By Maggie Walsh
The Alabama Baptist
With the rise of technology has come the rise of information — specifically the spread of competing ideas and worldviews. With the extra exposure to different thoughts and ideas, Christians have the opportunity like never before to better understand and relate to those with opposing beliefs.
But there’s a cost, a possibility that the opposing beliefs could morph Christians’ beliefs. And, according to a recent Barna Group study, that’s exactly what has happened.
Barna’s research, titled “Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians,” shows that only 17 percent of Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly actually have a biblical worldview.
Among practicing Christians, the study found that 61 percent agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality; 54 percent resonate with postmodernist views; 36 percent accept ideas associated with Marxism; and 29 percent believe ideas based on secularism.
While some may read these statistics and be shocked, two Alabama Baptist pastors were not.
“I am not surprised (that only 17 percent of Christians have a biblical worldview), given the wide-ranging definition people apply to the word ‘Christian,’” said Bill Cannon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Union Springs, in Bullock Baptist Association.
Longtime pastor James Preachers agreed.
“It’s a startling statistic and it hurts but it doesn’t surprise me,” said Preachers, who serves as director of missions for Sardis Baptist Association as well as pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Coffee Springs.
When The Alabama Baptist called Preachers for an interview, he was writing an article on just this subject — the effects of postmodernism on today’s Christians.
Postmodernism is the idea that there is no such thing as objectivity, that “at best we can know only what is true for ourselves,” the study states.
A postmodern viewpoint, for instance, would be the statement: “What is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Almost one-quarter (23 percent) of practicing Christians strongly agree with that statement, according to Barna. And as a whole, more than half (54 percent) of practicing Christians embrace at least one of the postmodern statements assessed in the research, the study found.
Preachers said, “In the postmodern era in which we live, Americans have deviated from the values that have made us great. Deviating from a biblical worldview, we have deviated from moral values. Many Americans have come to believe that truth is relative and have come to believe that there are no absolutes.”
Many practicing Christians — at least 61 percent — also embrace at least one of the ideas rooted in New Spirituality. For example, 52 percent strongly agree the Bible teaches the idea that “God helps those who help themselves.”
Across generations, “millennials and Gen-Xers, who came of age in a less Christianized context, are in some cases up to eight times more likely to accept these views than boomers and elders,” research showed. And men are typically more open to these worldviews than women, often at a 2:1 ratio.
Brooke Hempell, senior vice president of research for Barna, said, “We expected millennials to be most influenced by other worldviews, but the most dramatic increase in support for these ideals occurs with the generation before them. It’s no surprise then that the impact we see today in our social fabric is so pervasive, given that these ideas have been taking root for two generations.”
In the face of the facts, what can church and ministry leaders do to combat the shift toward nonbiblical ideas?
Churchgoers can help
Dive headfirst into the Word, Cannon says.
“This trend can be turned around through faithful biblical exposition by pastors in their pulpits and faithful biblical teaching through Sunday School and small groups,” he said.
“Churchgoers can play a key role by reading the Bible, encouraging others to read the Bible, participating in a Bible study and applying biblical truth in their lives.”
Preachers seconded that motion, adding that true revival is needed.
“Instead of having a meeting which we generally call ‘revival,’ we need a heaven-born, God-sent, Holy-Spirit-directed revival in our midst. That’s what I think. That’s what’s going to turn us around. I think that we need the Spirit of God moving around us so great that people come to the church and ask us, ‘What must I do to be saved?’”