Is America really a Christian nation?
Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network, says that how people answer that question is more often determined by what they would like America to be than what America is.
Rohrer explored this complex topic with well-known social science researcher George Barna on Friday’s episode of APN’s popular, live, daily radio program “Stand in the Gap Today.” On the program, Barna, a monthly guest to the show, discussed new research he has conducted about Americans’ biblical worldview as well as their views on the Bible and Christianity.
“The atheist insists America is not a Christian nation, nor ever was,” Rohrer said. “The patriot and most Christian citizens would resist that statement and insist that indeed America is a Christian nation. Just look at our history, all the engravings of Scripture in our government buildings and the motto ‘In God We Trust’ on our coins. With over 70% of all Americans claiming they are Christians, the argument sounds convincing, and many would say those evidences prove it. But is America truly Christian or Christian in name only? What does the evidence show?
Barna shared on the program the “big picture” about the incidence of biblical worldview in the United States—that just 6% of adults have that perspective. This, he says, stems from some dramatic shifts in the relationship between peoples’ faith and their worldview.
The most incredible changes relate to how Americans view the Bible. These insights come from the first annual nationwide worldview survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, titled the “American Worldview Inventory 2020.”
“A biblical worldview, by definition, is based upon belief in and application of the truths, principles and exhortations contained within the Bible,” Barna said. “However, the results of the American Worldview Inventory point out that the changes in perceptions and acceptance of the Bible have facilitated the continuing decrease in the incidence of a biblical worldview in America.”
Barna noted that research suggests that more than eight out of every 10 Americans own at least one Bible. As many as four in 10 adults claim to have read the entire Bible. Two out of every 10 adults say they read the Bible on a daily basis.
“Clearly, the Bible is a book with a broad presence and substantial influence in the U.S.,” Barna said. “As would be expected, the AWVI survey revealed that peoples’ beliefs about the Bible are directly correlated with whether they develop a biblical worldview.”
* 41% believe the Bible is the word of God and contains no factual or historical errors; 14% of those have a biblical worldview. While that percentage is low, it is more than double the national average.
* Among the 13% of adults who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God but contains some factual or historical errors, only 2% possess a biblical worldview.
* 23% possess a positive view of the Bible but do not believe it is the literal or inspired word of God, or that it is completely accurate. (They see it as a “holy book” of religious teachings or as a valuable guidebook for societal development.) Less than 1% of these people develop a biblical worldview.
* 13% are indifferent to or dismissive of the Bible, citing it as merely a descriptive narrative of how its authors viewed the ways and principles of God, or as an unrealistic book of fables and myths. Not quite 1% of the people in this category hold a biblical worldview.
* The remaining 9% of the general public do not know how to describe the nature or value of the Bible. About 1% of that segment has a biblical worldview.
“Describing these data differently, only half of the nation’s adult population (54%) believes that the Bible is the word of God,” Barna said. “Even fewer—just four out of 10 (41%)—believe that the Bible is totally true in all of its empirical and historical statements. Stunningly, when comparing the current data with that from 2000, there has been a 21 percentage point decline in the proportion of adults who believe the Bible is the word of God (from 75% to 54%) and a 17-point drop in the number who believe the Bible is without error (from 58% to 41%).”
Adds Rohrer, “In Luke 18:8-9, Jesus said this, ‘Nevertheless when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous yet treated others with contempt.’ This verse ties in with the warnings Jesus gave to the Disciples in Matthew 24 about the evidences before Christ’s second coming. In Matthew 24:4, Jesus’ first warning and first greatest indication is deception—where people are fooled or deceive themselves. He said, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you, for many will come in my name, professing to be Christians, but are not, and they will deceive many.’ As such, and knowing this warning by Jesus Himself, and based on the findings of George Barna’s latest research, I ask the question: Is America really a Christian nation? Even though the majority of Americans say they’re Christians, does that make us a Christian nation? Or does the evidence suggest that we are deceived and are Christians in name only?”
Barna, currently in a leadership role at the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University (ACU), has filled executive roles in politics, marketing, advertising, media development, research and ministry.