Christian parents' 'scrambled philosophy of life' turns children away from Christianity: Barna

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Many self-identified Christian parents hold views that contradict the teachings of their faith, raising concerns about their ability to provide their children with an upbringing grounded in authentic biblical teachings, according to a new survey.

The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University released the third installment of its American Worldview Inventory on Tuesday, which provides “a detailed look at how the worldview of parents of preteens misses the mark.” The survey is based on responses from a sample of 600 parents of children younger than 13 conducted in January and a subsequent survey of 1,000 parents of preteen children conducted in February.

The survey broke respondents down into two categories: all parents of preteens and self-identified Christian parents of preteens. The results of the survey reveal that in most cases, the views and beliefs of self-identified Christian parents of preteens do not differ dramatically from the views and beliefs of parents of preteens as a whole.

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While 24% of parents of preteens view the Bible as their “primary source of moral guidance,” 33% of self-identified Christian parents said the same. Twenty-six percent of parents with children younger than 13 reject “the belief that moral absolutes do not exist” and believe that “individuals determine truth for themselves,” along with 24% of self-identified Christian parents.

Just 29% of parents with preteen children think that “the basis of truth is God, revealed through the Bible,” along with 38% of self-identified Christian parents. The share of all parents of preteens and specifically Christian parents of preteens who “reject the claim that there is no objective moral Truth” and believe that it “is always personal and subjective” was measured at 35% and 38%, respectively.

While a majority of self-identified Christian parents (55%) view the Bible as “the accurate words of God,” just 42% of parents overall possess the same belief about the Bible. When asked about lifestyle choices, just 10% of parents of preteens believe that “accumulated wealth is entrusted to us by God to manage for His purposes.”

Only a slightly higher number of self-identified Christians (14%) abide by that view of money. Fifteen percent of preteen parents overall think that “success is constant obedience to God,” along with 21% of self-identified Christian parents.

Additionally, 27% of parents of preteens and 23% of self-identified Christian parents “do not accept the notion that having faith matters more than which faith.” When asked whether they believed that the “purpose of life is to know, love, [and] serve God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul,” 28% of the full sample of preteen parents answered in the affirmative, as did 37% of the subsample of Christian preteen parents.

Roughly half of parents of preteens (49%) and a slim majority of Christian parents of preteens (52%) agree that “intentionally declaring tax deductions you know you are ineligible for is morally unacceptable.”

In a statement, George Barna, the director of Research at the Cultural Research Center, warned of the impact that parents’ embrace of a “scrambled philosophy of life” that does not reflect authentic, biblical Christianity has on their children: “When children are exposed to teaching — through words or actions, whether formal or informal — that are contradictory, they naturally conclude that the Christian faith is inherently contradictory and therefore may not be what they are seeking as a life philosophy.”

“Parents, to whom the Bible assigns the primary responsibility for shaping the worldview of their children, are called to equip youngsters to grow up in relationship and with service to God. That requires the intentional and consistent development of a biblical worldview in the minds and hearts of children, since every person’s worldview begins developing before their second birthday,” he added.

Barna lamented that “parents are not devoted to biblical worldview development in their children partly because they do not possess a biblical worldview to pass on to their progeny.”

In a previous report, Barna laid out the beliefs associated with a biblical worldview, including “believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works.”

Additional beliefs associated with a biblical worldview include the ideas that “Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.” Tuesday’s report demonstrates that a large number of self-identified Christian parents hold views that contradict the biblical worldview. 

The share of preteen parents as a whole and Christian parents who believe that “When you die you will go to Heaven but only because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior” was measured at 24% and 33%, respectively. A narrow majority (51%) of Christian parents believe that “God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect, and just creator of the universe who rules that universe today.” That belief was shared by 40% of all parents of preteens.

At the same time, 27% of all preteen parents disagreed “that the Holy Spirit is not a living entity but is just a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity,” and 35% disagreed “that when He lived on earth, Jesus Christ was fully divine and also fully human, and therefore, committed sins, like other people.” Self-identified Christians were less likely to disagree with the aforementioned statements that contradict Christian teaching, with 24% seeing the Holy Spirit as merely a symbol and 33% thinking that Jesus committed sins.

Small majorities of self-identified Christian parents believe that the “universe and everything in it was designed, created, and sustained by God” (57%) and “do not believe the universe came into existence without any type of divine assistance” (53%). Forty-four percent of the entire sample of parents think that God created everything in the universe and 45% reject the idea that the creation of the universe is simply a physical phenomenon. 

The survey also asked parents for their beliefs about marriage and sexuality. While a majority of Christian parents with children younger than 13 (51%) agreed that “having an abortion to avoid the personal hardships of raising the child is morally unacceptable,” the share of parents who subscribed to other declarations asserting traditional Christian teachings was much lower.

Much smaller proportions of Christian parents believed that an “unmarried couple having sexual relations with each other because they love each other and expect to get married is morally unacceptable” (29%), “marriage of one man to one woman is God’s plan for humanity, across all cultures” (42%)” and “disagree that the Bible is ambiguous about abortion” (35%).

Less than one-third of preteen parents (26%) as well as Christian preteen parents (31%) think that “human life is sacred.” Similarly, just 20% of preteen parents and 28% of Christian parents with young children “people are born into sin and can only be saved from its consequences by Jesus Christ.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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