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Survey Tracks Biblical Worldview Among U.S. Adults

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Monday, August 07, 2023 @ 08:38 AM Survey Tracks Biblical Worldview Among U.S. Adults Matthew White The Stand Writer MORE

(Digital Editor's Note: This article was published first in the August 2023 print edition of The Stand.)

In 2020, Arizona Christian University launched its Cultural Research Center (CRC) and named veteran researcher Dr. George Barna as its director. The center’s vision is “to produce credible research and analysis to show the transformational impact of the biblical worldview on American culture.”

The CRC conducts national surveys that track the state of American culture and prevailing worldviews, then distributes the results to media, faculty, donors, and ministry partners in hopes the information will assist in identifying and addressing cultural challenges.

Survey findings lend insight to a broad range of topics from election research, millennial views, and information about parents and pastors to American’s views on sin, salvation, truth, and other faith- related concepts.

Since its inception, a staple of the CRC has been the American Worldview Inventory (AWVI), an annual survey that analyzes the worldview of the U.S. adult population. The assessment is based on 54 worldview-related questions designed to measure both belief and behavior. The survey is generally conducted early in the year, followed by a series of media releases of data gleaned from the survey over the remainder of the year.

A recently released report, AWVI 2023 Release 2: Research Identifies the Best Starting Point for Developing a Biblical Worldview, shed light on seven particular beliefs, that, when embraced, cause one to develop a consistently biblical life in both thought and deed. Barna described these as “the seven cornerstones of a biblical worldview.”

What is a worldview?

“A worldview is a set of beliefs that produce specific behaviors,” Barna explained in the report. “People do what they believe; behavior is the tangible outcome of belief. If you believe what the Bible teaches, you will behave in harmony with those beliefs, but if you do not have biblical beliefs as a foundation, it is highly unlikely that you will behave biblically. If you have a set of fundamentally sound beliefs from which your behaviors will emerge, the chances are much greater that you will demonstrate biblically resonant actions.”

But he cautions that embracing the seven cornerstones merely so that one can claim a biblical worldview is not the goal. The goal is to actually live in concert with those beliefs.

“A biblical worldview is imperative,” Barna said, “because it is the only pathway to being able to consistently think like Jesus so that we can then live like Him.”

Research findings

Despite all people having a worldview, whether biblical or not, the survey consistently revealed that a very small percentage of people possess a pure worldview; rather, most have inconsistently blended beliefs from various views, thus creating their own.

The research revealed that of those who reject one or more of the seven cornerstones in the survey, only 2% possessed a biblical worldview. Conversely, more than four out of five people (83%) who embrace all seven cornerstones do possess a biblical worldview.

What are these foundational truths that must be accepted? Unsurprisingly, they are not complex but basic Christian tenets.

“What’s so shocking about these beliefs is how basic and simple they are,” Barna said. “These are not advanced theological principles; they are straightforward principles of how to make the most of the gift of life.”

Barna outlined the seven cornerstones as follows: (Some are summarized for brevity.)

▶ 1. One must possess an orthodox, biblical understanding of God.

▶ 2. All human beings are sinful by nature, and choices have moral considerations and consequences.

▶ 3. The consequences of sin can only be forgiven and eliminated through faith in Jesus Christ, and forgiveness is available only by personal acknowledgment and confession and complete reliance on His grace.

▶ 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, described in the Bible, and are unchanging.

▶ 6. The ultimate purpose of human life is to know, love, and serve God with all of one’s heart, mind, and strength.

▶ 7. Success on earth is best understood as consistent obedience to God in thoughts, words, and action.

Although these are basic tenets of the Christian faith, a mere 3% of adults embrace all seven cornerstones for their life. The majority, 80%, embrace at least one or more of the cornerstones, while a startling 20% reject all seven.

Digging deeper into the research, the numbers were even less encouraging for younger adults. Of those ages 18-29, only 1% agreed with all seven principles. Only 10% believed that some, but not all, were valid.

Taken all together, the 2023 numbers indicated a 33% drop in U.S. adults’ belief in a biblical worldview since the COVID-19 pandemic attacked in 2020.

Disappointing but hopeful

Barna expressed disappointment with how few Americans have adopted these basic scriptural principles to frame their worldview and govern their life.

Many view the foundational beliefs as too restrictive or archaic. But as Barna noted, “These rules for life were provided to us by a Creator who loves us and wants us to succeed even more than we do.”

Although the number of Americans possessing a biblical worldview has declined since 2020 when the CRC began researching the topic, there were some slight trends in a positive direction in the 2023 findings.

Americans’ current views on three of the seven cornerstones remained basically the same as in 2020. Four of the beliefs, however, showed a statistically significant change over the past three years, including three that moved closer to a biblical perspective.

The one negative change showed fewer Americans today (25%) believe in absolute truth, down from 32% in 2020.

The largest positive trend was how Americans define meaning and purpose, with 7% more embracing a biblical view of purpose than in 2020. Belief in the Bible being the Word of God and a recognition of the sin nature of humans both shared a 5% increase above the 2020 results.

Concerning the positive trends, Barna optimistically said, “Worldview is not static. We don’t often see adults initiating large shifts in their life philosophy, but these statistics remind us that such change is possible, especially in times of social instability and uncertainty such as we have today.”

Barna suggested Christians seize the opportunity presented in the current cultural climate to lead others toward embracing a worldview based on biblical principles.

“People interested in helping others move toward a biblical worldview are likely to find greater receptivity during this cultural window of opportunity – especially if such conversations and encouragement occur within the context of a personal, trust-based relationship,” concluded Barna.

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