New Barna Poll Shows Continued Decline of Bible Belief in America | Inspiration Ministries
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New Barna Poll Shows Continued Decline of Bible Belief in America

by Dr. Craig von Buseck

The latest cultural research has revealed a razor-thin 51% majority of Americans believe in a biblical view of God – this is down from 73% thirty years ago. This research adds to the mounting evidence that Americans are both redefining – and rejecting – God.

According to the latest release of findings from the American Worldview Inventory 2020 by Dr. George Barna, Director of Research for the Cultural Research Center, some of the largest drops in belief in a biblical description of God in the past 30 years are among youngest Americans ages 18 to 29 (down 26 points), oldest Americans, i.e., born before 1946 (down 25 points), and women (down 25 points).

In a shocking discovery, the largest drop was among those attending Pentecostal or charismatic Protestant churches (down 27 points).

Stunningly, Americans are more confident about the existence of Satan than they are of God. Overall, 56% contend that Satan is an influential spiritual being, yet almost half (49%) are not fully confident that God truly exists. And 44% believe Jesus Christ sinned while on Earth. Americans are also confused about the nature of the Holy Spirit, with over half—52%—saying that “the Holy Spirit is not a living entity, but merely a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity.”

Only those in households with income at least 20% above the national average saw an increase (up 2 points). Overall, the study found a 50% drop in biblical worldview in America in the past 30 years, from 12% to the current 6%—the lowest number ever recorded.

Key AWVI 2020 Findings  

  • A major shift in beliefs about God shows dramatically increasing skepticism about His existence. Those who say “a higher power may exist, but nobody really knows for certain” has exploded from 1% of the public 30 years ago to 20% today.
  • Americans are almost evenly divided on the nature of Jesus Christ. Overall, 44% agreed that “when He lived on earth, Jesus Christ was fully divine and also fully human, and therefore committed sins, like other people.” Slightly fewer (41%) viewed Jesus as fully divine and fully human, and sinless while on earth.
  • Among those least likely to possess an orthodox biblical view of God: o “nones,” i.e., atheists, agnostics, with no religious interest or associations (9%); o political liberals (35%);  o adults who self-identify as LGBTQ (36%);  o and adults 18 to 29 years old (38%).

Half of all American adults believe that their money contains a lie. That’s one conclusion you might draw from a new report based on a nationwide survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.

Every piece of paper currency printed in the United States contains the words, “In God We Trust.” The new survey, however, reveals that only half of American adults (51%) believe in a traditional, biblical view of God as the “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules the world today.” In fact, faith in a deity fitting that description has plummeted from three-quarters of adults thirty years ago (73% in 1991) to the present-day statistic of barely half of American adults.

This latest report based on the AWVI 2020 indicates that a significant reason for the small number of people with a biblical worldview is the dramatic rise in the popularity of disparate and unbiblical views that Americans have adopted concerning God.

Prevailing Descriptions about Deity

Half of the nation accepts the orthodox biblical view of God as one who created and controls the universe; is omnipotent, omniscient, and without fault; and is just in His decisions.

Alternative views about a concept of a divine presence, can be summarized in five contrasting options.

  • One-fifth of the public (20%) embraces a conventional agnostic perspective: “a higher power may exist, but nobody knows for certain.”
  • One-tenth (10%) possess a common “new age” or modern mystical point of view, claiming that “‘God’ refers to the total realization of personal, human potential or a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach.”
  • A traditional atheistic view – i.e., that “there is no such thing as God” – is a view held by 6% of U.S. adults.
  • Less common views include the 4% who possess a polytheistic view (“there are many gods, each with different powers and authority”) and 3% who are pantheistic (“everyone is god”).
  • The remaining 6% of the public does not know what to think about the notion of God.

Implications for America

The director of the American Worldview Inventory project, George Barna, stressed the significance of these new findings. “It’s no wonder that more than nine out of ten Americans lack a biblical worldview given that peoples’ fundamental understanding of the nature and existence of God is flawed,” the veteran researcher and bestselling author remarked.

“All of the spiritual noise in our culture over the last few decades has obviously confused and misled hundreds of millions of people in our nation,” Barna said. “The message to churches, Christian leaders, and Christian educators is clear: we can no longer assume that people have a solid grasp of even the most basic biblical principles, such as those concerning the existence and nature of God. Our previous report, concerning Americans’ views about the Bible, produced similar red flags. What were once basic spiritual truths that most people embraced are no longer perspectives that people accept – or, in a growing number of cases, know anything about.”

Barna also highlighted the new wave of popular thinking about deity in America that is revealed by the results of the American Worldview Inventory. “Thirty years ago, people spent time learning and thinking about God. As our culture has become more self-absorbed, less time is invested reflecting on authority and truth,” Barna continued. “During that same period, we have transitioned from a people who upheld the existence of absolute moral truth to a nation where the majority now rejects moral absolutes.”

“The result has been a seminal shift in our collective focus, from other to self, and from absolute truths to conditional truths. That shift, in turn, helps to explain why the ‘doesn’t/don’t know/don’t care’ population, regarding the existence of God, has mushroomed from 8 percent to 32 percent in just 30 years – a 300 percent increase! That’s one-third of the nation’s adults who have chosen to dismiss traditional teachings about God, the importance of personally determining whether a powerful, holy, Creator God exists, and the implications of their conclusion for their present and future. This is the paramount existential crisis of our era.”

About the Research

The American Worldview Inventory 2020 (AWVI) is the first wave of an annual series of surveys that estimates how many adults have a biblical worldview. The assessment is based on 51 worldview-related questions that are drawn from eight categories of worldview application. Those questions are divided into queries regarding both beliefs and behavior. In additional to the worldview questions, the survey also contains an array of demographic and theolographic questions. In total, the AWVI instrument incorporates 68 questions and took respondents an average of 16 minutes to complete.

AWVI 2020 was undertaken in January 2020 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults. The survey included 1,000 interviews with a nationwide random sample of adults via telephone, plus another 1,000 adults interviewed online through use of a national panel of adults. A survey of 2,000 individuals has an estimated maximum sampling error of approximately 2 percentage points, based on the 95% confidence interval. Additional levels of undeterminable error may occur in surveys based upon non-sampling activity.

About the Cultural Research Center

The Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University is located on the school’s campus in Glendale, Arizona. CRC conducts nationwide research studies to understand the intersection of faith and culture and shares the information with organizations focused on impacting the spheres of cultural influence in order to transform American culture with biblical truth. Like ACU, CRC embraces the Christian faith but remains non-partisan and inter-denominational. In addition to Dr. George Barna, the Director of Research, Dr. Tracy Munsil serves as the Executive Director of the Center. More information about the Cultural Research Center is available at the Center’s website, located at arizonachristian.edu/culturalresearchcenter.

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Dr. Craig von Buseck is Manager of Digital Content for Inspiration.org.

 

 

 

 

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