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A nation of Biblical illiterates

A timely wake-up call for Christian parents and pastors


iStock/Stephen Barnes

A nation of Biblical illiterates
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The Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University has released its American Worldview Inventory 2022. The results are disconcerting, to put it mildly. Two-thirds of parents of pre-teens in America identify as “Christian,” yet only 2 percent meet a minimal criteria of possessing a Biblical worldview.

The study exposed serious deficits in both homes and pulpits around America. As for the home, lead researcher George Barna notes that “A parent’s primary responsibility is to prepare a child for the life God intends for that child. A crucial element in that nurturing is helping the child develop a Biblical worldview—the filter that causes a person to make their choices in harmony with Biblical teachings and principles.” Yet Millennials, who now make up a majority of today’s parents, have become the generation least likely to ascribe to a Biblical worldview, with a meager 4 percent meeting the basic criteria.

Roughly one-in-four parents of preteens believe in objective moral truth, the personal agency of the Holy Spirit, and that life is sacred. Parents can hardly pass on to the next generation what they lack themselves. How can we expect rising generations to take the Christian worldview seriously when the overwhelming majority of their parents are clueless, shaped far more by cultural trends than Scripture?

Many parents delegate Biblical instruction to the local church, but there the situation remains bleak. “From a worldview perspective,” Barna states, “a church’s most important ministers are the Children’s Pastor and the Youth Pastor.” Why? Because “a person’s worldview primarily develops before the age of 13.” Yet, the CRC study reports that a meager 12 percent of children’s and youth pastors upheld consistent Biblical beliefs and behaviors. A mere 41 percent of senior pastors, 28 percent of executive pastors, 13 percent of teaching pastors, and a dismal 4 percent of executive pastors adhere to a basic Christian worldview.

According to Barna, the pastorate’s “lack a biblical worldview helps to explain why so few people in the nation’s youngest generations are developing a heart and mind for biblical principles and ways of life, and why our society seems to have run wild over the last decade, in particular.”

What the American Worldview Inventory reveals more than anything else is sin.

Other recent studies support Barna’s sobering conclusion. Nearly half of “practicing Christian Millennials” believe that “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” It is good for the eternities of millions of people that the Apostles, the Jim and Elizabeth Elliots, the Lottie Moons, Amy Carmichaels, Hudson Taylors, David Brainerds, and William Careys of history did not share this opinion. The same study found that 40 percent of Millennials have bought into the false notion that “If someone says they disagree with you, it means that they’re judging you.”

So what happened? There is likely an amalgam of contributing factors behind the alarming Biblical illiteracy plaguing America’s self-identifying Christians. Pastors are often hired more for on-stage and interpersonal charisma or professional skills rather than Biblical qualifications. Many seminaries have severely compromised their Biblical heritage in favor of trendy ideologies, and enrollments are down.

Parents around the dinner table rarely take it upon themselves to catechize their children with the great historic creeds of the faith. Children’s ministries and youth groups have operated from the presupposition that entertainment rather than robust Biblical instruction is the secret to success. For fear of being labeled bigots, many churches have capitulated to the spirit of the age rather than clung to the spirit of Christ.

Indeed, the list of contributing factors could stretch on and on. But perhaps Charles Spurgeon’s words from over a century ago take us to the root issue, “Your non-searching of the Scriptures, your weariness under Gospel preaching, your want of care to understand the mind of God, is prima facie evidence that there is some enmity in your heart against the Most High.” What the American Worldview Inventory reveals more than anything else is sin. May we bring our failure to love Christ with our whole selves to His cross, where there is a superabundance of grace. In our confused age, may we once again contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3).


Thaddeus Williams

Thaddeus Williams is the author of the best-selling book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice (Zondervan/HarperCollins, 2020). He serves as associate professor of systematic theology for the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and resides in Orange County, Calif., with his wife and four kids.


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