“…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5)
A recent worldview survey by the American Culture and Faith Institute has revealed some alarming news. Only 10% of American adults have a biblical worldview. This is in contrast to the 46% of adults in America who claim to have such a worldview. Out of those tested, SAGE Cons (Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Christian Conservatives) fared by far the best: 90%, while adults 18-30 scored just 4%. All in all, the data makes for interesting, if not discouraging, reading.
What made this survey unique to others which have been done is that it measured behaviors as well as beliefs. In other words, George Barna, who conducted the study, was not just interested in what people said they believed but also how it affected their daily life decisions. Twenty questions regarding basic theology and twenty questions regarding behavior were asked to make the determination. Those scoring 80% of the questions correctly were considered integrated disciples, or people who had a solid biblical worldview in what they believed and how they behaved. While varying degrees of a biblical worldview were identified in different groups, the overall results confirmed what many of us already knew. The Church in American has lost much ground, and America itself can hardly be called a Christian nation in any real sense of the term.
While we may still have the trappings of a Christian nation, genuine faith is on the decline in the land of the free. Several things are very telling. Since 46% of those surveyed professed to have a biblical worldview, the first thing we must recognize is that a large majority of those making such a claim do not actually know what constitutes a biblical worldview. Secondly, it shows us that the culture is having a much greater influence on the Church than the Church is having on the culture. This is disheartening but hardly surprising.
Not long ago, average church attendance by professing believers was three times a week. Now it is three times a month, and biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. That explains why so many have no idea what constitutes a biblical worldview. Most disconcerting, perhaps, is that of those who consider themselves to be born again Christians, only 31% possessed a biblical worldview according to the survey. We can hardly expect the world to hold Christian values, but when the Church, which is called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-15) does not, things aren’t looking so good. So much for being a city set on a hill. We may still be on that hill, but the lights are burning low. The Church is far too indistinguishable from the world. This is bad news, for as someone has said, “The Church has had her greatest impact on the world when she was least like the world.” Yet it seems that the desire to conform and blend in has taken precedence over stepping up and standing out.
Here’s the thing. If you are in critical condition, the last thing you need is a doctor who is too nice to tell you the truth. Such findings as the ACFI survey reveal do not tell us all is lost. It simply tells us we have work to do. Jesus said, that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church. So, what must we do to turn the tide in our nation? First of all, we must realize that the Lord builds His Church on the immutable foundation of His Word (see Matthew 7:24-27 & Ephesians 2:20). He himself is the Chief Cornerstone and, as Paul wrote, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 3:11). If our lives are not built upon that sure foundation, our testimony will fall when the storms of the current cultural conflict assail it. We mustn’t be afraid to stand unmoved by the prevailing winds of the cultural ethos, but stand strong against the status quo which denies the objective moral truth of God’s Word. It is the Word alone which gives us a fixed reference point to know where we stand and how to direct our course.
As we look at the heroes who stand out in history, many of them were men and women of strong moral conviction and courage who were willing to stand against the cultural standards of the day and fight for truth and justice. In recent years, the story of William Wilberforce and his friends, the Clapham Sect, has stood out to me as the prime example of such conviction and courage. Wilberforce, an MP in the British parliament in the late eighteenth century, was challenged by a heavenly commission to change his world. As he wrote in his journal, “God has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade in Great Britain and the reformation of manners (morals or habits).” Against a veritable sea of opposition, Wilberforce and his army of friends – poets, politicians, wealthy businessmen, former slaves and slave ship captains – fought and ultimately won their battle, suffering many setbacks and losses along the way. The fight would take twenty years for the abolition of the slave trade, and it wasn’t until three days before his death that news reached Wilberforce that slavery itself was eradicated in the British Empire. In fact, so complete was the general overhaul of the culture, that it ushered in the Victorian era in Britain, which was known for its peace, prosperity, and high morality.
However, it is important to understand that what drove Wilberforce and his friends was not mere energy and industry, but deep moral convictions based upon God’s Word. As Barna says himself in regard to this recent worldview survey, “…we do what we believe.” In other words, it is our convictions that rule us. If we have deep moral convictions to which we are committed, we can face the challenge of our times and effect change. However, if we are undecided and non-committal, uncertain of the star by which we steer, we’ll be quickly overrun by those who are not ambivalent about the course they have chosen. And there are determined forces in our nation and in our world who want to once and for all silence the Church, quench our fire, and snuff out our light.
Close at hand is the godless, postmodern secular ideology which has replaced biblical absolutes with moral relativism in our nation, while abroad the specter of radical Islam looms darkly, dealing cruel death to the innocent and even bringing terror repeatedly to our own shores. In a day where plain statements of truth are considered trigger words and micro-aggressions, we need leaders, both in government and in the Church, who are not afraid to call evil by its name and marshal the forces necessary to stop it. We cannot fight real battles with paper swords or reach unbelievers while make-believers masquerade as disciples. We need to hear the clarion call of Jesus, who calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. After all, our God has always worked with a remnant, and the Savior who feeds a multitude with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread will have no problem touching this generation with a handful of devoted believers who have counted the cost and chosen to rally to His banner. In fact, with God, even 10% can change the world.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to immuntablebook.com. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.