worldview
A new survey from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona finds that, while 69 percent of the U.S. population self-identifies as Christian, only six percent possess a biblical worldview. (Photo: J. French / Pixabay)

Survey Finds Only 9% of Self-Identified Christians Hold to Biblical Worldview

By Josh Shepherd

Today, 176 million Americans claim to be Christians—69% of the population. Yet, only 6% of U.S. adults—which is 9% of those identifying as Christians—possess a biblical worldview, believing the Bible to be accurate and reliable, among other convictions.

That’s according to a new study by researcher George Barna and the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona.

The study asserts that every person has a worldview—defined as an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual decision-making filter. And though many Americans believe they have a “biblical worldview,” very few do. (A Barna-conducted study published in May found that 51% of U.S. adults claim to have “biblical worldview”—a far cry from the percentage who actually do, according to the latest findings.)

“Two out of three Americans think of themselves as a Christian, and a majority still think that Christianity is kind of about the Bible,” Barna said in an interview at the time. “But there’s a big gap between what (self-identified Christians) believe the Bible may teach, and what the Bible actually teaches.”

While the latest figures may be shocking to some observers, they’re similar to Barna’s findings in 2003. That survey found that 4% of U.S. adults possess a biblical worldview, including 9% of “born-again Christians.”

Give a gift of $25 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Is it Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage” To donate, click here.

Analyzing specific beliefs of the faithful

The CRC study, which included 2,000 adults, classifies American believers on a spectrum of five sub-groups, from those who only self-identify as Christians to those who are termed “integrated disciples” and possess a biblical worldview. On the surface, they may all appear Christian, but the survey reveals stark differences in their core beliefs.

For instance, 61% of those who self-identify as Christians affirm that: I believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect and just Creator of the universe who still rules the universe today.

However, large majorities of self-identified Christians also report many beliefs “not in harmony with biblical teaching,” according to the survey. These include:

  • 72% argue that people are basically good
  • 66% say that ‘having faith’ matters more than which faith you pursue
  • 64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value
  • 58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into Heaven
  • 57% believe in karma

By contrast, the survey cohort termed as Integrated Disciples—a small subset of those claiming to be Christians—are noted as being consistent in their beliefs and integrating those convictions into their behaviors.

  • 99+% believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful and just Creator of the universe who still rules the universe today
  • 99+% believe that the Bible is the accurate and reliable words of God
  • 96% claim that every moral choice either honors of dishonors God

However, Barna’s survey finds that even some believers classified as part of this highly discipled cohort hold to some views that “challenge biblical principles.” Those “shocking” beliefs of Integrated Disciples include:

  • 52% argue that people are basically good
  • 39% contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence, or purity
  • 33% believe in karma

“There is a remarkable level of self-deception (even among) born-again Christians,” said Barna, commenting on his recent worldview research. “It represents a huge educational challenge for those responsible for biblical worldview development.”

Researcher closes with pastoral admonition

While the new CRC survey adheres to standard methodologies found from similar sources, such as LifeWay Research and Institute for Family Studies, the report uniquely adopts a pastoral posture in its conclusion.

In response to the findings, George Barna quotes Scripture at length and calls believers to a life of “obedience” to Gospel teachings.

“Too often . . . people who want a certain reputation or image embrace the label ‘Christian,’ regardless of their spiritual life and intentions,” states Barna. “’Christian’ has become somewhat of a generic term rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ,” he states.

Resonant with his decades of research work, George Barna’s latest survey seeks to arouse urgency among evangelical parents and pastors regarding the necessity of teaching sound doctrine to the next generation.

“It is the parent’s job to raise up a child in the way he should go, making sure that they know the admonitions of the Lord and they live accordingly,” he said in a recent interview. “They may not know how to do some of these things. Therefore, it’s the role of the local church to be equipping the parents.”

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

SHARE THIS:
  •   
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

GET EMAIL UPDATES!

Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore
discussion

26 thoughts on “Survey Finds Only 9% of Self-Identified Christians Hold to Biblical Worldview”

  1. This is a great topic to report on. It’s a minefield topic. It’s an exploding-star thought-provoking topic.

    At each and every point in the matrix of the topic, we encounter myriad diverse and often conflicting views. We can see the 9% as the ostriches with their heads in the hermetic sand. We can see the 98% as not quite getting the theological message. We can have myriad alternative understandings of the research findings, within the two primary extremes.We can see all the takes on the Bible as valid and needing to be accommodated.

    My own sense is that the research simply maps the expected ecology of a Christianised society, or any developed faith-grounded society. A Christianised society that also reflects the secular that is a co-partner with Christianity.

    It’s a fair argument that every developing society moves away from an authoritarian fundamentalism (which historically has had its place) and to a more decentralised and nuanced (and democratic) interpretation of its founding and grounding faith origin.

  2. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

    This is a result of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, which is the main message of US churches and is not Biblical. It teaches:

    1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.

    2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

    3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

    4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

    5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

  3. I suspect that many, if not most, of those saying they believe in karma are not thinking of it in the Eastern religious sense, but in the sense of “a man reaps what he sows.” Which is, of course, biblical.

    1. That may be true that is what people are thinking, but it is proving the point of the article in that a very large majority of Christians do not have a biblical world-view and of course at the same time they have no idea what is contained in Hinduism. Karma and reincarnation are closely linked and is inherently anti-biblical.

      So most Christians have no idea what they re talking about when it comes to true biblical Christianity or even Hinduism.

      In talking with most “born-again” Christians I have found they have no idea what makes up a Christian worldview.

      1. I absolutely agree, brother. So many professing Christians, sadly, just are not. I read this same article in Christianity Today, only there it said also in it that 61% (SIXTY NE PERCENT!) do not believe in the Holy Spirit. I cried. I absolutely sat here and I cried, and I prayed for them. How can one be a Christian and not believe that the Holy Spirit is real? The whole thing is heartbreaking. I have “Christians” in my own family who’ll not even open the Bible, so there is also that. ALL of it is so very sad to me. I realize that we all fall short of God’s glory, but to believe that Holy Spirit isn’t real, that one is so far beyond me. With Julie’s permission first, I will share that link to that other part of the article. DO join me in praying for these who are so lost.

  4. The reason for those poll numbers is because the vast majority of professing Christians, aren’t.

    It’s not rocket science.

  5. Who gets to say what a “biblical worldview” is? The survey is essentially asking whether people have the kind of worldview that George Barna thinks ought to count as a biblical worldview. A number of these issues are ones that sincere Christians of good will can disagree about. Are people basically good? I’m not sure I really know what that question means, but if we believe in the “imago dei” (that we’re created in the image of God), are people who answer “yes” to that question somehow contradicting the Bible or the Christian tradition? It would be un-Christian to say that there isn’t something fundamentally good about being human. The author of Genesis 1 certainly seemed to think that all creation, including humans, counted as “good” in God’s eyes. The point is that there is room for disagreement here.

    1. Yes! This exactly! Well said Bruce.

      I wrote a comment yesterday that hasn’t been published/approved where I mentioned that the Bible doesn’t mention ‘Original Sin’, only original blessing.

      The fact that I grew up with it being ingrained in me that people aren’t basically good has really messed up my ability to believe the best about people. Ugh.

    2. Bruce and Justin, it is true that at the end of creation God declared that it was good, but that was before Adam’s sin. Does not Romans say “that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin” (1:9) and that “there is none righteous” (v. 10) and “none who does good” (v. 12)? The words “all” and “none” seem to be inclusive of everyone. And is not the problem of man that he thinks that he is basically good when he is not? Is that not the reason that he rejects God, because he thinks he can be righteous on his own apart from God? That seemed to be the basic problem of the Pharisees. I just put this out there as something to consider.

      1. Thanks for your thoughts, Darren. They probably echo what a lot of people would say. Some of this discussion hinges on how we define “good.” Also, I would ask whether the Eden story is meant to indicate that we lost the “image of God” through the act of disobedience in the garden. If we retain any of that “image,” and I believe that we do, then there is still something fundamentally good in “humanness.” Yes, we have an inclination to be selfish and to do wrong. But, ultimately, we’re a mixed bag — bearers of God’s image but also pretty darned selfish. To say that there is “none righteous” is to say that there is no one who is *completely* innocent and in the right; that’s how I understand “righteous.” We have all have sinned, but we haven’t lost all of our goodness. In Romans 3, Paul is picking out quotes from the Psalms to bolster his point that Jewish people are in the same pickle as the Greeks and in need of grace. So, he picks out texts that may originally have had a different context to pound home the point that even the Jewish scriptures back him up on Jewish people being in need of help because their law didn’t lead to them being righteous (i.e., completely innocent). To quote the verse that says “no one does good” is not to make some kind of scientific/factual statement but to create a particular rhetorical effect — again, that the Jewish scriptures themselves allude to the point that Greeks and Jews are on equal footing when it comes to not being totally righteous. That’s how I see it.

        1. Bruce, thanks for the reply. You bring up some good points. I agree that we are a mixed bag, nor do I think that people lose the image of God because of sin. Maybe that is why people, despite sin, still have some capacity for good. This gives me a lot to ponder.

    3. Laura Chatham Mrachek

      Humans were considered good only before the fall of man, when they willingly chose to disobey God. (And I don’t believe I’m alone when I admit that I willingly chose to disobey God every single day by refusing to die to self, not wanting to repay evil with kindness and a blessing, not loving God and my neighbor more than myself, wasting the time He has given me on frivolous pursuits, etc.)

      The following excerpt from the article is very troubling as the views held by the majority are in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches:

      72% argue that people are basically good (Romans 3:11-12 refutes this)
      66% say that ‘having faith’ matters more than which faith you pursue (John 14:6 refutes this)
      64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value (John 14:6 refutes this)
      58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9 refutes this)
      57% believe in karma (John 3:36 explains that any “karma” is actually God’s wrath, which is destined for all who do not believe and obey Jesus)

  6. So George Barna is now the gatekeeper of what is the “Biblical Worldview” and only 6% of the US population managed to pass his test. He should be pleased. According to him it was 4% in 2003 so in 18 years that’s a 50% increase in Barna-approved Christians™!

    He said: “There is a remarkable level of self-deception (even among) born-again Christians,” said Barna, commenting on his recent worldview research. “It represents a huge educational challenge for those responsible for biblical worldview development.”
    When a professional Christian diagnoses a problem with all of this alarm, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a product to sell to solve it.

    1. Or you could just end up with an active porn star opening a church with her husband without leaving her porn star lifestyle behind. Old things don’t pass away and nothing becomes new.

  7. In the end God wins. Satan loses.

    “The Lord sees not as man sees, man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart”

    That a mega church has thousands of attendees but only a handful of believers and a home church has a mere dozen believers is of great importance to man, for man measures and exalts the mega church and disregards the home church as unworthy.

    God sees just the opposite.

    How quickly man tries to fit the Word of God into a modern world view.

  8. The question of what constitutes a Biblical view, can be asked and answered in myriad ways, from myriad points of human occurrence and view.
    We then differ in the extent to which we place the Bible (and its two primary parts, from the Christian point of view) in historical context.
    Across elements of faith experience, such as that we flag as “spirit”, time itself (the primary aspect of the architecture of the human occurrence we tend to have and know) can be laid aside and the eternal instead taken hold of.

    We then differ in what regard we have for nature and the secular. Both can be seen and experienced as God’s creations. Both can be seen and experienced as ineluctably intertwined with the Devil, temptation, sin.

    We can strive to consider the Bible, its contents, thesis and imperatives, in both temporal and eternal terms. The Psalms speak to the Jewish hope and sense that time and the eternal are intertwined and both accessible. In the Christian incarnation of the Bible, and as experienced in conversion event, that intertwining and accessibility of time and the eternal also presents.

    As society, our societies, were Christianised, the events and processes of this went through many phases and chapters. From a fundamentalist authoritarian centre of command and control, Christianity diffused in myriad forms. The question then is, what respect do we have for those myriad forms.

    I think it has to be argued that fundamentalists and fundamentalism have their place and function. At the same time, fundamentalism is always dangerous. Always tempted to the authoritarian and dictatorial.
    My sense is that fundamentalism is most relevant to a faith becoming established initially; where it can be argued that societal development always has a basis and beginning in faith.

    I think that America has to actively own its Christians. All its Christians. There are collective problems more pressing than whether or not particular Christians have a “Biblical world view”.

    Josh says: “The study asserts that every person has a worldview—defined as an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual decision-making filter …”
    That every person has a world view, or the potential to have a worldview (in the few instances where worldview begins as absent); should be taken as a given.
    Our global human society is ever more providing us with a sense that we live in a common and shared “world”, whatever our differences. In being individual, we inevitably have a worldview. Denial of this would be perverse and dangerous.
    The Bible provides a God-centred world view. For Christians the idea of Christ crucially mediates a sense of what world we collectively share.
    The Bible is, has been and always will be, tested across the worldview of all individual human beings. That is a good thing. That is a testing which smelts the essential truths out of its content. If the Bible content is strong enough, it draws us to its essential truth. Where the converse holds, we must be reflective about the limits of Biblical truth.

  9. One interesting topic is the new earth/old earth.

    Many Christians believe dinosaurs never existed and explain away the fossil evidence.

    1. I’m always so disappointed to be left out of all of these polling parties. Time and again I’m always left wondering why me and the people I know weren’t included. Maybe next time.

    2. @ Tony N.

      I’m making an assumption based on your comment that Christians who don’t believe that fossils or dinosaurs existed are acting out of willful ignorance. But are you also, without directly saying so, of the belief that the fossil record and dinosaurs are evidence that the earth is billions of years old and that God used evolution as the actual means of creation? In other words, God couldn’t have meant 6 literal days of creation in Genesis?

      He really meant to say that he created everything by means of introducing billions upon billions of mutations into all living organisms using a procees spanning hundreds of millions of years knowing that it would culminate in only one life form capable of sin and redemption. This top tier life form ended up being the fittest, but somehow evolved into only one fully formed version of itself, Adam.

      God was pleased with Adam because he took some of Adam’s DNA and completely skipped the evolutionary process when He created Eve (punctuated equilibrium).

      With modern sensibilities it really does sound ridiculous. It’s just that when the language used for the days of creation references evening and morning the first day and the second day and so on, why would God sow so much confusion with the creation story if it wasn’t meant to be understood literally?

      I’m basing my comments off an assumption, as I stated above.
      I don’t know whether you believe in evolution or not. In the end, you know what they say about assumptions.

    3. Tony N,

      “Many Christians believe dinosaurs never existed and explain away the fossil evidence.”

      How do they explain away the fossil evidence?

      The issue, as far as know with Christians, is if the timeline is correct, not if the bones are real. Do you remember the “fossils” they found with preserved blood vessels, connective tissues in the fossilized bone?

      https://biologos.org/articles/soft-tissue-in-dinosaur-bones-what-does-the-evidence-really-say

      https://www.history.com/news/scientists-find-soft-tissue-in-75-million-year-old-dinosaur-bones

      https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/3-soft-tissue-in-fossils/

      https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/humans-walk-earth-dinosaurs-triceratops-horn-dated-33500-020159

  10. This is a silly survey – and an irrelevant topic.

    Just who in God’s name decides exactly what a “biblical world-view” is….

    There is a reason we got rid of the magisterium…. so self-annointed knuckle-draggers would not lord it over decent people.

    1. Laura Chatham Mrachek

      The Bible itself dictates what a biblical worldview is.

      The following excerpt from the article reveals views held by the majority that are in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches:

      72% argue that people are basically good (Romans 3:11-12 refutes this)
      66% say that ‘having faith’ matters more than which faith you pursue (John 14:6 refutes this)
      64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value (John 14:6 refutes this)
      58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9 refutes this)
      57% believe in karma (John 3:36 explains that any “karma” is actually God’s wrath, which is destined for all who do not believe and obey Jesus)

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people use their full name when commenting. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.

Comments are limited to 300 words.

Leave a Reply

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people register before they begin commenting. This means no anonymous comments will be allowed. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
 
MOST RECENT Articles
MOST popular articles

Donate

Hi. We see this is the third article this month you’ve found worth reading. Great! Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation to help our journalists continue to report the truth and restore the church?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $25 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Is it Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage”