Millennials and the Science Faith Discussion


(Randy) #1

Millennials seem to be, in many ways, an improvement over previous generations. They seem to be more open to new ideas, less prejudiced racially and in other ways, and very proactive for social causes.

However, many are concerned that they are less interested in faith. It’s possible that they are really only less interested in formal religion; and there may be good reason for that, as they have been taught to think critically about establishment.

Is it important to try to gear groups like Biologos, RTB, and other sites to reach them? Or is that something that they will seek out for themselves?

There are things that they can teach us, it appears. Yet, I also find many things from older scientists and thinkers that help me. Is there a way to incorporate Millennials in as teachers? Maybe they will have a new point of view on the theological and philosophical vantage. That does seem to change, from the Year 33 to present, with each age.

It may be that it’s just older people like me (47, with children 10 and under) who are interested in this stuff. And that’s OK.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Edited extensively because I put my foot in my mouth<<


(Stephen Matheson) #2

My suggestion, as the parent of multiple “millenials,” is that those who want to “reach” them should avoid talking about them with that kind of disrespect. My own opinion is that my kids’ generation is smarter, and far more decent, than the elders that claim to worry about them.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

Bring some along while you go do volunteer medical work. From what I have seen and heard, most of the “deep talks” happen while you are getting your hands dirty together doing something worthwhile that they believe in. Not so much in book discussion clubs or (dare I say) online science-faith forums.


(Randy) #4

Dr Matheson,
Thank you for your note. I am so sorry–I didn’t even think of it that way. I guess it could be taken as disrespect, but I was really taken aback and didn’t think of it that way. I will edit this.

It is very true that the new generation is less prejudiced, less violent, and sometimes more socially active than the previous generations. In fact, I think that most things are improving with them over mine (I’m 47).

I am just worried that they aren’t as interested in things like the deeper questions of science and faith.

I don’t think I’ve ever dialogued with you, but do think your contributions are excellent. Please give me feedback.


(Stephen Matheson) #5

Why are you worried about that? Are you interpreting their rejection of religion as a lack of interest in deep things? Have you seen data to suggest that youngish people today are less thoughtful/contemplative than, say today’s boomers were at that age? I haven’t, but I haven’t looked. I know that my personal experience is the opposite of what you lament.

The title you chose for this thread suggests that you think that millenials need to be “reached” for some reason. My opinion is the opposite: old Christian white guys are leading whole nations astray. We need to be reached by the millenials.


(Randy) #6

Dr Matheson,

Thanks. That’s interesting that you said that, because I was just typing in a new description about having them teach us. Thank you for your rebuke and patience.

Please add more corrections. Being negative about the upcoming generation has been a blind spot since the days of Socrates. I don’t want to do that. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/63219-the-children-now-love-luxury-they-have-bad-manners-contempt

Maybe it will actually improve outcomes if we don’t criticize them so much!

Very good. If we know a trade or how to involve ourselves, we can do the right thing. You’re probably right.

Maybe there’s a basis for that.

And

I think that’s right, at least to an extent. Did you hear the rumor that Canada was going to build a wall on their southern borner when it looked like Trump was going to win in 2016? Or the Youtube “Canada for President”? (and I’d better stay away from politics for now).

I thought about copying more than the Pew report on millennials and religion with a “Live Science” report, but this may lead to stereotypes. I’m happy to have this thread shut downy by a moderator if appropriate. Thanks.


(Stephen Matheson) #7

Hi Randy, you don’t need corrections. I agree strongly that the habit of disparaging younger people/generations is both ancient and foolish. I can tell you didn’t mean to do that.

To me, the flight of millenials from religion is a positive development, given the moral and intellectual catastrophe that evangelicalism is (again, to me). But of course people (young and old) leave religion for lots of reasons, and I don’t claim to know what the general reasons are for why millenials are doing it. I know that @Jay313 is studying the extent to which evangelical hostility to science is driving them away, and maybe that’s a significant factor. The millenials I know best are not interested in any religion that resembles evangelical thirst for rejection of same-sex marriage or any of a dozen other fundagelical fixations. For some of them, the question isn’t “why are millenials leaving?” – it’s “why are all those people staying?”


(Randy) #8

Dr Matheson,

Thank you for your note. I think that it is right if people are leaving prejudice and racism. I respect your position.

However, it’s been said “tell me of the god you don’t believe in, because chances are I don’t believe in him (or her), either.” I truly believe that God is just–and if we don’t see that in the way His followers act, we should look to the ultimate ideal of Justice to find that first. It is sad that so many are so afraid as to hate–and believing in no god does not make one immune from that, either.

However, it is scary to me how much I find myself full of faults. You will find more of them, for sure.

So–again I thank you for your constructive criticism and would enjoy your contributions to improve kindness, understanding and truth. Please keep it up. I can only improve with teaching.


(Jay Johnson) #9

I apologize in not getting back to you and @Randy sooner. The short version of the story is that I began studying the issue of Millennials abandoning the faith about five years ago, and what I discovered was that almost every problem traced its roots back to the Culture War. A good introduction is here:

If you notice, rejection of science (in general) and evolution (in particular) are high on the list of issues that drive young people away from the faith, but they are far from the only issues. I was already working on an overall approach to the problem – since, unlike Stephen, I actually think it is a problem :wink: – when I arrived here a little more than two years ago. I found out that I knew far less than I thought I knew, but I also discovered a wealth of resources. All that is necessary is the desire to learn.


(Randy) #10

Thank you, Mr Johnson!


(Randy) #11

I’ve actually just been listening to the “You Lost Me” from Barna on Audible, too. Interesting stuff. Thanks!

Despite all this angst and stress, I think that God is truth, and we don’t have to fear questioning. Lamoureux for example, points out that many people think of God as the embodiment of virtues–truth, justice, etc.

I have to say that there are times in our experience–through no fault of our own–that He seems not to be there. Evolution can be beautiful, but also can be overwhelming in its randomness. Injustice is sickening. Investigating it can be difficult, and sometimes alienate us from our friends and church (but see also @Reggie_O_Donoghue’s recent postings that Christianity does better than atheists in many ways; also Violence in the OT by John Dickson on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvpDzOxuFvo)

If God is really truth, it doesn’t matter whether we understand or not. It is not our fault whether we see past the emptiness and despair. And, as in Psalm 103, “as a father pities his children, the Lord pities those who fear him; for He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.”

In fact, in questioning, in leaving the church, in getting to experience the world (that He made)–may be just the growing time that He wants us to have.

George Macdonald said “You doubt because you love truth.” His picture was of two people meeting on a steep hillside. They are at the same elevation, but one is running downhill fast because of his selfish thoughts; and the other is trudging uphill slowly, trying to find the truth. From externals, they are at the same point, but in reality, there is all the difference of completely different aims. God, or Truth, knows the heart of each one.

Thus, the atheist or agnostic, young or old, who honestly questions, and finds his or her thoughts leading them away from God–is, in my understanding, much closer to Him than the one that sticks by faith out of pride or the “older brother” mentality. Fear may be another reason for sticking with the faith–for example, of losing one’s salvation–but while that’s not a valid reason to remain against one’s intellect, it’s yet another weakness we all suffer from–and God won’t judge us for something we can’t handle.

If what I’m writing is pure mud, let me know. However, “You Lost Me” and the article above both clearly explain struggles that honest people have. They reassure me that God not only rejoices in the use of the minds that He gave them (as in Greg Boyd’s book "Benefit of the Doubt), but values that more than blind faith for selfish reasons. If God is just, as I believe He is, being outside the church isn’t anything more than being outside our current understanding of religion, as long as God is truth and we try to remain intellectually honest.


(Phil) #12

I enjoyed “You Lost Me” and gave copies to each of my millennial daughters as they work with that age group. It seemed to do a good job of defining the problems, but solutions are a bit more elusive. While we focus on the science question here, some of the social reasons for millennials leaving the church are perhaps the more difficult to address.


(Randy) #13

Yes, that’s a good assessment. Thanks.


(Jay Johnson) #14

I agree, and I would go even farther – we don’t have to fear anything. In the words of Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If even he could experience God’s absence, why should we expect to be exempt from it?

If God’s understanding is infinite and ours is finite, the finite always shrinks to insignificance in comparison. What difference is a little more or a little less when both are a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the universe? But this should serve only to keep us humble, not to keep us from seeking to understand. After all, we are commanded to love God with all the mind, among other things.

This reminds me of a passage from Thomas Merton’s essay “Sentences on Hope”:

Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hope­less than one that always verges on despair.


(system) #15

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