"Biblical Views Wane" Says Evangelical Pollster
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Mon May 21, 2007 at 03:44:32 PM EST
There's good news and bad news about the state of America's faith, says The Barna Group, a prominent Evangelical polling organization.

While "two-thirds of the nation's adult population firmly embraces the idea that their most important purpose is to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength," Barna laments "that commitment to orthodox biblical perspectives is slipping in a number of areas."

The news "that five out of six theological perspectives have shifted in recent years away from traditional biblical views" is contained in Barna's newest survey of American religious values, conducted annually since 1984. The most worrying trends? Americans are embracing strange ideas about God, Jesus, and Satan.

Barna found that:

--66% of Americans believe that God is best described as the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today. This is the lowest proportion in more than 20 years of similar surveys.

--37% of Americans believe that Jesus did not sin.

--24% reject the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being.

The last two percentages are among the lowest in 20 years.

Additionally, the study found that only 29% of Americans are strongly motivated "to explain their faith to other people"--that's 10 percentage points lower than last year--and only 27% "reject good works as a means to personal salvation."

The report went on to say that

Given these shifts, it is ironic that the only religious belief that was unchanged from previous years was the belief that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. Not quite half of Americans (45%) strongly assert this perspective.

Barna also surveyed 10 areas of religious engagement such as praying and church attendance. Eight of these held steady, but the study found that "Americans were less likely to volunteer at church and less likely to read the Bible."

Describing "an active faith" as one that entails praying, attending church, and reading the Bible, Barna found that only one-quarter of Americans fit that profile.

When it comes to what Barna calls spiritual identity,

83% of Americans identified as Christians, yet only 49% of these individuals described themselves as absolutely committed to Christianity. The remaining portion of the adult population (about 17% of Americans) was split almost equally between those who aligned with another faith and those who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic.

Based on responses to questions about beliefs (and not a respondent's self-identification), Barna identified 40% of Americans as "born again Christians" (down from 45% a year ago). Within that group of 90 million are 16 million "evangelicals"--7% of America's adult population.

The complete report can be found at

I was struck by Barna's definition of "an active faith": attending church, praying and reading the Bible. Whatever happened to living as Jesus lived--turning the other cheek and comforting the afflicted and all that? That's a lot harder than showing up in church every Sunday.

BTW, the report can be found at www.barna.org.

by forthwrite on Mon May 21, 2007 at 03:47:26 PM EST

Barna would say, or should say, that active christian faith INCLUDES living as Jesus did. But then if that were true i have met NO active christians in 28 years of looking

by strefanash on Tue May 22, 2007 at 04:44:13 PM EST

Surely the decline in biblical literacy that Mr Barna laments can be linked to the rise of the Religious Right. No. Not that they are careful bible scholars comitted to correcting this illiteracy, but that they are the most virulent expression of it. if the Religious Right can be refuted by close bible study, while holding all the assumptions that Barna champions then clearly they are an example of biblical illiteracy, not the cure for it And I hold they can be refuted by the Bible while holding to its divibe origin and inspiration for that is how i got out of the Relgous Right myself)

by strefanash on Tue May 22, 2007 at 04:49:56 PM EST

16 million "evangelicals"--7% of America's adult population. Atheists+agnostics+secular humanists+apatheists and those who don't trouble to define themselves make up approximately 14-16% of the US adult population. Excuse me for feeling perturbed at being in a vastly larger minority!

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