Think Like Jesus: The American State of Mind
- Monday, November 24, 2003
If you have a heart, a mind and a soul-and you do-then you also have a worldview. Remember, your worldview is the product of all the information, ideas, and experiences you absorb to form the values, morals, and beliefs that you possess. But few people spend much time, if any, consciously examining their life lens, even though it largely defines who they are and how they behave.
For the past two decades, I have been conducting national surveys to track key aspects of people's worldviews. Let me share some of what I've discovered about the worldview elements of born-again Christians.
Why examine the life lens of only that group of people? Because they represent the foundation of God's Church and are the very people on whom He relies to communicate His principles and standards to others. If the born-again constituency has a life lens that accurately represents God's view of reality, then there is a firm foundation on which to build the Church and a culture that understands, loves, fears, serves, honors and glorifies God.
But if the born-again community generally does not possess a worldview that squares with Scripture, then we have a much bigger and more serious problem to address.
Possessing a Biblical Worldview
To ascertain the nature of people's worldview, we ask how they make their moral and ethical choices. After extensive interviewing of a large cross-section of the nation's population, we have learned that there are several popular perspectives that drive people's moral decision-making.
- Among born-again adults, six out of ten follow a set of specific principles or standards they believe in that serve as behavioral guidelines.
- Two out of ten born-again adults do whatever feels right or comfortable in a given situation.
- One out of ten born-again individuals do whatever they believe will make the most people happy or will create the least amount of conflict with others.
- Lesser numbers of believers-about one out of ten-make their moral choices on the basis of whatever they think will produce the most personally beneficial outcome, whatever they believe their family or friends would expect them to do, or whatever they think other people would do in the same situation.
Among the largest group-those who say they base their moral decisions on specific principles and standards-we then ask about the nature of those guidelines. Through this line of questioning we discover that slightly fewer than half use the Bible as their source of life lens principles and standards.
About two out of ten lean on the values and views taught to them by their parents, and a similar proportion say other religious teaching or ideas shape their moral decisions. One out of ten say the principles of impact are based on feelings, and about one in sixteen say their life experiences determine their morals and ethics. Just 2 percent say laws and public policies dictate their moral choices.
If we put all of these figures together we arrive at an understanding of how people determine right from wrong in order to make moral choices. Among all born-again adults about one-quarter make their moral and ethical choices on the basis of the Bible. One out of five bases his or her choices on whatever feels right. One out of twelve relies on what parents taught in terms of values and principles. Another one out of ten born-again adults do whatever will minimize conflict, while lesser proportions of the group trust various other approaches.
In essence, this tells us that three out of four born-again Christians overlook the Bible as their shaping worldview influence. But this also raises the question of what the one out of four who supposedly trust the Bible as their moral guide believe that God's Word says about the nature of moral truth. To measure that, we ask people if they believe that moral truth is relative to the situation or if it is absolute and unchanging.
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