David Kinnaman in his book, You Lost Me (2011), seeks to identify reasons that “Mosaics” (those born 1984 through 2002; many of today’s teenagers and twentysomethings, often referred to as Millennials or Gen Y) are dropping out of the evangelical church. One reason he cites concerns the Mosaic’s lack of wisdom. He suggests that,
Mosaics have access to more knowledge content than any other generation in human history, but many lack discernment for how to wisely apply that knowledge to their lives and world….many in the next generation find it difficult to move beyond being consumers of information to become people of wisdom.1
Overall the book provides a worthwhile read and yields insights equal to Christian Smith’s counterpart book, Souls in Transition (2009). I may provide a review of it sometime in the future, but for now the above quote has caught my interest. Socrates once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates’ relevance to Kinnaman’s observation comes in the fact that this generation has been fooled into thinking knowledge in some way equals wisdom.
The average college library provides a superior example. In “the old days” of my undergrad and the first part of my master’s degree, to research a paper, it would be necessary for me to be physically located in the library. I would search a card catalog for books related to by topic. Then I would search a CD-ROM that contained a database of journal article titles. The library only had certain holdings of journal titles, so I would go into the stacks to investigate whether our library had that particular journal article. If not, the librarian would call other libraries in the local area to borrow the article from them. Presently, students can search for journal articles in an online database which not only contains the titles, but in many cases, an electronic copy of that title that is instantly available. They can search for books in a interconnected library system that tells them if their library has the book and libraries that are in close proximity that also holds a copy of the book. Many times these books are retrievable in an instantly available electronic format. The point of the comparison suggests that the amount of information available near instantly to a college student today on any given subject is staggering. We didn’t even account about the information available on the internet. The mounds of information presents a different problem than I faced as a college student: a problem of information literacy. Today’s students are often confused about which sources they should exclude and include in a research project. They overlook great sources for sources that appear earlier in a database search. Although all this knowledge avails itself to them, they must have the wisdom (literacy) to discern which sources are the best for their project.
The library example supplies a picture of what life is like for Mosaics. It seems there is a sense of security in knowledge. If I want to know the batting average of Joe Morgan in 1976, the internet provides a number instantly (.320 btw). If I want directions to a location, the internet provides it. If I want the weather forecast for that location the internet provides it. Mounds of knowledge now provided instantly to anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or computer. However, while information may provide knowledge, it does not help one in knowing what to do with that knowledge. Paul alludes to something similar in 1 Corinthians 8:1. Here he quotes the proverb, “knowledge puffs up and love builds up.” Knowledge without the ability to apply it, produces little value. However love (in this case, the ability to apply knowledge rightly) builds up. Similarly in 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul identifies knowledge as an area in which one can excel. This means that just as one can learn how to do something better, one can learn how to apply knowledge in a greater way– to show wisdom. Knowledge apart from wisdom has little value, but Solomon tells us that placed in the right context it is invaluable. He tells his son that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).
1. Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 417-418). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.