We had a great empathizing and praying for a father; so many good responses. And “Dad’s” response yesterday showed what a blog community can do for folks. Here is the response I wrote to him, now just a little fleshed out than the note I sent to him last week. By the way, Ken White’s pastorally insightful comment was special for all of us to see as the father wrote in and said, “Yep, he’s just like me.”
This is a tough one because your son is now forming his basic identity. He?s not a newbie; he?s got some ideas already formed. I suspect he?s gotten this stuff from peers, school and the like. Doesn?t matter that much. I feel for you brother; I?ve seen lots of this.
The single most important thing I would say (from a college professor?s vantage point) is to latch onto a person (1) he can identify with and (2) who models the faith and (3) who is not an authority figure, like you or your wife.
The second thing is this: do whatever you can to understand him; empathize; chase his ideas down even further than he’s willing to chase. In other words, get into his skin with him and share his relativism.
Keep communicating; asking; not mettling but not afraid to ask; make his answers safe; keep it at the conversational level; let him know you trust him and that you want to think with him about these things.
Remember this is not just intellectual; this is whole person stuff. No matter how intellectual his arguments might be, it is always more than that. But, there are some today who might suggest relativism is not important to counter; I disagree. We might be relative to something, but total relativism defeats life and truth at the basic level. Humans can’t and therefore don’t live at that level.
Good books? Shane Claiborne. Rob Bell. Brian McLaren. Whether you like these guys or not, they are speaking that language quite well. Donald Miller is another one.
Also, you can’t manufacture this but I suggest a good youth group; vibrant; faithful and serving; biblical, that sort of thing. A vibrant leader of the youth group who loves kids can do kids a world of good. I can’t tell you the number of students who, as first year students, talk about their youth pastor; many of them don’t mention the youth pastor by the time they are college seniors.
I didn?t say anything about relativism in morals. CS Lewis? Mere Christianity constructs everything from here and I suggest you read it again; I don’t know many high schoolers who find much value in him, but Lewis’ approach is potent for many of us.
Have you asked him if he thinks anything is wrong? Then the next one is ?why?? and then ?How many things are like that?? and then ?How do we know such things?? Of course, this isn’t a 15 minute conversation but month long conversations. Sort of like a blog series!
Anyway, these are my first thoughts.
Our prayers are with you, father, and you also know that many readers of this blog spent some time in prayer for you, your wife, your son and his bothers yesterday. This is the blog world at its best friend.