It is very common to hear Christians talk of impacting the world for Christ. Or to talk of how we are to be in the world but not of the world. But the latest numbers from the Barna Group clearly show that the impact is the other way around. Rather than in but not of, American Christianity is becoming in and just like.
Given that the government mandated secular worldview is so prevalent in the culture, it is not all that surprising to find that only 34% of Americans believe in absolute moral truth, or that half of Americans believe that the Bible is “accurate in all the principles that it teaches.” What is disturbing is the inroad such beliefs are making into the church.
In the survey, “Born Again Christians” were those who said “they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are certain that they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.”
While born again Christians who were asked the same question did better than Americans at large, it was not much better. While half of Americans did not believe the Bible was accurate, 21% likewise did not believe the Bible to be accurate. As for the belief in absolute moral truth, even a majority of born-again Christians, 54%, no longer accept that.
The Barna Group’s uses these and four other beliefs, such as Jesus lived a sinless life, to define a Christian world view. Those who hold all six beliefs are then said to have a Christian world view. Based on this the survey shows that only 9% of Americans have a Christian world view. Born again Christians do better, but not much. Only 19% of Born Again Christians could say that they hold all six beliefs.
In a broader perspective, this decline in belief has been going on for sometime. It reached a low point in the mid 1990s when only 7% of American held a Biblical world view. The trend reversed somewhat climbing back up to 11% by 2005, but now is back down to 9%.
Worse however, are the statistics for the younger generations. Those in the 18 to 23 year age group, commonly called the Mosaic generation, were virtually completely secularized, as less than one-half of one percent had a biblical world view.
Now those pushing the secular world view, would undoubtedly say that was because of the superiority of the secular world view and that people are just rejecting the false superstitions of the past. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they. Ultimately I do not think they can be blamed, any more than you could blame a prosecutor if you lost a trial where the evidence was on your side, but your defense lawyer never bother to get up to present your side of the case.
I do believe the evidence is on our side. In some cases very clearly. In fact, in my classes on critical thinking I would use the rejection of absolute morality as an example of how people don’t really think through what they believe.
I would ask how many in the class believed in absolute moral truth, and would get results similar to those found by Barna. I would then ask if torturing babies for fun was inherently wrong, or was a matter of opinion where for some it was wrong, but for other it might not be. With the exception of one student, all the students in all the classes where I asked this considered torturing babies for fun inherently wrong, and the one who didn’t was not very comfortable with his conclusion but was being honest with his belief that there was no absolute moral truth.
Thus with one simple question I was able to almost completely turn around people’s thinking on absolute morality. Granted, winning over the culture will not be quite as easy as this, but on the other hand it is not the insurmountable problem that some seem to think, nor is everything lost.
Still the Church is like the defense attorney with a strong case to make who never presents it. Josh McDowell, in his book The Last Christian Generation, discusses how many young people see church as little more than a place to go with a lot of fun activities, but with little impact on their lives. This is also seen in the very large number of people who leave the church when they leave home.
Yet it need not be this way. The Church not only has the truth, but in many cases the preponderance of the evidence to back it up. Yet sadly many Christians have the attitude of ‘I already believe’ so they don’t need to learn about things like doctrine or apologetics. In fact, it is not only quite sad, but very telling, that many Christians do not even know what the word apologetics means. Given this, the results from Barna, are really no surprise.