family at dinner

Steve Cable reviews the dismal results of surveying the worldview of American Christians.

Problem: How Parents are Missing the Mark

Following up on our series of articles featuring the results from Probe’s recent 2020 survey of American Religious Beliefs{1}, we want to add to that understanding drawing on data collected and analyzed by George Barna of the Christian Research Center at Arizona Christian University. Since 2020, the Christian Research Center has taken multiple surveys to assess the worldviews and the values of American adults. In 2023, Barna released a book entitled American Worldview Inventory 2022-23: The Annual Report of the State of Worldview in the United States.{2}

Looking at the spiritual status and worldviews of America’s parents of children living at home, our data and Barna’s book both show the vast majority of Americans do not possess a biblical worldview to pass on to their children. Equally disturbing at a parenting level, most of them “do not even have the worldview development of their children on their radar.”{3} To make this situation worse for the future of American Christianity, most Evangelical parents fall into the same category as other parents— a fractured, inconsistent worldview with no intentional plan to impart their worldview or any other worldview to their children.

Some people might want to argue that worldviews are personal, and children need to develop a personal worldview without parental intervention. That way they can own and nurture this view as young adults, finding something that works for them. Such an argument might have some substance, if we were talking about forming your views on how one might select sports teams to root for or even choose a career to pursue. But when we talk about worldviews, we are talking about the fundamentals of life including things such as “Where did life originate?”, “What does it mean to be a person?”, “Why is there evil and suffering in the world?”, “How can we escape the destructive forces of sin in our life?”, “Can we be restored to a relationship with our creator?” and others.

There are radically different answers to these questions being promoted in our society today. If you are an Evangelical Christian, you know that true biblical answers to these questions are under constant attack.
You should expect your children to choose to flee from these attacks by adopting another, nonbiblical worldview unless they have been given good reasons to believe the biblical answers are true.

If you believe that a biblical worldview is the only foundation upon which to build a life that will echo through eternity, you need to be actively teaching, testing and encouraging your children with the truth. To do this you will need to repair your worldview along biblical guidelines and develop a plan for building these worldview truths into your children.

But first, we will look at the lies that have crept into many worldviews including those held by Christian parents.

The Victory of Syncretism

George Barna’s research as well as our own clearly show a breakdown of biblically based thinking not only among the general population but also among those who identify as Evangelicals. Barna’s recent research found that two-thirds of parents of preteens claim to be Christian, but only 4% of them possess a biblical worldview. So, what kind of worldview do they hold?

Barna surveyed adults in America using worldview questions to divide our population into seven different worldviews ranging from Biblical Theism to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to Postmodernism to Eastern Mysticism.
Surprisingly, the most popular worldview was Biblical Theism but held by only 2% of the parents of preteens. All the other worldviews offered were at 1% or less.

Wait, you may be asking! That sum adds up to less than 8% of the population and you would be right. What happened is that 94% of these parents were classified as being Syncretists. “Syncretism is a blending of multiple worldviews in which no single life philosophy is dominant, producing a worldview that is diverse and often self-contradictory.”{4} Since the rise of postmodernism (and probably before), more and more American have no problem holding a set of views which are at best inconsistent. Barna found most of these syncretistic parents gathered their worldview ideas from different parts of three of the candidate worldviews: Eastern Mysticism, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, and Biblical Theism. When considered as a whole, each of these worldviews is distinctly different and in fact counter to the other two.

We see that Americans tend to embrace beliefs in the different areas of worldview that seem attractive in that area, are espoused by many of their friends, and that they see espoused on their media outlets of choice. As one scholar describes it, “Central to syncretism is the belief that all religions offer truth, or that different religions present different paths to God. Syncretism operates on the assumption that combining certain teachings
produces a better way of knowing and/or reaching God.”

Barna found that less than one third of adults turn to the Bible as their primary source of moral guidance. Of
course, even fewer turn to the sacred texts of other religions. American adults, without placing their faith in historical worldviews, feel a freedom to create their own way to view the world. In fact, 58% of adults believe that moral truth is up the individual to decide. Since all truth is relative, inconsistencies and contradictions are not worth considering. Certainly a careful examination of the so-called truth that all truth is relative would
show the falsehood in that statement.

The dominant worldview thinking of Americans assumes that the details of the faith you ascribe to don’t matter as long as you place your faith in something AND you don’t presume to question anyone else’s object of faith. As you can see, this way of thinking creates a tough wall for any evangelistic message to overcome. People are not programmed to think, “Isn’t it nice that this Christian is concerned for my eternal situation and wants to tell me the way I can improve it.” Instead, they think, “How can this person be so rude and confrontational as to present their views as the only viable truth? This person needs to be shunned.”

At the end of this essay, we will consider some strategies for tearing down this wall.

Values and Beliefs of Young Parents

As noted above, two major barriers exist, preventing the development of biblical leaning worldviews for our pre-teens. First, most parents do not take any concrete actions to pass on or promote a particular worldview. Instead, they leave it to the culture around their children to instill a worldview framework. If these parents have a somewhat Christian perspective themselves, they ignore the teaching of Deuteronomy where God tells us, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”{5} And in the New Testament epistle Ephesians, Paul writes, “Bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”{6}

Secondly, the vast majority of parents, including many Evangelical parents, do not possess a biblical worldview to pass on. In some areas, they depart from the clear biblical teaching and subscribe to the lies of the world. As Barna points out, “The parents of children under the age of 13 are a stellar example of this Christian nominalism that is widely accepted as spiritually normal and healthy.” {7} Let’s examine some the areas where parents are failing to uphold a biblical worldview.

As Christians, we know that God created human life as sacred. Even as fallen humans, God considered our lives so important that Jesus came to die, taking on the price of our sin. And yet according to Barna’s recent book, over three fourths of American parents do not suppose that human life is sacred.  This gap in a biblical worldview leads to a nation where many worship a woman’s ability to choose an abortion over the sacred obligation to protect life. In fact, over 85% of parents do not consider human life as sacred and/or support having an abortion if raising the child would be too inconvenient for the parents. To put it bluntly, the right to live a life without inconveniences is more important than another person’s right to live at all.

Another example is that less that one in four self-identified Christian parents oppose the notion that having faith matters more than which faith. They are essentially saying if you have faith in Buddha, Mohammed, or your household idol, that is just as good as having faith in Christ. These parents (and remember, these are people who identify themselves as Christians) believe that God would sacrifice His Son, turning His back on Jesus as He took the sins of the world upon Himself, when there were already other ways people could be restored to God that would require no love or sacrifice on the part of God. This inconsistent, self-contradictory thinking is a hallmark
of the syncretistic views that dominate our society.

Barna also found that only one in ten parents have a consistently biblical perspective on God, creation, and history. Without this understanding, their children cannot be expected to grasp these key precepts on their own.

With this combination of laissez-faire parenting and a lack of a consistent biblical worldview, the natural conclusion is that the upcoming generation of young adults will be even further removed from clear biblical thinking than the current generation. Unfortunately, this result is almost certain without a concerted effort by concerned Christians to communicate the truth.

Pastors (for the most part) Not Helping Combat the Decline

As we consider the decline in American young adults who profess and live according to a biblical worldview, we might ask what influences are in play to counter this decline. One of the questions Barna addresses is “How well are America’s pastors working to stem this discouraging tide on unbelief?” To get a handle on this question, he surveyed 1,000 pastors across America including Senior Pastors, Youth Pastors and Teaching Pastors.{8}

If these pastors are going to help turn people back to a biblical worldview, they need to possess one themselves. What the survey found was only four out of ten Senior Pastors professed a biblical worldview. This result is disheartening, but perhaps even more startling only 12% of the Youth Pastors claimed a biblical worldview. One third of the pastors surveyed did not even read their Bible at least once a week. So, the vast majority of our
children who are attending church regularly have no chance of receiving a clearly articulated biblical worldview from the spiritual leaders their parents are relying on for sound spiritual teaching.

Well, you may be thinking, these results are for all pastors, but I attend an evangelical church so I can be confident in the teaching my children will receive. It is true that while only one out of three Mainline Protestant pastors profess a biblical worldview, we can expect Evangelical pastors to be significantly better. But even Evangelical pastors still only have about one out of two (50%) with a biblical worldview. This result implies that half of the Evangelical churches in America are not teaching a biblical worldview.

Southern Baptists and non-denominational Evangelicals do score significantly higher. Among Southern Baptists, over three out of four pastors professed a consistent biblical worldview. This significantly higher number may result from Southern Baptist churches requiring candidates for pastoral positions to affirm their belief in the Baptist Faith and Message document. Similarly, almost two out of three non-denominational pastors supported such a worldview.

In Barna’s analysis, an Integrated Disciple was defined as someone who “professed a biblical worldview and successfully integrated their biblical beliefs into their daily behavior.{9} One would think the pastors of mid-sized and large churches would be the most educated and very likely to be Integrated Disciples. However, what the survey revealed was that only 15% of pastors at churches with over 250 in average attendance were identified as Integrated Disciples. It is hard to find a disciple who is not following a spiritual leader, but in these churches such a leader will be hard to find.

Some people would like to believe that it doesn’t matter which church you go to as long as you are going to church. Probe’s and Barna’s results show this hopeful view to be unfounded. Among Roman Catholics, less that 6% of the priests profess a biblical worldview. This lack of biblical leadership is clearly evident among those people who regularly attend Catholic mass where less that one out of one hundred profess a clear biblical worldview.

Today it is of utmost importance that Christian parents examine the teaching coming from the pastors and other leaders at their church. If the teaching does not reflect a biblical worldview, you should run, not walk, to the nearest exit and search for another church.

How to Combat the Decline in Biblical Worldview Believers

In this article, we have been highlighting the decline in the portion of our population who profess a biblical review, drawing on the research results presented in the book, American Worldview Inventory 2022-23. Although it helps to know the facts about the beliefs of most Americans, just reviewing and lamenting the data does not really accomplish anything. We want to consider and act on the steps we can take as individuals and churches to plant and tend to a new generation of Integrated Disciples in our country.

Barna calls on us to intentionally teach the key doctrines of an evangelical, biblical worldview in our seminaries, our churches, and our homes. As recent history has clearly demonstrated, just assuming that younger generations will catch our biblical worldview is doomed to failure. We need to systematically, intentionally, and repeatedly extol and explain the key truths that make us those who “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.{10} Barna suggests the following key truths to focus on:

1. An orthodox, biblical understanding of God which understands that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect, and just creator of the universe who rule that universe today.  Among parents of children under 13, just 40% hold that view.

2. All human beings are sinful by nature; every choice we make has moral contours and consequences. A vast majority of Americans, about three out of four, do not believe that humans are born with a sin nature and are certain to sin “and can only be saved from its consequences by Jesus Christ.”

3. Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death is the only way to be reconciled with our holy God. We receive this free gift through our repentance and our confession that Jesus Christ is our Lord. Only three out of ten adults believe this is the only way to heaven, while only 2 of 100 believe they will go to hell after they die.

4. The entire Bible is true, reliable and relevant. When we understand how we received the Bible and how it applies to every aspect of our life and earth and in heaven, it changes how we perceive and interact with the world.

5. Absolute moral truth exists—and those truths are defined by God. Absolute truth can only be known by the source of truth, our Creator. Unfortunately, the majority of adults believe that determining moral truth is up to each individual.

6. The ultimate purpose of human life is to know, love, and serve God. If we know the true God, we will “love Him because He first loved us{11} and we will want to serve Him through “the good works He has prepared for us.{12} Most young Americans say they lack meaning and purpose. They will never be able to find truly meaningful purpose apart from Christ.

7. Success on earth is best understood as consistent obedience to God. If we understand that we are eternal beings who in Christ are the recipients of an eternal inheritance, we can see that our true success cannot be found in the temporal pleasures of this world. Only 20% of adults embrace this definition of success.

In my experience, I have watch numerous young people grow up in a church and then leave to either thrive in a dynamic Christ-honoring life or fall away into a syncretic worldview, serving their own interests. The world
system is constantly feeding them with lies and attacking the truths they have been taught. So, how can we do a better job of helping build strong Christians with a solid biblical worldview?

First, we must teach them the seven truths listed above. Not once, but many times and in many situations. Their parents must talk about these truths and their churches must teach these truths.

Second, we must ask them regularly to explain what they believe. Just because they have sat under teaching does not mean they have learned any lessons. To believe we should test high school students to determine what they have learned and then ignore testing students of the Bible is at best foolhardy.

Third, we must tell these students as they enter into more of the secular world that we are still there for them. Tell them, “If someone or something causes you to question what you have learned, don’t just throw out what you have learned and follow something else. Come tell me about it and why it seems like it may be true. I have been in similar halls to the ones you are walking through now. I am convinced that the only source of real truth is found
in Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Let’s look at it together.” Let us “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”{13}

1. Steve Cable, Understanding a Post-Christian America in 2020,
2. George Barna, American Worldview Inventory 2022-23: The Annual Report of the State of Worldview in the United States, Arizona Christian University Press, 2023.
3. Ibid., page 7.
4. Ibid., page 12.
5. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
6. Ephesians 6:4
7. Barna, page 27.
8. Ibid., page 41.
9. Ibid., page 51.
10. 1 Peter 2:9
11. 1 John 4:19
12. Ephesians 2:10
13. Galatians 6:2

©2024 Probe Ministries

Steve Cable is the Senior Vice President of Probe Ministries. Steve assists in developing strategies to expand the impact of Probe's resources in the U.S. and abroad. Prior to joining Probe, Steve spent over 25 years in the telecommunications industry. Steve and his wife, Patti, have served as Bible teachers for over 30 years helping people apply God's word to every aspect of their lives. Steve has extensive, practical experience applying a Christian worldview to the dynamic, competitive hi-tech world that is rapidly becoming a dominant aspect of our society.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at

Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:

Probe Ministries
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075
(972) 941-4565
[email protected]

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