Think Like Jesus: The American State of Mind
- Monday, November 24, 2003
If we accept the idea that the Bible conveys God's timeless and unchanging truths, then the survey results are nothing less than shocking.
Among those who say they rely on biblical standards and principles as their compass for moral decision-making, only half believes that all moral truth is absolute. The rest either believes that moral decisions must be made on the basis of the individual's perceptions and the specific situation, or that they haven't really thought about whether truth is relative or absolute.
That means the bottom line is that only 14 percent of born-again adults-in other words, about one out of every seven born-again adults-rely on the Bible as their moral compass and believe that moral truth is absolute. While these perspectives are not, in themselves, the totality of a Bible-based worldview, they form the foundation on which such a life lens is based. Very few born-again Christians have the foundation in place.
For the sake of context, if we examine how many other adults-that is, people who are not born-again Christians-maintain a biblical worldview, the numbers are anemic. For instance, just 2 percent of those who attend a Christian church but are not born-again (a segment that represents about half of the church-going population) have the foundation of a biblical worldview in place. Among adults associated with a Protestant church, 9 percent have a biblical life lens foundation, compared to 1 percent among Catholics.
There are huge generational differences as well. While 7 percent of those in the Builder and Seniors generations (those in their late fifties or older) base their moral decisions on the Bible and contend that morality is absolute, and 10 percent of the Baby Boomers concur, just 3 percent of the Baby Busters and only 4 percent of the oldest quarter of the Mosaic generation have a similar perspective.
Not surprisingly, women are nearly twice as likely as men to base their moral decisions on the Bible and say that morality is based on absolutes (7 percent versus 4 percent, respectively).
Overall, just 6 percent of American adults possess a solid foundation on which to build a biblical worldview.
But your view of life is not based solely on your perception of moral absolutes. Religious beliefs also play a central role in people's understanding and response to life. If we want to know whether people think like Jesus we must examine their core spiritual beliefs too. For years we have used a standard battery of six questions that begin to reveal people's adoption of central biblical principles. Specifically, we examine the following beliefs:
- God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules that universe today.
- When Jesus Christ was on earth He lived a sinless life.
- Satan is not just a symbol of evil but is a real, living entity.
- A person cannot earn their eternal salvation by being good or doing good things for other people; that salvation is the free gift of God.
- Every person who believes in Jesus Christ has a personal responsibility to share their faith in Him with other people who believe differently.
- The Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.
These six statements are, of course, an incomplete inventory of a person's belief system. There are so many additional elements that we would ideally include in a full profile of someone's spiritual perspective. To more completely think like Jesus we would have to consider views on worship, love, obedience, stewardship, service to the needy, accountability, forgiveness, and so forth.
Using even this limited scope of indicators, however, we find something very disturbing. Let's say we define a biblical worldview as one in which a person believes that the Bible is the moral standard, believes that absolute moral truths exist and are conveyed through the Bible, and possess an appropriate point of view regarding each of the six belief statements listed above.
By that definition we discover that only 9 percent of born-again adults have a biblical worldview! Another 6 percent believe in absolute moral truth and that the Bible is the repository of that truth, but do not hold appropriate views on the six theological statements. And, of course, the most disturbing finding of all is the 85 percent of America's born-again adults do not possess either the foundation or
the beliefs to qualify as having a biblical worldview.
Let me restate this in a different form: 91 percent of all born-again adults do not have a biblical worldview; 98 percent of all born-again teenagers do not have a biblical worldview.
Let's put this in perspective. As of 2003, the United States has about 210 million adults. About 175 million of them claim to be Christian. About 80 million are born-again Christians. Roughly 7 million have a biblical worldview. That is less than one out of every 30 adults in this nation.
If your heart did not just drop to the floor, you don't understand the implications of these chilling facts. When people wonder why the Christian Church is losing influence in American society-which seven out of ten American adults currently contend-the reason is that so very few think like Jesus.
God does not need a majority to get His will accomplished in our world. But these figures give new meaning to the biblical description of true believers as "the remnant."
Excepted from Think Like Jesus by George Barna, Chapter Two. Integrity Publishers.
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