I thought I was done with the Barna survey, but it seems I am not. Because in thinking about the last two bits of information, in addition to something else I came across yesterday, I find I’m being led to do at least one more post on this subject.
I was initially surprised to learn that the Barna Group’s numbers indicated that more than half of self-identified born again believers and almost three quarters of American adults don’t believe Satan is real, then not so surprised upon learning how very few Americans — even among the born again Christians — hold to a Biblical worldview any more. The lack of a Biblical worldview in part explains the disbelief in Satan… but how is it that so many of our countrymen lack one?
The other thing I came across yesterday was an opinion regarding the controversy over whether the Bible is to be taken literally or figuratively, and that kind of clarified things for me, especially taken in combination with one last bit from the Barna Group’s research.
The writer of the opinion did not believe that basic Bible stories were to be taken as literal, real, historical events but were merely instructional tales. Or at least some were. Others might not be. In any case, the individual defended this viewpoint with the claim that there are many things that can’t be known and thus chose not to question everything and demand that all be defined.
This was not the first time I’ve encountered the opinion that spiritual things are not to be questioned too closely, nor defined in too much detail. It always sounds lofty and somehow more spiritual than the mundane, prosaic activity of trying to make everything fit.
But yesterday, it finally dawned on me that a person with this viewpoint is primarily concerned with what they believe the Bible says, not what it actually says. And by choosing not to question or seek to define their terms, they pretty much cut off all chance of finding out what it really says.
Imagine if a scientist did that!
— Oops! I forgot! Some of them do!
Okay but they’re not supposed to, and many of them don’t. The whole point of science is to find out about our world, and the way to do that has always been to question and define. The way to understand anything is to do that, even the word of God.
Especially the word of God, I would say.
Which is why I advocate learning from a pastor who has been rigorously prepared in the original languages, the historical settings at the times of writing, and the various categories of doctrines as they are found and/or developed throughout the Bible. You can’t just sit down and read it for yourself without knowing any of these other things and expect to really understand it in depth. Yet that is what many do.
Or so I had thought. In fact, it would appear that most don’t really read it at all…
Last year, an article in USA Today last year called Designer Faith reported on another Barna Group survey which found that “people no longer look to denominations or churches” for their theological edification but have made of it a do-it-yourself project. Or, as the article was subtitled, “are tailoring religion to fit their needs.”
“By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.”
When it comes to the born again Christians, the number decreases, but not by much and still makes the majority for 61% of them favor an “a la carte” approach to the development of their theological beliefs.
Worse of all, “leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.”
As George Barna said, “America is headed toward being a country of 310 million people with 310 million religions.”
It’s kind of amazing and at the same time creepy to see things playing out as the Bible warns.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires… ” ~ 2 Ti 4:3
And by choosing not to question or seek to define their terms, they pretty much cut off all chance of finding out what it really says.
It’s so ironic because the religious have become “seekers” but have little or no expectation that they will find any answers. This is why I go on the warpath from time to time against the Postmodern idea of “mystery.”
As I understand it, what they’re talking about is different from God’s transcendence. Rather, it fits with the idea that there is no authoritative truth, no way of knowing with certainty. One person’s perspective is just as true and right as the next person’s, within the context of their experiences.
Hence, their handling of the Bible. It can be neglected because it claims that which they do not believe is possible. It can be reinterpreted because modern experiences differ from ancient ones. It can be believed in part only because no one can know if the hard parts are really true (and of course they certainly weren’t actually from God).
Interestingly, I just read in Acts where Peter quotes from the Psalms saying “by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said …” I’m finding many more of these kinds of internal verifications of the origin of Scripture, apart from the overt statements we usually quote.
Honestly, I don’t know how someone thinks he can figure out life without the Bible.