A recent nationwide survey conducted by Family Research Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview asked respondents to determine what the term “biblical worldview” meant to them and whether they fit the definition they embraced. The survey revealed that 51% of American adults believe they have a biblical worldview.
To make sense of that statistic, context comes from the annual American Worldview Inventory conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. That national assessment, which is based on more than 50 questions used to track the worldview of American adults, reveals that only 6% actually have a biblical worldview, regardless of whether or not they think they have such a foundation.
So, should we be pleased that most Americans think they have a biblical worldview when they clearly do not?
My viewpoint is that the 51% figure is more problematic than encouraging. Here’s why.
At the simplest level, the fact that most people think they have a biblical worldview indicates that a large share of those adults probably do not know what the biblical worldview is.
Experience — and common sense — suggests that if someone believes they already have a biblical worldview, they are unlikely to examine and seek to improve their worldview. After all, the widely embraced axiom instructs us: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Between the half of all adults who believe they have a biblical worldview and the minority who either don’t care or don’t want one, a large majority of Americans argue that they do not have a worldview problem to solve.
Roughly 70% of U.S. adults claim to be Christian. Of those, 84% claim to have a biblical worldview. However, the American Worldview Inventory reports that only 9% of self-professed Christians actually hold a biblical worldview. That is a remarkable level of self-deception and represents a huge educational challenge for those responsible for biblical worldview development — i.e., Christian churches, schools, and families.
We may narrow our scope of concern to those who are more deeply committed to the Christian faith. Based on beliefs about sin, repentance, and salvation (rather than mere self-identification), we can determine that approximately 30% of adults are likely born-again Christians. Once again relying upon data from the two independent studies, the Center for Biblical Worldview research shows that 47% of born-again adults claim to have a biblical worldview. Yet, the American Worldview Inventory reveals that just 19% of born-again Christians actually do. That’s a substantially smaller self-deception gap than among all self-identified Christians, but it is perhaps even more significant in its implications for the church and the spiritual trajectory of the nation.
Given our research revealing that few adults ever meaningfully alter their worldview, increasing a biblical worldview in our society is a daunting challenge for those who will attempt to change the existing conditions. The current situation suggests that biblical worldview facilitators are relying upon ineffective approaches and thus must re-strategize.
In subsequent posts, I will write more about the substance and process of developing the biblical worldview. In the meantime, consider these two challenges.
First, write down some of the critical elements of your worldview. You could describe your perceptions about:
- The existence, nature, character, and purposes of God.
- The nature, character, and purpose of human beings.
- The existence, source, and application of absolute moral truth.
- The reliability, relevance, and validity of the Bible.
- Whether or not people need to be saved from their sins, and if so, how that process works.
- The existence of life after death, and the dynamics of that experience.
- Any existing spiritual or supernatural authorities, and define their powers and domains of influence.
- The definition of success for your life on earth.
Although worldview is more comprehensive than the sum of your responses to these questions, specifying your beliefs on these matters will provide a useful initial profile of your worldview. Our team will address many of these matters in forthcoming posts and has, in fact, already addressed some of these matters in articles currently on the Center for Biblical Worldview site. We hope these resources will enable you to compare your worldview to biblical teachings and principles.
Second, identify the dominant worldview of those around you. How do their worldviews differ from yours? How do their specific beliefs and behaviors reflect or reject biblical perspectives? If nothing else, this thought exercise might help you identify useful conversations to have with others.
A biblical worldview enables you to think like Jesus so that you can live like Jesus. Because your worldview is the filter through which you make all of your decisions, developing a biblical worldview is one of the foundations of a truly Christian life.
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
George Barna is Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council, and the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, a division of United in Purpose. He founded the Barna Research Group in 1984 (now The Barna Group) and has been President of Metaformation, a faith development organization, since 2009. Barna has written more than 50 books, mostly addressing cultural trends, leadership, spiritual development, and church dynamics