A new survey reveals the scope of influence of non-Christian belief systems on the mindsets of practicing Christians, with large percentages of them agreeing with ideas from other faiths and secular philosophies.
The research from Barna in cooperation with Summit Ministries released this week measured how much the central beliefs of other worldviews like "new spirituality," secularism, postmodernism, and Marxism have affected the beliefs of Christians about the world and how it should be.
Their "widespread influence upon Christian thinking is evident not only among competing worldviews, but even among competing religions," the survey report reads.
In a web-based survey conducted in March of 1,456 practicing Christians, researchers asked the sample if they agreed with several statements that are rooted in so-called "new spirituality." Sixty-one percent of them affirmed at least one of the questions.
Nearly 30 percent agreed that "all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being." About that same percentage of people said they believe that "meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is."
The influence of this spirituality has also seeped into the thinking of Christians on matters of ethics, with approximately one third believing in a form of karma. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they agreed with the statement "if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad," which although not found in Scripture appeals to a sense of justice many have.
"This research really crystallizes what Barna has been tracking in our country as an ongoing shift away from Christianity as the basis for a shared worldview," said Brooke Hempell, senior vice president of research for Barna, in the report.
"We have observed and reported on increasing pluralism, relativism and moral decline among Americans and even in the Church. Nevertheless, it is striking how pervasive some of these beliefs are among people who are actively engaged in the Christian faith."
Because fragments and similarities to Christian teachings exist within other systems of thought, this poses a challenge.
"[S]ome may recognize and latch on to these ideas, not realizing they are distortions of biblical truths," Hempell noted.
"The call for the Church, and its teachers and thinkers, is to help Christians dissect popular beliefs before allowing them to settle in their own ideology."
The survey also presented statements rooted in postmodernism, secularism, and Marxism, asking Christians if they agreed with them. Those numbers were lower than those who agreed with "new spirituality." Still, overall, 54 percent agreed with some postmodernist views, 36 percent accepted ideas associated with Marxism and 29 percent said they believe ideas based on secularism.
More specifically, ten percent of practicing Christians said they believed the "secular" view that "a belief has to be proven by science to know that it is true." The postmodern statement "what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes" resonated strongly with 23 percent of practicing Christians. Eleven percent of respondents agreed with the Marxist statement "Private property encourages greed and envy."
Demographically, men, often at a two to one ratio, were more open to these non-Christian worldviews than women in all categories. In about half of the survey's questions, Americans of color were more likely than white Americans to lend credence to non-Christian worldviews.
Millennials and Gen-Xers, who came of age in a culture under considerably less influence of the Christian faith, were eight times as likely to embrace non-Christian worldviews than were respondents from the Baby Boomer and Elder generations, the study found.