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George Barna says most Americans blend beliefs together as 'customized worldview': 'Nation in crisis'

George Barna, founder of The Barna Group
Evangelical pollster George Barna speaks at the Family Research Council's Pray Vote Stand Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept. 16, 2022. |

Prominent Evangelical pollster George Barna says that most Americans blend their beliefs to create "a customized worldview" that is far from biblical as the country is in a spiritual "crisis."

The founder of The Barna Group, who now leads the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University, spoke at the Family Research Council's Pray Vote Stand Summit last week, a Christian conservative voting rally held in Atlanta. 

Barna, who also serves as an FRC senior fellow, told those gathered that he believes one of the "brilliant strategies of the evil one" is luring people into believing that they can combine and adopt as many worldviews as they want.

Barna warned that "America is a nation in crisis" because its citizens do not hold a biblical worldview and will instead add their own "worldly ideas." 

"Your worldview is the filter that you use to see and understand and experience and respond to the world around you. Because your worldview enables you to make sense of the world, you need a worldview just to get through every day," Barna explained. 

"In fact, every single decision that you make, and you make hundreds of them if not thousands of decisions every single day — every one of those flows through your worldview. The choices that you make are a result of what you believe, as described by your worldview." 

The Pray Vote Stand event, which was a three-day summit starting last Wednesday, aimed to "equip and encourage believers [by] discussing current cultural issues impacting faith, family and freedom and evaluating these through the lens of a biblical worldview."  

"The crisis is that the predominant worldview in America is syncretism," he said.

Barna cited research conducted by the Cultural Research Center showing that there are seven major worldviews that Americans are most influenced by: biblical theism, Eastern mysticism, Marxism, moralistic therapeutic deism, nihilism, postmodernism and secular humanism.

"As we look at America today, we know that there are a number of competing worldviews competing for the heart and the soul of the nation," Barna said.  

"Each has a different understanding of everything that takes place in the world, a different explanation for why things are happening, a different concept of how you might best live your life." 

The most common worldview isn't any of the eight main adopted ones, according to Barna, who noted that the primary worldview dominating America is "syncretism," or varying combinations of all eight worldviews into one belief system.

"As we've done this research, what we've discovered is that, frankly, we don't like any of them. Instead, what we do is we listen to all of them, and we take bits and pieces from each one. And we blend that together into a customized worldview that describes what we feel, what we think, what we want, where we want to go, how we want to live," Barna explained. 

"[Syncretism] really doesn't have a mind of its own. It doesn't have a pathway of its own. It doesn't have a consistent, constant narrative. It is what you make it. And so, we live in a nation that's difficult to direct in a different way."

Barna called syncretism one of "the brilliant strategies of the evil one," because "when you have a nation of 255 million adults and another 80 million children who are choosing bits and pieces from many different worldviews, and they come up with their own personalized, customized way of thinking and living, that's much more difficult to combat because every person, in essence, requires a different strategy." 

Barna reported that 6% of Americans currently possess a biblical worldview, meaning that less than 10% have "thinking and behavior [that] isn't perfect, but it's closely aligned with what the Bible teaches." 

"In the 30 years or so that I've been measuring this, what we discovered is that [Americans with a biblical worldview] has been cut in half during that time. It's on the decline. And what we're finding is that right now, that decline is faster than it has been in quite a while," Barna said.

"The biblical worldview [is important because it's a] way of experiencing, interpreting and responding to reality that's consistent with biblical perspectives. It's interesting that we have a nation where almost seven out of 10 adults call themselves Christian, but only six out of every 100 try to think like Jesus so that they can live like Jesus. So, there's a big gap there." 

A person's worldview is "crucial to defining who [they] are, and how [they] live," Barna noted, because a person will always do what they believe.

"If you don't do it, you don't really believe it. So we have to see that consistency in there. A biblical worldview is critical because that's what enables you to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. If that's your goal in life, what you're saying is 'I want to think like Jesus so that I can live like Jesus,'" Barna said. 

"But in order to do that, notice first, as Romans 12 talks to us about, you have to have your mind' renewed,' you must be 'transformed' by that 'renewing of your mind' with God's principles at the core of all of your thoughts so that you can in fact live like Christ." 

According to Barna, the only way to achieve cultural transformation is if people choose to "believe God's truths," which in turn will allow them to "act upon those truths based upon those things that you believe." 

"We are here to be salt and light. That's what transformation is: changing the world around us forever based on God's truths. But in order to do that, we need a healthy Church — Capital C. We need believers who get it, believers who are willing to put their lives on the line," Barna said.

"As you're thinking about what you can do, first of all, think about your church wherever you go. Think about the other churches that you can influence through your relationships, through your activities. What can we do from top to bottom to cleanse the Church, to make it holy and righteous, to make it biblical, to make it capable of bringing people back to Jesus?" 

Barna stressed the importance of pastors in helping parents raise godly children, saying that pastors who guide parents to know Jesus more intimately will allow those same parents to have biblical wisdom to guide their children.

"As you read the Scriptures, you find that biblically, it is the role of the community of faith, i.e., our churches, to be supporting families and particularly parents in that process, equipping them for raising up their children to be dynamic followers of Jesus Christ," Barna advised.

As he emphasized this need for pastors and parents to "get in the game and fight for Jesus," Barna also pointed to a CRC report which found that only 2% of U.S. parents with children under the age of 13 have a biblical worldview. 

"Why does that matter?" Barna said. "Because you can't give what you don't have. And here we have 98 out of every 100 parents in America who cannot give their children a biblical worldview because they don't have one." 

FRC President Tony Perkins, a leading evangelical conservative political activist who is also a Baptist pastor, blamed some pastors for being hesitant to "preach the full counsel of God."

"As a result, we have Christians that are hesitant to live out their faith. We need our pastors who understand the Bible and its application to the world in which we live, the times in which we live. That is what we talk about a biblical worldview." 

A study released earlier this year by the Cultural Research Center of 1,000 pastors found that 37% of Christian pastors in the United States have a biblical worldview, while the majority possess the hybrid syncretism worldview.

The study was based on 54 worldview-related questions and found that only 47% of the pastors have a biblical worldview regarding family and the value of life; 44% concerning issues related to God, creation and history; 43% in relation to personal faith practices; 43% when it comes to matters of sin, salvation and one's relationship with God; 40% pertaining to human character and human nature; and 40% when it comes to measures of lifestyle, personal behavior, and relationships.

With pastors under the sway of syncretism, the Cultural Research Center also found that parents of preteens are in a "spiritual state of distress" because parents many don't possess a biblical worldview. 

"The American Church has lowered the entry bar so much that it is difficult to identify any beliefs that disqualify one from claiming to be Christian. The parents of children under the age of 13 are a stellar example of this Christian nominalism that is widely accepted as spiritually normal and healthy," Barna said earlier this year.

"Indeed, a worldview is comprised of a unified series of beliefs that then determine behavior. The alarm bell has not been rung because there is no single belief, or even limited series of identified beliefs, that are acknowledged as undermining Christianity or disqualifying an amenable adult from being considered a disciple of Jesus."

As his address at last week's summit ended, Barna told the crowd that changing the statistics "is not going to happen overnight." 

"America didn't get in this mess that it's in today overnight. And we're not going to turn it around overnight. But we need to start somewhere. It starts with you. And it starts today. And I pray that you will go out there and be Jesus to the world," Barna concluded. 

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