Teaching Toward a Biblical Worldview

The words on page 74-75 of Kinnaman & Lyon’s book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … and Why It Matters, jump off the page at me every time I read them:

      The opportunities that outsiders have to hear about Christ and know Christians are nothing short of astounding [in the United States]. For nearly two decades, the Barna team has been exploring church participation among American teenagers. We consistently find that the vast majority of teenagers nationwide will spend a significant amount of their teen years participating in a Christian congregation. Most teenagers in America enter adulthood considering themselves to be Christians and saying they have made a personal committment to Christ. But with a decade, most of these young people will have left the church and will have placed emotional connection to Christianity on the shelf. For most of them, their faith was merely skin deep. This leads to the sobering finding that the vast majority of outsiders in this country, particularly among young generations, are actually de-churched individuals.

      In spite of the fact that many of them are currently disconnected from a church, most Americans, including two-thirds of all adult Mosaics and Busters (65 percent), tell us that they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their life. This is slightly lower than the percent of older adults who have made such a commitment (73 percent). This is an amazing fact about our culture. The vast majority of Americans, regardless of age, assert they have already made a significant decision to follow Christ!

      Of course, this raises the question of the depth of their faith. If that many Americans have made a decision to follow Jesus, our culture and our world would be revolutionized if they simply lived that faith. It is easy to embrace a costless form of Christianity in America today, and we have probably contributed to that by giving people a superficial understanding of the gospel and focusing only on their decision to convert.

      At Barna, we employ dozens of tools to assess the depth of a person’s faith. Let me suggest one for our discussion: a biblical worldview. A person with a biblical worldview experiences, interprets, and responds to reality in light of the Bible’s principles. What Scripture teaches is the primary grid for making decisions and interacting with the world. For the purposes of our research, we investigate a biblical worldview based on eight elements.

      A person with a biblical worldview believes that …

  1. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.
  2. God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He still rules today.
  3. Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned.
  4. Satan is real.
  5. A Christian has a responsiblity to share his or her faith in Christ with other people.
  6. The Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
  7. Unchanging moral truth exists.
  8. Such moral truth is defined by the Bible.

      In our research, we have found that people who embrace these eight components live a substantially different faith from other Americans – indeed, from other believers. What we believe influences our choices.

      Getting back to the issue of spiritual depth, if two-thirds of young adults have made a commitment to Jesus before, how many do you think possess a biblical worldview? Our research shows only 3 percent of Busters and Mosaics embrace these eight elements. That is just one out of every twenty-two young adults who have made a committment to Christ. (Although older adults are more likely to have such a perspective, it is also a small slice – only 9 percent – who do).

      This means that out of ninety-five million Americans who are ages eighteen to forty-one, about sixty million say they have already made a commitment to Jesus that is still important; however, only about three million of them have a biblical worldview.

Wow – those numbers are shocking!

Quantifiable research done over the course of many years including hundreds of thousands of interviews has enlightened us to this: the vast majority of young adults living in America today who claim to be following Jesus don’t have a grasp of the most basic Christian doctrines.

The eight elements listed do not comprehensively paint a picture of a disciple of Christ, but they do represent many of the basics.

After reading UnChristian for the first time a couple of years ago, I set a goal to do my best to make sure those learning from me adopt a biblical worldview. Meeting this goal takes intentionality. Before I simply assumed most people who’d been part of my church for a while (barring brand new Christians) understood the basics. I’ve since learned it’s a mistake to assume too much – one I doubt I’ll make again anytime soon.

I’m interested in hearing from others …

Do these numbers shock you? Are any of these eight topics ever tackled at your church? Have any of you come up with a teaching strategy to instill a biblical worldview in others? What’s missing from this list that needs to be added?

Love to hear your thoughts.

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4 thoughts on “Teaching Toward a Biblical Worldview

  1. James Wood says:

    I have a problem with Barna’s definition of a biblical worldview. I wonder if his methods cause his results.

    I don’t think I would qualify as holding a biblical worldview. I have doubts about the neo-platonic assertion that God is omniscient and omnipotent. I think such a view pays disservice to a God who enters into human suffering through the incarnation.

    I can also question whether or not the bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. How does one define a ‘principle’ as taught in the bible? I think most people might just think that refers to what the church teaches, and churches teach some messed up crap that’s not accurate (or in the bible).

    I remember a while back a commercial for “Portland’s best half-hour, ten o’clock news cast.” I got to thinking and realized that they had narrowed it to just them – not much of a claim.

    When doing research like Barna’s there is a difficult line between specificity and inclusivity. I think with his ‘biblical worldview’ definition he skewed too far to the specific and has left out a bunch of people.

  2. K. Rex Butts says:

    While I would not quible with the list 0f 8 issues that the writers believe constitute a biblical worldview, it should be noted that what they include (and do not include) and the way they word each issue reveals a clear Protestant/Evangelical lens through which they view the Christian faith and such a lens is open to criticism.

    Grace and peace,


  3. K. Rex Butts says:

    In light of reading James’ comment, I should requalify my statement and say that I would not quible *much* with the list of 8. I agree with the general idea but some of the ways eacch of the 8 criterion are worded, I would state differently. For instance, I believe the Bible does convey acurate truth…however, to claim the Bible teaches us principles is to make a massive hermeneutical assuption…one in which I am sure the post-liberal/conservative approach would take some issue with. Also, the Bible does not address every moral/ethical situation we find ourselves in (e.g., reproductive issues regarding child bearing) but the Bible does teach us how to develop a character of wisdom which does not give us a black and white answer for every moral dilema but instead teaches how to makes our own descisions rooted in our character which is being formed by God. Further, I believe God is soveriegn but that attribute must be defined by the narratives of God’s self-revelation rather than, as James alludes too, the platonic roots that has been read back into scripture in a post-constitinian Christianity. And for those who are not aware, the question of God’s omniscience is tied to how God is omnipotent and a quick survey of recent theology will reveal many different theories (some which have some merit to their plausibility and some…well, are pretty baseless is we believe the scriptures reveal anything at all regarding the nature of God).

    Any ways, I have read the above mention book as well as Dan Kimball’s “Thy Like Jesus but not the Church” and I recommend both. I think both books should serve as a wake up call the the North American church…that we need to rediscover what it means to be a follower of Jesus rather than churchianity.

    Grace and peace,


  4. jamesbrett says:

    I understand a worldview to be the lens through which you see and understand the world. I like Barna’s definition: “a person with a biblical worldview experiences, interprets, and responds to reality in light of the Bible’s principles.” The rub is that when I make a list of eight things that I “believe,” this doesn’t mean I actually employ them when interpreting reality.

    I think measuring for a Biblical worldview is an incredibly difficult task, but it almost definitely has to be measured in terms of the life one actually lives, and not what they “believe” or agree with.

    I believe Jesus would measure Biblical worldview in terms of obedience.

    As for the list, off the top of my head I’d have to add two things… 1) something about an obedient life and 2) something about the Holy Spirit empowering us in our lives.

    I also would at least reword #6, but probably drop it altogether, and let #’s 7 and 8 stand on their own. AFTER I reworded #8 to read that moral truth is defined IN the Bible, and not BY the Bible.

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