A new study by the George Barna Group and Arizona Christian University examined the beliefs and worldview of people who claimed to be Christians. It revealed that many people who claim to follow Jesus don’t have basic beliefs that line up with the teachings of his word.
One of the first troubling results was the finding that 71 percent of self-identified Christian adults “consider feelings, experience, or the input of friends and family as their most trusted sources of moral guidance.” This means that almost three-quarters of people who claim to follow Jesus trust their own gut instincts or the advice of their friends to be superior to the witness of Scripture. It should be little wonder that so many are confused about theology, morality, and church life. When we follow our feelings and experiences, we become like Israel during the time of the Judges, with everyone doing what is right in his own eyes.
Since so many Christians trust their feelings and experiences, it should not surprise us to see how many have abandoned some of the most basic Christian doctrines. For example, 72 percent of self-identifying Christians say that people are “basically good.” Sixty-six percent say that having faith matters more than which faith you belong to, and 64 percent think all religious faiths are of equal value. Fifty-eight percent believe people can earn salvation through good works, and the same percentage believes that the Holy Spirit is only a “symbol of God’s power.” Fifty-seven percent believe in karma.
Christians are experiencing a crisis of authority. Talk to any Christian right now about current events and their response is usually, “I don’t believe anything right now.” Instead of turning to the authority they know they can trust, which Scripture, Christians are turning to the least trustworthy authority imaginable–themselves.
We need to rediscover our trust in and knowledge of the Bible. The Bible is God’s word which has come to us through inspired human authors. In the Bible, God reveals himself, explains who we are and what has gone wrong with us, and proclaims the wonderful salvation we experience in Jesus Christ. The Bible also tells us how to live wise and godly lives that bring glory to him.
Unfortunately, many Christians neglect the treasure of God’s word. We tally hours watching cable news and scrolling through our phones while spending very few minutes giving our attention to the daily reading of Scripture. When you consider the hours that we spend drinking from the fire hydrant of the world’s “wisdom” and values, it is no surprise that we sound just like the unbelieving world when we are surveyed about what we believe.
More Christians need to develop habits of reading and responding to God’s word. At this point, whatever Bible reading plan you might choose does not matter. Just sit down and start reading God’s word. Read the Gospels, read the Psalms, or read the Bible all the way through. The plan is not that important; the reading and responding is.
The manner in which we read God’s word is important as well. We are not reading so that we can check boxes and say that we read. We are reading in order to be formed and shaped by God and his word. Therefore, we should read slowly, thoughtfully, and meditatively. After each chapter or paragraph, we should stop and ask, “What is God saying in this passage?” Then we should ask the equally important question, “How is he calling me to respond?”
This type of sustained reflection, in addition to reading good Christian books and listening to good Christian resources, will help produce a biblical worldview. You’ll develop a better understanding of the basics of Christian doctrine and have a greater ability to filter unbiblical ideas out of your worldview. This will then provide the lens through which you see your work, your home, your relationships with others, and life in the local church.
Christians need a biblical worldview, and we aren’t going to get one without reading the Bible. Set aside the time, shut out the noise from the world around, and give your full attention to God and his word.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”