Bible beliefs 'much closer to extinction in America'

(Photo by Joe Kovacs)
(Photo by Joe Kovacs)

A new study by Christian pollster George Barna comparing Americans’ religious beliefs and practices before and after the COVID pandemic finds some stunning departures from biblically faithful Christianity — including a 14 point drop, from 58%-44%, in the percentage of “born-again” Christians who believe Jesus lived a sinless life on Earth.

The survey, released April 20 and conducted by the Cultural Research Center (CRC), based at Arizona Christian University, in Glendale, Arizona, finds a mere 4% of overall Americans polled who possess a “biblical worldview,” down from 6%, while among born-again Christians, “the incidence of biblical worldview among them fell from 19% in 2020 to 13% in 2023.”

In another finding the report, which compares religious beliefs and practices in 2020, before the pandemic, to 2023, found a huge drop among born-again Christians — from 85% to just 50% — who say they are “deeply committed to practicing [their] faith.”

It’s not all bad news, though: the poll found a 14% uptick (from 32%-46%) in the percentage of people polled who agree that, “There are moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time.”

More Americans in 2023 (46%, up from 41% in 2020) believe the Bible is the “true and completely accurate word of God,” according to the poll. And born-again Christians registered a leap from 47% to 59% who accept the biblical teaching that sex “between two people who are not married to each other is morally unacceptable.”

Portion of Barna poll comparing ‘born-again’ Christians’ beliefs in 2020 (pre-COVID) to 2023. Note the drop in belief in core Christian beliefs such as the sinless life of Jesus on Earth, and the notion that ‘Human life is sacred.’ Conversely, the poll registered a 9-point increase in Christians who agree with the statement: “The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Screenshot / Christian Research Center study, ‘How the Faith of Americans Has Shifted Since the Start of the Pandemic’)

The CRC study, “How the Faith of Americans Has Shifted Since the Start of the Pandemic,” released April 20, compares 2,000 U.S. adults in 2000 to the same number in 2023. Of those totals, 671 were considered born-again Christians in the 2020 survey and 650 were considered born-again in the 2023 survey. It is part of CRC’s ongoing to attempt to quantify Americans’ adherence to a biblical worldview since the COVID pandemic began.

The poll’s cross-tabs measure and compare two sets of Americans: a general group of randomly selected respondents, and “born again” Christians who voiced belief in the biblical gospel (“good news”) that they cannot count on their own goodness to get to heaven but rather the saving grace of God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died to pay the price for their sins.

Here are some other notable findings in the report:

  • A 12 percentage drop, from 60% to 14%, in Americans generally who agree with the statement: “You are deeply committed to practicing your religious faith”;
  • A 14% drop, from 58-44%, in born-again Christians who believe the “Bible is unambiguous in its teaching about abortion”;
  • A whopping 42% drop, from 88%-46% among born-again Christians who agree with the statement: “You have a unique, God-given calling or purpose for your life”;
  • A 12-point drop in overall Americans’ religious beliefs, from 39%-29% who believe that “Human life is sacred.”

In a phone interview with WND, Barna ascribed the contradictory results of his survey to Americans’ predominant worldview of “syncretism,” which his report describes as “combining beliefs from a variety of worldviews into an unpredictable, customized blend that satisfies the emotional needs of the individual.”

“The results are confusing and contradictory because people are confused, and that includes many Christians,” Barna told WND. “The leading worldview is syncretism, and syncretism is essentially a confused belief system.”

He said the shocking, 35-point drop in born-again Christians who say they are “deeply committed” to practicing their faith is a reality-check brought on by the COVID pandemic and the government’s extreme, devastating lockdowns.

“Many self-professed Christians are not deeply committed, although they always seem to think they are,” Barna said. “Then the pandemic and the government’s extreme reaction to it came along and many who were hit hard by it said to themselves, ‘My faith really didn’t hold up for me.'”

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Barna said American evangelical churches, especially “megachurches,” are “really good at marketing, but they’re not very good at discipling believers, and building up in their members a depth of commitment to Jesus.”

He said this unique, post-COVID era presents an amazing opportunity for faithful Christians to befriend, witness to, and disciple people in crisis, be they spiritually wandering family members, friends, or co-workers. He said many people are asking big questions about life and God in the wake of the pandemic, and the “remnant” of deeply committed followers of Jesus need to share the love and hope of Christ with them.

But beyond that, he said, Christians need to disciple new believers, or old believers, to help ground them in their faith.

“People will not become more committed as believers unless someone gets close to them and disciples them,” he said, adding that there is a “dearth of discipleship” in the larger church.

Biblical worldview?

Regarding the stunning drop of born-again Christians (58% in 2020 to 44% in 2023) who say they do not agree with the fundamental Christian and biblical belief that “Jesus did not commit sins during His time on Earth,” Barna told WND: “Most born-again Christians do not have a biblical worldview,” something he has been saying a very long time.

The CRC report states, “All told, there were 13 statistically significant changes identified among the born-again population — and the magnitude of the shift for two of them is quite astonishing.” The first is the 35-point drop described above among those who say they are “deeply committed” to their faith. The second is a 42-point drop, from 88%-46%, in respondents saying they have a “unique God-given calling or purpose for their life.”

In a previous report released in March, Barna laid out seven “cornerstones” of a biblical worldview:

  1. An orthodox, biblical understanding of God;
  2. All human beings are sinful by nature; every choice we make has moral considerations and consequences;
  3. The consequences of our sin can only be forgiven and eliminated through Jesus Christ. That forgiveness is available only by our personal, sincere acknowledgment and confession of our sins and complete reliance on His grace for the forgiveness of those sins’
  4. The entire Bible is true, reliable and relevant, making it the best moral guide for every person in all situations;
  5. Absolute moral truth exists — and those truths are defined by God, describes in the Bible, and are unchanging across time and cultures;
  6. The ultimate purpose of human life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul;
  7. Success on Earth is best understood as consistent obedience to God — in thoughts, words and actions.

“When you put the data in perspective, the biblical worldview is shuffling toward the edge of the cliff,” Barna said in the CRC’s first release of its “Worldview Inventory 2023,” released in February. “As things stand today, biblical theism is much closer to extinction in America than it is to influencing the soul of the nation. The current incidence of adults with the biblical worldview is the lowest since I began measuring it in the early 1990s.”

The veteran evangelical researcher cautioned, “Young people, in particular, are largely isolated from biblical thought in our society and are the most aggressive at rejecting biblical principles in our culture.”

The newest report describes “indefensible shifts in born-again beliefs,” and said “six beliefs of born-again Christians endured significant decline in the past three years.”

Barna told WND the vast majority of Americans, including so many self-identified Christians, lack a biblical worldview because they do not prioritize the study of Scripture, and because they take their cues from “the most powerful influence” in the culture: “arts and entertainment.”

Under the heading, “Declines in Biblical Behavior,” the CRC report states “there was a dramatic drop among born-again adults in being deeply committed to practicing their religious faith. Another decline is in studying or reading the Bible during a typical week, which declined 5 points, from 60% in 2020 to 55% in 2023.”

Barna told WND he hopes America’s spiritual crisis has “bottomed out,” but whether it has or not, the most pressing question for faithful Christians is this: “Will the five percent of ‘remnant’ believers … who are sold out to Him recognize this moment of opportunity” to share their faith and disciple new followers of the Savior?

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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