Tag Archives: Worldview

Can a Christian Learn Something From a Survivalist?

Be a survivalist.

If you are a survivalist, some people will think you are amusing, and some will think you are a threat. There are enough people in our world who believe the world might end tomorrow that most people have spoken with at least one of them. Survivalists hoard certain things, and the motivation for their hoarding is the desire to be prepared to live and thrive when there is a disaster of such proportions that even the federal government is powerless to help. Survivalists don’t stop at collecting piles of food and bottled water. They also learn skills such as fire without matches and the proper way to make pemmican. They prepare this way, because they intend to survive whatever disasters befall them.

Christians can take a lesson from the survivalists. As long ago as the days of Jesus’s life in the flesh, he warned his followers to be prepared for the day that the followers of Christ would suffer. He foretold that the world would always hate people who followed him, and he foretold that there would be times of great danger. History is filled with evidence of the truth of his warnings. In fact, the daily news is filled with evidence that such times are already upon Christians in many places, and the evidence is clear that Christians in the USA need to prepare for real danger.

Christians who see threats to faith increasing in frequency and intensity need to learn from the survivalists. Christians need to prepare to live through some experiences unprecedented in the USA. The language of law which protected people of all faiths for more than 200 years is being re-interpreted and redefined to mean that all religious speech and actions must be confined to religious spaces, and the principle behind “conscientious objection” is being dissolved in acerbic legal conflicts. If Christians are serious about being Christians, they will need to prepare for the coming disaster.

In what ways can Christians learn from survivalists?

First, Stash the one resource without which no Christian can survive for long.

When a young pastor went to China to learn how to help Christians there, he was surprised. They did not ask to be rescued from persecution; they asked for Bibles. They considered that rather than be rescued, they wanted to live powerful testimonies to people who desperately needed to know Jesus. Who needs Jesus more than someone who is trying to arrest, imprison, torture, and kill Christians? What prepares a Christian to tell about Jesus better than a Bible?”

Every Christian needs a Bible, and that Bible should be worn and tattered. Christians need to read their Bibles. They need to ask questions about what they read and seek the answers. They need to memorize texts from the Bible and be able to share specific information from the Bible with anyone who needs it. The Bible is, according to Jesus, as important to us as daily bread. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus, God himself, quoted God’s words (His words) and indicated that Scripture is the food we need most. We need it every day, just like meat and milk.

Christians also need to study commentaries and devotionals and other Bible helps if they have access to them; most people should have such access online if not in their own hands. Maps, dictionaries, and many other books can help Christians see the biblical texts more clearly, or may help them unravel complex ideas, rather like carving a turkey and eating it a slice at a time rather than trying to gobble down the whole thing at once. But Christians who do not have helps, have the best helper of all given to them freely as Christ promised – the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth(John 16:13).

The earliest Christians did not have the New Testament. They only had the Scriptures we now call the Old Testament. That is fine. When Jesus met the disciples walking to Emmaus after his resurrection, he talked with them and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The Holy Spirit taught the earliest Christians about Jesus as he is revealed in the Old Testament. After the New Testament became available, it provided much more material, but the Holy Spirit is able to use the Scriptures, all the Scriptures to nourish, sustain and inspire a believer.

Second, Pile up the promises of God.

Look at them often. Separate them and pick through them to remind yourself what God says. Make lists of them. Memorize them. Sort through them and count the repetitions. Know your inventory of the promises of God like the back of your hand. Write them down and look at them frequently. Say them to yourself when you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning.

Third, Put all your hope in God.

It just makes sense, if you believe God’s promises. If God had promised nothing and delivered nothing over the thousands of years recorded in the Bible, then why would anybody hope in him? The Bible shares God’s promises, and the Bible demonstrates how he keeps them. You may come to understand that when God keeps his promises, the fulfillment may not look the way you imagined. God is not in the business of fulfilling your orders; he is in the business of fulfilling his plans. Therefore, you may need to exercise hope in the face of what looks like a failure. Abraham was told that all nations would be blessed through his descendants (Genesis 12:3), but at the time of God’s promise, Abraham had no children. Abraham tried to force God to fulfill his order, and Ishmael was born to Hagar, but that was not the promise God had made, and that was not the fulfillment of the promise. Abraham was 100 years old when God finally fulfilled the promise and Isaac was born. Abraham learned that if you hope in God, even the worst looking outcome can be the best possible outcome.

When Jesus died on the cross, all the disciples went home and locked the doors. It looked as if the worst possible outcome had befallen them. Jesus was dead. Gone. The great adventure was over. Kaput. Then on Sunday morning, they found the empty tomb. The worst possible outcome wasn’t the outcome at all. The real outcome was better than anything they had imagined.

Fourth, Start looking at things God’s way.

When you look at things with eyes full of hope in God, then you can see things God’s way. After Jesus had fed a lot of people with a little bit of food, he and the disciples left that place and kept traveling. One day Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying about him. Jesus might have been a circus sideshow. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets” (Mark 8:28) The people were confused about Jesus, because they did not see things God’s way. They looked for a sideshow, and that is what they saw.

Then Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29a) The disciples had a chance to look at Jesus up close. They saw things the other people did not see. Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29b). Peter was able to see things God’s way, and he saw the Messiah God had promised over and over in the Old Testament Scriptures. Of course, Peter would simply have said that the Messiah fulfilled “the Scriptures,” because those were the Scriptures he had. Everybody else had those Scriptures, too, but they did not recognize Jesus in those Scriptures.

Fifth, Build relationships.

Jesus knew how crucial it is for humans to have strong relationships. Human beings who are isolated from other humans too long become mentally ill. They are not strong in the face of pressure or pain. They are weak and needy. They want to be with people and be liked by people so much that they will do some terrible things in order to try to earn the fulfilling experience of human caring. People don’t even need to be truly separated to feel deeply needy. They simply need to be convinced that nobody likes them. That experience cuts off the fulfillment of friendship and sharing, and a needy person cannot face persecution and pain with strength.

The most important relationship is the relationship between a human being and God, and many people have survived horrific separation and agonizing torture nourished by the presence and power of God.  Still, people who have the option to live around family and/or friends are wise to build relationships with the people in their lives, even if those people are very different or even indifferent. Joseph, for example, was thrown into a prison where the only way out was at Pharaoh’s order, and Pharaoh did not know that Joseph existed. In that depressing state of affairs, the Bible says, “the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (39:21). Joseph’s relationship with God bore fruit when God made Joseph look good in the eyes of the prison warden. Joseph was able to build and nurture a relationship with the man who could make his life in prison miserable. That relationship sustained him for many dark years before Pharaoh found out about Joseph.

Sixth, Refuse to be a victim.

Bad things happen.  Joseph had been a victim several times over by the time his brothers showed up in Egypt looking for food. By that time, several good things had also happened to Joseph, and he was the second most powerful person in Egypt. If Joseph had wallowed in victimhood after his brothers beat him up and sold him to slave merchants, he would likely have died in the slave market before ever getting to Potiphar’s house or to jail or anywhere. He could have whined and cried so much along the road to Egypt that he might have been beaten to death before they got there. Joseph, however, did no such thing. He trusted God. He looked for the opportunities God put in his path. He built relationships with enemies. He had a real life. In fact, he had several great life stories to tell by the time ten shepherds arrived at the grain warehouse where Egypt was able to sell food when all other nations were starving.

Nevertheless, there are many, many people who would have told Joseph that those ten men owed him big time. They would have said that the passage of time had healed nothing, and that there was nothing short of extremely painful restitution and reparations that could possibly heal the breach. We see exactly such attitudes in real life every day. The Balkan Peninsula and the Arabian Nights are full of stories where the key element is skillfully crafted revenge. A recent popular novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, centered on one man’s sick, gruesome notion of revenge. The culture of the USA is currently in full-blown warfare over the righteousness of a hashtag, #blacklivesmatter, because some people who prefer victimhood to blessed relationships say that the words “all lives matter” are not fair to people who feel the need for revenge.

Joseph, however, had a different outlook. He had had twenty years to decide what he would do if he ever saw his brothers, those rats, again, and his decision was — forgiveness. Joseph chose not to be a victim. He chose not to be tied in knots over the past. He chose to look at the good God had done with the bad that his brothers had done. He might even have humbly recalled that he was no prize at the time, either. Joseph abandoned a cry for sympathy and safe space and comforting words and apologies and revenge and reparations. Joseph simply said, “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Genesis 45:5). Because Joseph trusted God when things looked hopeless, willingly viewed the world God’s way, and cared about his relationship with his brothers, Joseph was able to forgive. He pulled the poison injected into the family by his brothers’ dastardly deed. He made it possible for the family to heal.

When Christians today encounter hardships, feel danger, or endure persecution, they are experiencing exactly what Christ promised would come their way. If they gather up the things they will need ahead of time, and if they practice the skills they need ahead of time, then, like survivalists, they will be prepared when hard times come. How do you prepare for persecution? You might learn something from a survivalist.

 

Advertisements

Answered Prayer

For the jillionth time someone just said, “God always answers prayer: yes, no or wait.” My experience and my Bible both reject that simplistic, self-centered view of prayer.

In the first place, it is not necessary for Jesus’ promise of answers to mean that an answer is “fulfillment.” In the second place, everything about prayer is about submission to God’s sovereignty before anything else.

When anyone asks me, I tell people that prayer is not an order to Amazon, guaranteed to be “fulfilled.” I am no authority, but the idea that the sovereign God is going to respond to my prayer the way I might answer a multiple choice question on a quiz is completely at odds with everything I have learned about God. When God promises to answer prayer, he does not promise that we can manipulate him till we get what we want.

In fact, one of the most important changes we experience when we get to know God in a close relationship is the change in what we want. We are born wanting to be the center of everything, but when we get to know God deeply, we begin to start wanting outcomes that are not about us. In my experience, this sort of change is a blessed outcome of prayer. I pray for something to happen, and I might pray about this outcome for a long time. According to the “yes, no, or wait” theory, God’s failure to say “yes” is interpreted as either “no” or “wait.” According to my experience, God is actually teaching me something that will ultimately change my prayer. He didn’t refuse me. He actually paid close attention to me.

Here is an example.

Peter wrote that we are to pray for our governmental leaders. I do that. When I see that one is doing wrong (way too common) I pray for him to do right. When a bad leader is in office, I pray that God will work in his heart to make a better leader. I pray and pray and pray for outcomes that will be good for our country. I have prayed such prayers for Barack Obama, because I believe he is the worst president in the history of the world.

I have never yet seen any evidence that Barack Obama was moved by God to amend his bad behavior or his bad attitudes. Does that mean that God refused to speak to Barack Obama? To believe that would be presumptuous in the extreme. Yet, if I prayed for God to speak to Barack Obama about his failures, and Barack Obama did not change, then I must ask if God is saying “no” to my prayer, or if he is saying “wait.” He certainly is not saying “yes.” If I believed that God answered prayer by “yes, no, or wait,” my train of thought would be focused on what God was doing to make my request happen.

In fact, God was doing nothing of the sort. In fact, God was working in my heart. In fact, God’s agenda was quite different from mine, and God observed that I was being arrogant and self-centered. I wanted Barack Obama to act differently than he does, and I asked God Almighty to use his power to bring about the changes I had in mind.

What was God actually doing all this time? God was working in my heart. I can’t speak about what God is doing with Barack Obama, but I know what God is doing with me. One morning, as I prayed that Barack Obama would change his ways and do the right thing, I found myself praying this prayer: “Please forgive Barack Obama for all the evil he has done.” Whoa! Did I say that?

God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. My first thought was to ask why Obama should be forgiven, and God’s response was, “the same reason you need forgiveness.” Barack Obama and I both need forgiveness for our sins before almighty, totally righteous God. It was a humbling thought. I was so angry with Barack Obama over his arrogance and presumption that I failed to notice my total inattention to God’s main thing. God’s main thing is not good government, important though it may be. God’s main thing is that everyone be cleansed of sin. I was so busy trying to change Barack Obama that I forgot that God’s main thing is to save Barack Obama from Satan. I was praying for a magical outcome in Obama’s behavior instead of praying for Barack Obama to be rightly related to God. I couldn’t even wait for the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit does; I was giving him his marching orders. I was very busy telling God what I thought good government looked like, telling God how to make Barack Obama into a better president, when God thought that outcome was trivial compared to Barack Obama’s need for forgiveness and grace, just like me. He let me prattle on for days while he continued to lead me and teach me and work in my heart until he finally led me to pray, “please forgive Barack Obama for all his sins.”

This is not the only time God has done this sort of thing. I had a fractured relationship with my mother, and one day I went to her pastor to talk about the problem. He was generous with his time, and kind in his responses. He even asked questions. Finally, he asked, “Could we pray together?” I bowed my head, and he began to pray for both me and my mother. It all felt good to me. Then he said, “Would you like to pray, too?” I began to pray, and I complained about all the hurtful things in my relationship with my mother. When I had exhausted my list, I started to pray for my mother to change, but the words that came out of my mouth were, “Please help me to see my mother as you see her, Lord.” Whoa! Where did those words come from? God was answering my prayer, not with “yes, no, or wait,” but with new insight. He answered my prayer, “Please make my mother treat me better,” by saying, “Start looking at the world from my point of view.”

That is why God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. God wants me to pray about the world from his point of view. God wants me to see Barack Obama, and my mother, and the whole world, the way he sees it. When I change my view, then I pray differently. God didn’t fulfill my request. God didn’t deny my request. God didn’t even defer my request. God simply led me to a moment of personal transformation and showed me how things look from his side of the matter.

Prayer is God’s great gift to us, and I give thanks every day for the privilege of prayer, but I have learned that the blessing of prayer is not so much what I get as it is what I learn. When God promises to “answer” my prayer, the “answer” is not often the “fulfillment” I might have anticipated when I bowed my head. I am learning that the best way to pray is to begin the way Jesus taught us—focus first on the Father and his worldview.

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

Then, from that perspective, all the other issues look very different.

To declare that God always answers prayer with “yes, no, or wait” is to say that prayer is about what I want. Prayer is not about me. Prayer is about God.

 

A Christian Worldview

                Last Friday I examined a study by the Barna Group that alleged to identify adults with a Christian or biblical worldview. In truth, even though the study and the post used “Christian” and “biblical” almost interchangeably, the fact is that people being polled might not have considered the words equivalent in this context. That is a challenge for surveyors. Despite universal compulsory education and the wide availability of dictionaries in hard copy and online, it is still extremely difficult for people to communicate fully on most subjects. My husband and I cannot agree on the color of one of his jackets, and this difference is quite trivial. To disagree on the meaning of the word “person,” however, can precipitate incomprehensible violence. This very disagreement is at the root of Mohammed’s rejection of Christianity in the 7th century, and this semantic problem underlies violence between Christians and Muslims to this day. People very often do not recognize the number of issues that are actually rooted in a misunderstanding about the meanings of words. I vividly recall a shouting match when my daughter was in high school during which it became clear to me that our argument was due to our choice of words, not a real difference of opinion. I shouted, “But I agree with you!” to which my daughter replied at the top of her lungs, “Well, I agree with you more!”

                Differences in worldview are a bit more substantive than my differences with my teenage daughter. Differences in worldview underly many gigantic issues such as the US national debt and the perceived need for government to assure universal healthcare. A worldview is by definition comprehensive and powerful. That is to say, an individual’s worldview truly shapes his life.

                In the course of teaching a study of the book of Mark, Dr. Rick Carlson took some time to talk about worldview. It made perfect sense, because the book of Mark is the life of Jesus, and Jesus’ life, like anyone else’s life, reveals his worldview. The Greek word that led to this study is phroneo. Dr. Carlson’t definition of the word is evaluative point of view, in other words worldview.

                To understand Jesus’ worldview, it must be remembered that Jesus is God in the flesh. When Jesus spoke, it was God speaking. When Jesus acted, it was God in action. The story of Jesus is the story of God walking around among people. Several years ago, I remember hearing a song in which the singer asked, “What if God were one of us, just a slob like one us?” When I heard that song, I knew that the singer had never truly confronted Jesus, because if she had met Jesus, she would know the answer to her speculative lyrical question. Jesus came down from heaven and became one of us. He lived with 24-hour days. He had to pay bills and taxes, just like everyone else. He got tired. He got hungry. Everything humans do, Jesus did. Yet he never stopped being God, and his Godhood established his evaluative point of view. He evaluated everything and everyone he encountered based on his worldview, just as every person does.

                God’s worldview is very different from that of most people. God’s starting point to evaluate what is happening around him is loneliness and servanthood. There is a great choral work whose name I forget now that begins, “And God stepped out in space and he said, ‘I’m lonely. I think I’ll make me a world.’” God’s behavior in the creation story shows us a person lovingly creating a place for people to live, and then he creates the people: “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Then later, knowing what loneliness is, God looked at Adam and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” God knew loneliness, and God knew fulfillment, and God made woman.

                We can see the elements of loneliness and servanthood that set boundaries and burst customs as we read the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. After his baptism, he immediately confronted Satan’s worldview in the wilderness. That battle is a model for our lives, too, because even though we can look around and see all sorts of worldviews at work in our world, every conflict ultimately boils down to the same conflict Jesus endured in the wilderness.

                What was Jesus up against in the wilderness? What are the elements of Satan’s worldview?

  • No suffering – not the cross
  • Me first – serve self, do what feels good to me, get what I want
  • Greatness and power – be in charge, tell other people where to go, or simply scorn their very existence
  • Save your life – Avoid risk and danger unless it feels like fun. Never confront when deception will get you past the risk without revealing truth
  • Conform to other people’s values – be a chameleon. Fit in. Look like all the others
  • Blend in with the collective mentality – trade in your personal values for the community’s values
  • Exploit others – others are expendable, if you must use someone to get to your goal, just do it
  • Acquire for self–Cannot give to others because to do so limits what you can do for yourself

When Satan showed up in the wilderness, he began to grind away at Jesus’ worldview. “You poor thing. So God sent you out here to starve. Why should God’s son starve? Just make these rocks into bread. Who will know? A man’s got to eat, you know. Why, when all is said and done, who really cares if you fast or not? Why should you suffer this way? “

Jesus demonstrated his worldview and showed us all how it is done. He told his disciples about this experience later. How else would anyone know this story? He told them so they would know that it is possible to live by God’s worldview, and so that they would know the consequences of accepting God’s worldview. I don’t feel strong enough to stand up to Satan by myself, so it helps me a great deal to know that Jesus could do it. I rely on him, because this story tells me he will win.

Jesus responded to Satan with all the force of his worldview:

  • Yes to suffering, even the cross
  • Me last – the least of all, the one who suffers for everyone else
  • Weakness – this is the appearance of weakness, such as hunger, even starvation, that covers inner strength and power. Jesus was willing to look weak, because he was not weak. Appearances do not matter.
  • Lose your life – Jesus risked losing his life in the wilderness by fasting so long. Later he risked his life and lost his life on the cross. But that loss set the stage for eternal gain for all people.
  • Conform to God’s values – When Satan tempted Jesus to leap off the temple, it was a temptation to do what would excite people. What a spectacle, what a self-serving use of God’s power in Jesus. Jesus stayed true to his mission
  • Stand out against oppressive tyranny – Most Jews resented Roman tyranny, which was huge and oppressive, but the real tyranny in their lives was the tyranny of the Pharisees, who tried to run every breath of their lives – what they could eat, when they could walk, what they could wear, what sort of work they could do, and so forth. Jesus spent three years relentlessly dismantling the Pharisaical tyranny in full view of his disciples, preparing them to persist in that rebellion
  • Serve others (servanthood) – Jesus never put himself first, not even the night before his crucifixion. A human being faced with such a prospect might want to be pampered. Instead Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet.
  • Give to others – Jesus had riches nobody could take away, but he was still God. He could take whatever he wanted. That is what human power does. Instead, he gave healing, loving touch, sight, forgiveness, speech, and life itself to all who came into his presence. He never asked anyone for anything. He was always giving. 

                Each of us faces ongoing, maybe daily, challenges to our willingness to serve God before self. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we simply cannot give up self. We cannot mature to a place where we always evaluate our options the way God does. If Jesus had failed to do that, all would be lost. We would have no means of cleansing, no way to be made righteous, no grace, no forgiveness. If Jesus had caved in to Satan’s worldview even once, even at the very last minute after living and teaching and suffering, if Jesus had given up God’s worldview and absorbed Satan’s worldview, he would have climbed down off that cross to screams and hallelujahs and fainting women. He would have been scooped up by the Pharisees and washed and combed and hauled out regularly for miracle shows till the day of his natural death. And if he had done that, we would have no hope, because Jesus failed to stand firm in God’s worldview.

                Each of us is called to adopt God’s worldview. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” We all want to do it, or we think we do. Then comes the day when we lose a friend or lose a job or simply can’t learn to love an enemy. It is too hard. Satan has worn us down and we cannot go on. That is when we need to be able to call on Jesus, who lived by God’s worldview without fail. He will carry us past the failures and wipe our tears and hold us up when we feel too weak to go on, because he does not fail.

                I wish I could say that I live by God’s worldview. I can only say that I have promised. I keep trying to put self last and put Jesus first, but I am weak. I intend to bring my cross along every day, but sometimes I just don’t pick it up. I want to give and give, but I can’t quite get over the fear of doing without. I have a long way to go. Because Jesus went the whole distance faithfully to the cross and beyond, there is hope for me. There is hope for you, too.

                What would you say your worldview is?

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.

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollFor now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

  • What is the difference between a mirror image and a face to face image? Why would the face to face image be preferable?
  • What does the author (the apostle Paul) mean when he says that he has been fully known? By whom? In what manner did this happen?
  • Read the context, 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. How does the context clarify and enhance your understanding of this verse?
  • As an adult, do you believe that you no longer think like a child? Have you put away childish ways?
  • What is Paul looking forward to in this verse? In what way is Paul’s worldview different from that of people who believe that nothing exists except what science can measure? What does any of this have to do with your daily life?