“When I became a man, I put away childish things…”
decades, American culture has been pushing the threshold between
childhood and adulthood further and further from birth. This is being
done in the name of science, which supposedly is just analyzing the data
and then reporting the facts. A myriad of professions, from
psychiatrists to psychologists to neurologists to anthropologists, are
making the claim that the period of “adolescence” continues to lengthen.
As many of these professions are built on evolutionary assumptions, the
data is often treated as though this is simply the way things are.
Perhaps it is simply the next stage of human evolution; the next stage
of progress being a state in which the human being no longer wants to
In September of this year, the BBC reported,
“New guidance for psychologists will acknowledge that adolescence now
effectively runs up until the age of 25 for the purposes of treating
young people.” This shift in the direction for the psychiatric care of
young people is being pushed by neurologists that are claiming that the
prefrontal cortex of the brain is still developing until around age 25.
Therefore, information is being processed differently than in the brains
of adults, which leads to all of the stereotypical woes of the teenage
This distinction between “children” and “adults” is a real one, and
not just some arbitrary legal age. This distinction goes far beyond the
ability to reproduce their species; far beyond their overall physical
shape and/or muscle tone; far beyond the final state of their prefrontal
cortex. Those characteristics are certainly an objective reality, but
the Apostle Paul doesn’t say, “When I became a man, I got stronger,
taller, and had to shave my whiskers.” He said that he “put away
childish things”, or in the ESV, “I gave up childish ways.” He’s
implying that a child behaves like a child, and an adult behaves like an
adult. The problem in our culture is not that people are staying small
and beardless. It is that they grow up physically but refuse to take the
responsibility that is supposed to accompany that growth.
The term “adolescence” comes from the Latin word “adolescere” which
means “to grow up.” In most cultures that recognize this stage of human
development, it begins with the onset of puberty and the physical
changes that reshape little people into bigger people. When adolescence
ends is somewhat arbitrary, and this “commencement” is often attended by
culturally relative rites and rituals. America’s famous age has long
stood at 18-years-old. This makes sense as this age is attended by high
school graduation and the legal right to enter into a contract,
signifying the end of the legal guardianship of parents. Seems simple
enough, right? Child…17. Adult…18.
If so, then why are leading psychiatric associations publishing that
adolescence should be extended to age 25? Why? Perhaps it’s because they
know that a sustained “identity crisis,” which supposedly comes with
adolescence, is good for their industry. After all, they’re all about
fixing crises, right? Why extend the age of adolescence? Maybe it’s
because longer childhood provides more of something else besides sin on
which to blame America’s interminable immaturity.
As Christians, when we finish critiquing the psychiatric community’s
self-fulfilling prophecies, are we prepared to do anything about it?
What about our kids? Are we raising them to grow up? Do we have a
plan to help them put away childish things and move from godly children
to godly adults? Paul’s list includes speaking like a child, thinking
like a child, and reasoning like a child. We must teach them and, more
importantly, show them what it means to speak, think, and reason as an
A wise man once instructed me that our goal as parents should not be
to raise godly children, but to raise godly adults. (I won’t tell you
his name, but his initials are RCJR.) This epigram casts our eyes toward
the horizon, lest we become too easily satisfied in present successes
or too easily discouraged by the failures. The litmus test for adulthood
cannot be a magical age when the prefrontal cortex stops growing, and
we should not be surprised when, a few years from now, new scientific
data attempts to explain why adolescence is being extended to
40-years-old. The standard for judging godliness, in both children and
adults, has been, and always will be, the Word of God—fully revealed in
the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.