American Christianity — Laodicean church in the making, says Barna

Jody Brown May 23, 2007

More than 20 years of research, says The Barna Group, has revealed a disturbing trend among Americans’ spiritual beliefs and behavior: their commitment to orthodox biblical perspectives is “slipping.” The director of a recent Barna study says the findings reflect a “spiritual profile” among Americans similar to that of the early church at Laodicea — a church which Jesus admonished for being “neither hot nor cold” and called to repentance.

Every year, The Barna Group explores the “state of America’s faith,” examining such factors as people’s spiritual activity, faith identity, commitment, and religious perspective. This year’s poll of more than 1,000 adults (conducted in January) indicates that while Americans are remaining spiritually active, the percentage of those who hold orthodox biblical views has fallen to its lowest level in decades.

“They’ve actually become less orthodox, less traditional,” Barna’s David Kinnaman tells Associated Press. “[M]any of their core biblical perspectives have changed.”

A report released by Barna summarizes this year’s findings. Among them — two-thirds (66%) of Americans believe that God is best described as “the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who rules the world today.” That is down five percent from one year ago and represents the lowest percentage in more than 20 years of similar surveys, notes the report.

In addition, says Kinnaman, “they are less likely to reject the notion that Jesus sinned (37%), and they’re less likely to believe that Satan is a real spiritual entity (24%).” Both of those percentages are lower than last year and are among the lowest during the two decades Barna has tracked Americans’ views in those areas. The research organization observes that such revelations call into question the sincerity of people’s commitment to orthodox biblical perspectives.

Kinnaman puts it this way: while millions of Americans feel personally committed to God, they are apparently “renegotiating” the definition of God.

“They lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith,” he says in the Barna report. “[They] say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on Earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary ….”

The survey director says most Americans seem to have one foot in the “biblical camp” and one foot outside it — placing themselves in what Kinnaman refers to as a “squishy middle.”

“They say they are committed, but to what?” he asks. “They are spiritually active, but to what end? The spiritual profile of American Christianity is not unlike a lukewarm church that the Bible warns about.” (Revelation 3:14-22)

It is evident, Kinnaman observes, that most Americans — including those who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ — do not hold strong and clear beliefs. He notes that “as they go from year to year, as they watch movies, as they interact with people, as they rethink their lives, religious perspectives sometimes get put on the shelf.”

The ultimate result, he fears, is that the shift away from biblical perspectives will cause America’s youth to conclude that the Christian faith does not represent “deep, consistent truths about the spiritual and natural world.”

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About Mary

I have been a believer since 1981. Everything else before that is relatively meaningless. My heart has, from day 1, always been toward the subject of bible prophecy and I have seen the Lord do amazing things in my life through simply studying the Word and applying it to my life. I am a wife, grandmother and work full time in ministry. Life is full, and full of learning curves and seasons.
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