QUESTION #2: What are some of the conclusions we can draw from these survey findings and is there any historic precedent that would find early American Bible knowledge to be higher than it is today?


George Barna:

“I think there are some conclusions we can begin to draw, one of which is, certainly, there are no widespread theological standards that the American Church holds onto these days. Essentially, we fight for freedom of religion and essentially what that’s become to mean is freedom from truth. We essentially want to determine our own truth in our own way, based on our own sources and the bible often, apparently, is not a primary source of our truth. I think we can begin to raise the issue that maybe the local Church is having more limited impact than we’ve been lead to believe. And I don’t say that to be dismissive or derogatory, but we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘what in the world is going on here?’

I look back historically and one of the things that I saw about the colonial Church that so impressed me was that we were a nation of churches filled with pastors who were outraged by sin, who created an uproar over the fact that people didn’t take the Bible seriously. You had Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitfield, all of these great, wonderful spiritual leaders who called us to task, they called us on it. And then I look at what’s going on in America today and, obviously, the teaching that’s being given to Americans about the Bible, about Christ, about Christianity, about the nature and the being of God, is not clear. What is biblical must not be repeated because people aren’t recalling it, and when we evaluate lifestyles, we can tell that it’s not being applied. I would say we’ve got some real challenges in our culture today, but one of the biggest ones is for the Church to be the Church. The Church is defeating itself today. We’ve got to right that ship if the culture is going to be righted as well.”

…As far as the early American knowledge of the Bible, if we go back to the original surveys by the founders of what’s now known as the marketing research industry, public opinion research, George Gallup and Archibald Crossley and a whole bunch of other people. What we know is that people were closer. A greater number of people had biblical views at that time than we have today. But I wonder if maybe the more important question is, does God need a majority of America to have a biblical worldview or does He need a group of people with a biblical worldview who are willing to devote their lives to advancing His agenda?

I think that when we look at Scripture, what we see is often God uses remnants, and so the absolute numbers may not be as important as some of the implications of what those numbers are. I would say today one of those implications is that we need to start looking at what it is we’re doing in our ministries. Are we focusing on children, are we helping families to raise godly kids? Are we really teaching God’s Word or are we teaching kind of cultural truisms that make people feel good? Are we evaluating success in our Churches not based on attendance but based on life transformations? There are a lot of things that I think all of this data brings up, and, as you’re suggesting, a biblical worldview is an important element of it. But maybe we need to go back to some of the foundations of how are people going to get that biblical worldview. Have we put into place the kinds of structures and the kinds of resources that will help people to get there?”

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