Arts and Culture

Perpetual Adolescence

Author Melinda Penner Published on 04/21/2005

We heard J.P. Moreland make the observation once that in Western culture, adolescence lasts well into the adulthood years. It’s a topic well worth the attention of Christians so we can effectively evaluate how this cultural influence affects us and our children. Adolescence is a fairly recent developmental stage along with the common allowance for the excessive attitudes and behaviors to teenagers express. Prior to the comfort and wealth of western culture in the last 100 years, children took responsibility much earlier. Often religious ceremonies such as confirmation and bar mitzvah marked the transition. Childhood transitioned to adulthood and the responsibilities of helping the family because it was necessary for survival. Though our survival doesn’t depend on it now, the health of our churches and culture do, I believe, because leadership and responsibility are the marks of adulthood. And I also believe that many of our children suffer because their parents are emotional adolescents.

Think about the typical youth group. It’s all fun and games, with the general attitude that the program has to accommodate the wildness of the age group. Instead, youth group should be a time of training for the youth to take on the leadership roles of church and life, to take responsibility for nurturing their own faith and belief.

Al Mohler posts the first of two articles on this topic. Today he focuses on boys and tomorrow girls.

“We now face the phenomenon of perpetual boyhood on the part of many males. Refusing to grow up, these young men function as boys well into their twenties—some even into their thirties and beyond. An extended male adolescence marks the lifestyles, expectations, and behavior of far too many young males, whose masculine identity is embraced awkwardly, if at all.”

“When does a boy become a man? The answer to this must go far beyond biology and chronological age. As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man’s fulfillment of responsibility and leadership.”