, LU Serve, LU Stages, LU Shepherd, and Liberty Worship Collective departments. Along with a team of other pastoral leaders on campus, he regularly delivers the message at Campus Community. He has been with Liberty for seven years and has a passion to strengthen the theological foundation of the student body.

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