Old vs. young in the changing society

When I started my scientific career, we did not have e-libraries. Not even internet (yeah, I know I’m old…). Old scientist were respected and had an advantage because they had accumulated knowledge of what was done and published earlier. That changed with modern technology. Young scientists were better in searching information from the internet and faster in adapting the latest methods after these were published. Nowadays, young ones have better productivity than even the best scientists had during earlier generations, and are often more respected than the old ones. Knowledge of what happened more than 40 years ago is trivial.

A similar change is happening in agriculture. Old farmers have accumulated knowledge of which plants have produced best crops in the past, when has been the right time to sow crops, etc. As climate changes, this knowledge becomes trivial. Other plants give better crops, timing of sowing and harvest have changed, rules have changed, technology has changed as well as bureaucracy. Young farmers are more flexible and faster in learning the new tricks. Old ones may lose the game, especially if they stick to the traditional methods.

Have you noted this kind of changes within churches?


I have not noticed those sorts of changes within any churches I have been at.

Except in fields like biology, where names have age-hierarchies, hence one sometimes has to find obscure publications from the 1800s to know what is the correct name to apply, e.g, the five-way homonym Mytilus incrassatus. There are also fields where so few publications have been done that restricting yourself to new ones would make your job impossible: many fossil formations haven’t had any new species described in the last 40 years.

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What I have noticed mostly with Christians that are younger versus older is that now days the majority of self professed Christians I meet seem to not really know their Bible. They may know maybe 30 verses max. Since they have apps and google search as long as they are kind of close to whatever verse they was thinking they can find it and spit it out real fast without actually learning it and memorizing it. Lots of Christians now days also seem to read Christian books far more than the Bible itself.

Since I go to the Churches of Christ though for the most part there is not major changes to the church service itself. Theology is roughly the same though there has always been a slight gradient of ( conservative to liberal ) in biblical hermeneutics within the movement you can 99% guess how the service will go and what they will teach.

Obviously as technology advances there is a lot more Christians who feel content with only sharing their faith online and the idea that the assembling of the saints is satisfied by just a friend or two or online is growing.

As for farming I think the main reason older farmers are struggling is indeed because it’s changed. Go back a generation and farm land was all over. You had tons of farmers with lots of land all throughout the Bible Belt. But as roads grew from two landed into 5+ lanes and the population has grown you are finding less snd less farmland scattered about and less and less farmers. As meat consumption has went up to where people eat tons of meat at each meal you begin to find more and more food crops becoming livestock feed crops. A lot of the produce for people that are larger crops tend to have moved more towards smaller crops. The few big ones produce the bulk of crops to consumers and tend to use chemicals and fight against nature and ever changing laws which is a struggle. Instead of letting land rest or using cover crops you seen more and more chemical solutions. Lots of orchards are greenhouses.

Then the smaller crops tend to have moved more towards organic local serving. These become hard to compete in because despite growing things like farmers market are still small. Or harder to offload a pickup of kumquats and watermelons than it was 30 years ago when there was less commercial stores selling it. You’ll find often a farmer with just 3 acres selling predominantly to one regional food chain also which are based on bids. It’s definitely a ever changing niche despite being one of the oldest professions.

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Technological searches have great advantages - much that required extensive library searches can be done online. But there is a major disadvantage in that they give only the hits. By actually reading a paper copy, you pick up “hey, that’s interesting, too” things.

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What does this mean? Can you explain? Thanks

Great subject. With agriculture, I understand exactly what you mean as I grew up on a cotton farm in the panhandle of Texas, which was at the ecological limit climate wise for growing cotton. We had to plant as early as possible, and hope an early freeze did not curtain production as the growing season was marginal. Now, plant breeding has created shorter season varieties, and climate change has probably lengthened the season to where farmers can plant later, and harvest earlier using chemical defoliants and growth regulators, making what knowledge I have of cotton farming obsolete. You really have to keep up with the technology to survive.

I think that in churches, the technology is a minor issue, but the real problem is in keeping up with societal changes, and evolving the church to be a relevant part in a changing society. It seems the church has done a poor job in many respects, though has changed in other ways without knowing it. It is interesting to see post-modernism criticized in the pulpit while pushing short term mission groups, which is a post-modern “experiential” phenomenon. Not everything post-modern is bad, and lots from modernism is bad, but we all fight against change.
I think the failure of the church to adapt is largely to blame for youth leaving the church once out of the parent’s control. Pew studies show how the church’s view of science is a big factor, but also the teachings on sexuality and social justice are just as important to those who leave the church, if not the faith. Politics as part of that also has been a factor.
Looking forward to the discussion, so will stop here, but a lot of ground to plow, to use an agricultural expression.


I’ve definitely heard some preachers mention that they have to be much more rigorous with preparing their sermons since today what ever they say can be checked by anyone in the congregation within seconds of having said it.

But strictly speaking, I don’t think the parallel works much beyond this. A church is not a technical construct, it can have some technical elements and you will often see more young people serving in the technical services and their are more and more coming in as technology becomes more wide spread but the church is fundamentally a social construct and in that aspect the church needs to avoid being socially outdated but having access to the internet is no replacement to experience and having a good social intuition.

I think there may be a profitable distinction to be made between knowledge and wisdom here. Anybody can fact-check something - or go finding random facts. But I still think there is much to be said (and potentially underestimated) about the value of knowing what facts need to be pursued - what should be applied, and how. Both in agriculture and in science. The arrogance that thinks easy information access can completely replace age (experience) is the precursor to what is about to become “experience” on the part of the holder. As the saying goes … “Good judgment comes from experience. And a whole lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

And all of this is without even mentioning the human dimensions of knowledge and wisdom. We’ve all been party here to forum participants who can be full of facts/logic and yet be quite clueless about how to relate to others in respectful ways (which is the equivalent taking all your great truth and logic and tossing it all straight into the trash can).

Not that age or experience automatically makes somebody relatable - quite the opposite in some cases! Or conversely some young souls are quite socially intelligent. So it’s no guarantee. But these are all things that tend to just have to grow in most of us with the help of experience, exposure, and time.

While it might be ‘comforting?’ to some to think that sermons are obliged to be more factually accurate now than ever before … I nonetheless feel sorry for somebody whose only (or even main) reason for being part of a church community is to get stocked up on factual truths. Encyclopedic knowledge is nice, to be sure - and all the nicer if you can have more confidence in its accuracy. But church needs to be about a whole lot more than that. In fact, I’m not even so sure I would want to defend the proposition that Truth-Telling is even the most important of the main things a Christian church should be about. It is an important thing - don’t get me wrong. And in our fact-obsessed society a lot of Christians would at least call it the most important thing and likely even the only thing. I’m just not sure they could successfully make the case for why this should be so. The more I read scriptures and observe Christians in life, the more I see other priorities in play too - priorities which take truth on board as an important element among others.

[Of course, given the state of many American Christians today - even just finding their way back to truth as any kind of priority at all would be a majorly beneficial step for them in the right direction.]


There are such exceptions within biology but mostly, what is not included in the commonly used databases is neglected. Many databases started by adding articles published after 1980’s. These databases have plenty of fresh publications but relatively few of the pre-1980 papers. A young biologist utilising these databases may think that if a paper is not in these databases, it is probably not an important paper.

Reminds me of one publication where an ecologist introduced a novel hypothesis and noted that it should be tested. When a retired professor saw the paper, he commented that the hypothesis was first published in 1920’s and refuted in 1930’s. These publications were not in electronic databases, so all of those evaluating the manuscript believed that the hypothesis was indeed novel.
Lack of knowledge may lead to a wrong direction.

This is an interesting topic. How much can a congregation/church adapt to societal changes without losing something essential?

Some kind of tension between old and youth has been around as long as written history can tell. As long as it is just disagreements about music, clothing or similar trivial things, things just change or we lose the young generation. It’s more difficult when there is a need to change the interpretation of the scriptures to adapt to the prevailing values within the modern society.

The much larger danger in modern biology, in my opinion, is repeating unpublished work others have already done. Scientists don’t published failed hypotheses which means other people can head down the same dead ends without knowing it.

If I had to choose between the memory of one person and the databases we have today the databases would win hands down. It’s not only databases that collect papers, but databases that tie papers together and the availability of the raw data itself. Recently, I have been using Qiagen’s Ingenuity Pathway Analysis which was constructed by many scientists combing through papers and tying together all of the gene interactions they could find.

I can’t see how scientists of old could come anywhere close to this type of data aggregation and analysis. Could a lone biologist in the 60’s list from memory all of the gene interactions for a single gene, and all of the gene interactions 2 levels above and below those interactions? No way. Historically, I’ve been on both sides of these advancements, and there is no way I would want to go backwards.


You make interesting statements regarding the church and why people leave but I do not see the connection between “failure to adapt”, “view of science”, “teachings on sexuality and social justice” and people deciding to leave. What exactly is it about those items that induce people to say goodbye to the church? Would the people have stayed otherwise? What were their preferences over what the church presented them with? Where does sin, repentance and trust in Jesus fit in? I would really like to know.

I am constantly reminded that the stuff I have in my home are mostly made by other people. Of all the items I probably only made less than 1/12 % !
What I’m getting at is that all the speed of acquiring knowledge and putting it to use arose from the hard work done by others. Nothing wrong with that - it’s the way things work.
I’m just thinking though that all the most brilliant scientific breakthroughs came about in a time when there was no electricity or cars, no instant music in the house, no television etc. In other words people spend a lot of time thinking about the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and chemistry in a time with very little distractions. I think we need a great deal more of it now to solve the problems we have created for ourselves.

Here is a good article on the site that goes into it. Another excellent resource is the the book ‘You Lost Me” by Davis Kinnaman if you want to explore further.


I think my personal example fits well here:

My church in Canada was complicit with something called the Residential school system where the children of First Nations people were forcibly removed from their homes by police and given 3rd rate education in far away institutions. The survival rate of these kids at those schools was between 90-95% and the rate of abuse (physical, mental, sexual) was nearly 100%.

My church was complaining about the expense of lawyers in fighting the being responsible for damages… There was lip service about repentance, sin, and very little of trusting in Jesus about the cost of repentance and production of fruit.

The problems I, and my peers, had were this lack of addressing sin, repentance bearing fruit, and trusting in God to move forward. There were more interested in their politics and specific interpretations of controversies.


The Guardian had an article relevant to this topic:

‘Allergic reaction to US religious right’ fueling decline of religion, experts say

If people think they have to become fundamentalist/nationalistic to be Christian then of course they will reject the faith.


I’ve cited the Barna article in other discussions over the years. (I’d forgotten that it was that long ago – 2011). The damage done to the church is immeasurable – not to mention the detriment to God’s renown, the petitioner’s heart’s desire in the very first request in the Lord’s Prayer.

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The young and old are the same when it comes to fully submitting to Jesus as their sovereign ruler. All must humble themselves,deny themselves take up their cross and follow Jesus. (Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven)
All must receive and submit to the conviction of their sins and then go to the only one who can save them from their sins.
People leaving “the church” can be because they don’t want to subject themselves to the lordship of Jesus. They love their sins and don’t want to forsake them. It can also be because the individual congregation they associated with may have never taught the Word of God in such a way that showed them their need for the blood of Christ and being united to Him in His death and resurrection. The hope that is in Christ may not have been proclaimed. The church they attended may have been more like a social club and they may have decided to associate with a different social group.
Attending a church or leaving a church is not the main issue in that a particular congregation may not actually be “The Church of Christ” in spirit and truth.
Now if someone is truly forsaking Christ after coming to know Him that would be different and I don’t believe anyone can get an accurate poll on that except the Father.

Is that like… submit to a lobotomy and let the church replace your brain?

If so that would not only explain declining membership but also the declining intelligence of members.

The alternative is the get people to think for themselves, ask questions, and look for reasons why some of this stuff might have some truth to it.

Dictating stuff might be good for when they are two years old. But eventually they do grow up.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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