You would think that all Christians have a biblical view of the world around them. After all, we go to church, we're a part of a small group, we've read The Purpose-Driven Life. Are you ready for a reality check? The research says just the opposite. Most Christians do not have a biblical worldview.
Author and researcher George Barna made waves by citing statistics that show just 9 percent of all adults in America who claim to be "born again" have a biblical worldview. You didn't read that incorrectly-it was 9 percent. Protestants as a whole could only manage 7 percent with a biblical worldview (The Barna Research Group, January 12, 2004).
But that can't be possible, can it? How could only 9 percent of born again adults view the world with a biblical focus? Let me make a few observations.
Bible illiteracy is rampant in the church
Like it or not, it's time we faced up to the fact that we Christians are blatantly biblically illiterate. We don't know the Bible nearly as well as we think we do.
To say that Bible illiteracy is rampant in America is black eye for a nation that thinks of itself as Christian. Sixty-five percent of Americans agree that the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life." Amazingly, 28% of Americans who believe the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life" say they rarely or never read the Bible (The Gallup Organization, October 20, 2000). Therein lies the problem.
But that's the American public. What about the American church? Surely we aren't as biblically illiterate as our unchurched neighbor? Don't count on it.
Among those individuals who are associated with the Christian faith, only half (50%) rate themselves as being "absolutely committed" to the Christian faith (Barna Research Group, March 19, 2004). This lack of commitment to the faith often stems from a lack of commitment to the Word of God, the foundation for our faith.
In 2004, 16% of all adults agreed somewhat that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings compared with 19% in 2002 and 25% in 1991. Still, 12 percent of born again Christians disagree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings (Barna Research Group, "The Bible," 2004).
This innate mistrust of the Bible has resulted in millions of people owning Bibles but very few reading or believing them. The percentage of frequent readers, those who read the Bible at least once a week, has decreased from 40% in 1990 to 37% today. Only one American in seven reports an involvement with the Bible that goes beyond reading it (The Gallup Organization, October 20, 2000). The "born again" segment of the population fares only slightly better.
But with more programs, more 40-day adventures, more training in leadership skills, surely today's pastors are better equipped than ever before to help their people out of the quagmire of Bible illiteracy. You'd think.
Pastors often do not themselves hold biblical worldviews.
Isaiah 56:11 makes reference to "shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way . . . ." We have to be careful not to generalize here because there are many fine men of God who are concerned about their people's understanding of the Word. Still, an increasing number "look to their own way," or if not their own way, the way of the latest hot book on church growth.
Based on interviews with 601 Senior Pastors nationwide, representing a random cross-section of Protestant churches, Barna reports that only half of the country's Protestant pastors 51% - have a biblical worldview (Barna Research Group, January 12, 2004).
George Barna argued, "The low percentage of Christians who have a biblical worldview is a direct reflection of the fact that half of our primary religious teachers and leaders (senior pastors) do not have one."
In some denominations, the vast majority of clergy do not have a biblical worldview, and it shows up clearly in the data related to the theological views and moral choices of people who attend those churches" (Barna Research Group, January 12, 2004).
The result of Bible illiteracy is theological heterodoxy.
Heterodoxy is just a big word for whacky theology. Because people in the pews don't know their Bibles very well, and because the pastor feels constrained to preach so as not to offend the mixed multitude attending church on Sunday morning, born-again adults are beginning to formulate some beliefs and practices that are anything but biblical.
George Barna says that Americans willingly "embrace beliefs that are logically contradictory and their preference for blending different faith views together create unorthodox religious viewpoints."
Consider these findings:
n Among born again Christians, 10% believe that people are reincarnated after death.
n Among born again Christians, 29% claim it is possible to communicate with the dead.
n Fifty percent of born again Christians contend that a person can earn salvation based upon good works (Barna Research Group, October 21, 2003).
Don't miss this. We are not talking about the beliefs of Americans here. We aren't even talking about the beliefs of churched Americans. We are talking about "born-again, churched Americans." These are things believed by the people who sat in the pew next to you last Sunday.
4. Biblical illiteracy that leads to theological heterodoxy always leads to moral frailty.
Those who have a biblical worldview also hold to biblical concepts and standards for living. Here's the proof.
n Less than one-half of one percent of those with a biblical worldview said voluntary exposure to pornography was morally acceptable (compared to 39% of other adults).
n Those people with a biblical worldview were eight times less likely to buy lottery tickets and 17 times less likely to place bets than those who did not have a biblical worldview.
n While one out of every eight adults who lack a biblical worldview had sexual relations with someone other than their spouse during the prior month, less than one out of every 100 individuals who have such a worldview had done so (Barna Research Group, December 1, 2003).
Obviously knowing the Bible well impacts living with a biblical worldview and vice versa.
Follow the progression. We read our Bibles less and therefore understand less biblical truth. We attend a church where biblical truth was once the hallmark of the pulpit, but today the pulpit has been removed and we are fed a steady diet of spiritual gummy bears, more taste-less filling.
As a dumbed-down church we look for a belief system that matches others who have come into the church or those we read or watch on Christian television or hear on Christian radio.
We are so biblically ignorant we don't even know that we've adopted beliefs that are much closer to Eastern mysticism than Christian orthodoxy. As a result, even though we are proudly part of the "born again" segment of Christianity, we hold a worldview that is no more biblical than our non-churched neighbor.
Does that hurt? It should. The truth often hurts. But we cannot correct the flaws in our worldview until we admit those flaws exist. And do they ever exist!
In future articles we'll address what you can do if you feel your worldview weakening. For now, get back to the Bible and you'll start to reverse the progression toward moral malaise.