Tag Archives: biblical worldview

Who Has a Biblical Worldview?

‘One cannot reduce the whole of religious theology, that is to say the question of how different religions relate to one another, to a yes-and-no question. It amounts to doing violence to a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be found there.’

Before you know who made this statement and on what occasion, please read it again and ponder what you think it means. What could be the purpose for a statement like this one? What does it say about the value the speaker attributes to any religion?

The statement was made by the head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden in answer to a question. Antje Jackelén was asked “Does Jesus provide a truer picture of God than Muhammed?” The quotation above was her answer. That she made this statement while holding a leadership position in an organization which alleges to be a Christian church is disturbing. That the people who were tasked with selecting a national leader for that church chose this woman rather than the bishop who flatly answered “Yes” is extremely disturbing. Any child in Sunday School who knows that Jesus is God in the flesh could answer this question, yet the national leader of the Lutheran Church in Sweden cannot answer it.

Unfortunately, she is not alone.

There are many Christians who would not be sure how to answer that question. Some might equivocate as she did, attempting not to answer it at all. Some might be bold enough to say, “Well, Jesus is only one view of what God is like. Mohammed is another.” Some might say that the answer doesn’t even matter since there are so many ways to see God. These Christians might all be American Christians, too, because statistics bear out what any casual observer might deduce: the fact that someone calls himself a Christian does not mean that the person believes what Christians have historically taught as the core truths.

The Barna Group, which studies the landscape of religion in the USA, identifies 6 teachings that make up a Christian worldview:

  • Absolute moral truth exists
  • The Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches
  • Satan is a real being, not a mere symbol
  • It is not possible to earn entry to heaven by doing good works
  • Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
  • God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today

It is possible that some Christians would word these teachings a little differently, but 2000 years of writing about the faith would find little to dispute in this definition of a biblical worldview. The one point avoided in the way Barna speaks of a biblical worldview is a statement that Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. It is hard to imagine how someone who was not God could live a sinless life, but there are almost certainly people who would try to make that point. However, people who believe all six teachings will certainly have a distinctive outlook consistent with the Bible.

It would be easy to look at that list and observe that the new Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Sweden does not agree with it. Her statement is that theology cannot be reduced to yes and no answers to religious questions. Right away it is clear that she does not agree that absolute moral truth exists. In the culture of the US there are many people who agree with her, and a large number of those people attend American Christian churches and self-identify as Christians. This despite consistent biblical emphasis on moral absolutes. The statistics gathered in a survey in 2009 are thought-provoking.

  • 66% of all adults surveyed believe there is no such thing as absolute truth
  • 50% of all adults surveyed believe that the Bible is only a good myth
  • 73% believe that Satan is a myth
  • 72% of all adults believe that it is possible to earn entry to heaven by doing good deeds
  • 60% of all adults believe that Jesus was a good man but not sinless, certainly not God
  • Amazingly, only 30% of all adults doubt that God is the creator and still in charge of the universe

The problem with all these statistics is that about 75% of all adults self-identify as Christians. When all the statistics are boiled down, about 9% of adults have a biblical worldview. Among the adults who do not hold biblical worldviews, a sizable number are Christian leaders – pastors, Sunday School teachers, theology professors, and so forth.

It would be easy to laugh at the Swedes for picking a bishop who clearly does not see Jesus as 100% God and 100% human. But 90% of the people in the USA probably agree with her.

That is something to think about for the next few days.

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People Are Confused About Christians. Why?

                In any conversation that includes a discussion of religious comparisons, the comments about Christianity often reveal that non-Christians have a lot of misconceptions about Christians. This high level of confusion results in confrontations and accusations that bewilder Christians and do not further the public dialogue on important issues. Public conversations about civic problems often fracture along lines that reveal wildly disparate worldviews. Interestingly, the Christians in the mix do not always appear to hold the same worldview, and that fact contributes to some of the confusion in the minds of non-Christians. A major truth about politics is that it is predominantly an attempt to reconcile reality to a particular worldview, so the worldview of participants in the discussion is important.

                In 2008, Barna Group conducted a survey with the intent of uncovering the degree to which Christians hold a Christian worldview, and the startling outcome of that survey strongly substantiated the results of three previous similar surveys. What was so startling? It is hard to believe, but most Christians do not hold a Christian worldview.

                What constitutes a Christian worldview? When you read the list, you may dispute one point or another, but most likely you will agree that the six points in the survey are principles many Christians consider indisputable. Nevertheless, the evidence of the responses to the survey reveals that Christians are not in complete agreement on these points:

  • The creator of the universe is all-powerful and all-knowing and he is still in charge of the universe.
  • Biblical principles are accurate and sound.
  • Moral truth is absolute and not modified by circumstances.
  • Satan is real – not an idea, but an actual adversary.
  • It is impossible to do enough good works or the right good works to earn your way to heaven.
  • Jesus lived a sinless life on earth.

Think about these issues, and think about various topics in this blog. This blog includes posts which assert that the Bible is God’s revelation of himself, and that his revelation is unchanging. The verity of assorted biblical teachings has been affirmed as a starting principle, not as a philosophical conclusion. Satan is referred to in a personal way. Any discussion of Christ’s work and purpose has started from the premise that he lived a sinless life and that his death, resurrection and ascension accomplished the work of salvation, which is granted as a gift in response to faith because of his love for all people. When this blog discusses the universe and the God who created it, he is respectfully referenced as the one who was, who is and who is to come. This blog stands unapologetically on a Christian worldview.

The people who responded to the Barna survey responded in ways that demonstrated that their idea of a Christian worldview does not necessarily include all these points. It is no trick to conclude that when Christians want to speak as a group, differences on these points make it impossible to speak with one voice. According to this survey, only 9% of American adults have a biblical worldview, Contrast this number with statistics from various sources that say that about 76% of American adults self-identify as Christians. Not all Christians self-identify as born again, and this is the group the Barna survey singled out for comparison with all other adults.

How large are the differences on these crucial points?

  • In the adult population as a whole, there seems to be general agreement that the God who created the universe is still in charge of it. 70% of all adults agree with that point. The proportion rises to 93% among born again Christians.
  • A solid 50% of all adults say that they believe the Bible is accurate in its teachings. This is not a question about verbal inspiration or an inerrant record. It is about the teachings of the Bible. Among born again Christians, 93% have complete confidence in the teachings of the Bible. (People who probe deeper would probably discover that while 93%  of Christians agree that the teachings are accurate, there would still be disagreement within that 93% about exactly what the Bible teaches. Statistics can only be followed so far before they lead to insanity.)
  • In the population of US adults in the 48 contiguous states, 34% believe that moral values are absolute. Among Christians, only 46% hold this principle, which is extremely surprising. In most conversations, the public perception is that Christians reject relativism, yet the survey shows that less than half of all Christians are actually convinced that moral truth is absolute.
  • Christians who may have heard one or more pastors dismiss the idea that Satan is as real as Jesus won’t find it surprising that adults in general reject the reality of Satan as well. Only 27% of adults think of Satan as a real personality. It is perplexing to discover that among Christians only 40% recognize Satan as a real adversary.
  • It isn’t surprising to read that many adults believe a person can earn his way into heaven, but the proportion, 72%, is startling when compared with the 76% of adults who are supposedly Christians. In fact, among Christians it is shocking to read that 53% of Christians nonetheless believe that good works help pave the way to heaven.
  • Probably most shocking is the discovery that only 62% of Christians believe that Jesus led a sinless life. To learn that only 40% of all adults believe that Jesus was sinless is not too shocking, although that number reveals immediately that some Christians are in that statistic, but to find that 38% of Christians nevertheless believe that Jesus sinned is quite disturbing.

To sum it all up, only 9% of all American adults agree on all six of these points, making it safe to say that in discussions of political issues, less than 10% of the voices will speak to a consistently Christian worldview. Even more startling, less than 20% of all Christians who define themselves as born again consistently agree on these points. This fact explains a lot of the confusion among non-Christians about what “Christians” believe and what Christians want for the country. It may help to explain why reporters breathlessly ruminated over the possibility that a new Pope for the Catholic Church might pronounce new teachings, presumably on the theory that the teachings originate in the words of the Pope, not in the teachings of the Bible.

Why does this study matter? It matters, because Christians who read it carefully will realize why there is no single “Christian” voice in the public forum when issues are being discussed. When Christians speak, each one must elaborate his own stance. As soon as someone identifies his viewpoint as Christian it may be assailed from several sides, because it can probably be shown that not all Christians agree with this Christian.

It seems important here to reaffirm that this blogger holds all six points to be true. That being said, it seems equally important to remind readers that to hold all six points to be true is not to say that this blogger agrees with every possible perception of the meaning of the six points. That is the reason any political discussion can bog down even among people who ostensibly agree. Very often, it turns out that people using the same words do not mean the same ideas. This human semantic trait is used to great advantage in sales campaigns as well as election campaigns. This is the reason this blog includes so many posts that disassemble words.

What is your worldview? Do you hold all these six points to be true? Do you believe they sufficiently define a Christian worldview? What would you add for a better definition? What would you take out? Your comments are important. Thank you for taking the time to respond.