The Deception of American Christians – Part One

Table of Contents

This is part one in a look into the deception of American Christians. In a previous post titled “The Deceptive Worldview in the Church” I compiled 8 surveys from Dr. George Barna, the Director of Research for the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University which was released in 2020 and 2021.

The focus of this post will also be based on other surveys from the American Worldview Inventory 2021 and 2020 releases. Starting with the 8/31/2021 survey What Does It Mean When People Say They Are “Christian?” as well as information from earlier surveys that deal with various perspectives such as:

  • God
  • Faith
  • Truth
  • Morality & Moral Choices
  • the Value of Human Life
  • Sin and Salvation

The Meaning of Being a Christian

When someone says they are an American, the meaning of that term is clear. Someone who claims to be a policeman leaves little doubt as to their job. However, when people describe themselves as “Christian,” what does that mean?

69% of American adults self-identify as “Christian” and embrace many basic tenets of the faith. However, they have diverse theological views. A Hodgepodge of beliefs based on, well, apparently more than the Word of God.  Moreover, the 8-31-2021 survey shows many of those beliefs to be definitely unbiblical.

My goal is to gain a better understanding of why America seems to be falling apart if 69% of the adults claim to be Christians. If Christians are to be the light of Christ, why is it so dark in America? If Christians are the “salt”, why is there no flavor to draw people to Christ? Why does it appear that the master of deceit satan, is winning in America?

The results of my previous endeavor were mind-blowing. At least for me as a follower of Jesus Christ. Dr. Barna uses the term Integrated Disciple instead of a follower of Jesus Christ. An interesting new term that I have learned. Are you an Integrated Disciple of Christ?

An Integrated Disciple according to Dr. Barna is a minority of American adults (6%) who possess a biblical worldview and demonstrate a consistent understanding and application of biblical principles. Only 6% of American Adults? Wow…

The Church of the Integrated Disciples… hmmm.

Faith Narrative Details and Attributes

Self-identified Christians

  • People who simply say they are Christian
  • Reject several biblical teachings and principles.
  • 9% have a biblical worldview
  • Acknowledge God is real, powerful, and caring, and is worthy of worship and consideration.
  • He is open-minded and tolerant.
  • Our moral choices are important but primarily because of their effect on other people.
  • Those choices are best influenced by human experience and personal expectations.
  • If we invest in being happy, God will bless those efforts.
  • The best advice we can live by is the wisdom developed and shared by other people.

Self-identified born-again Christians

  • Majority believe many principles taught in the Bible.
  • However, numerous outlooks conflict with biblical teachings.
  • 60% do not meet the widely accepted, biblical definition of born-again.
  • Acknowledge God is real and powerful, as well as broad-minded, forgiving, and tolerant.
  • Sin is real.
  • Salvation can either be earned or received through a relationship with Christ.
  • Moral choices matter, but we are inevitably captives of karma.
  • The Bible is a critical guide to life.
  • The Bible does not contain absolute moral or comprehensive and indisputable spiritual truth.
  • Their best sources of guidance are feelings, experience, and interpersonal advice.

Self-identified evangelical Christians

  • congregations who teach that the Bible is the word of God and is reliable and trustworthy in all matters
  • 21% are evangelical Christians are Integrated Disciples.

Theologically born-again Christians

  • Believe when they die, they will go to Heaven, only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
  • Hold a variety of views that contradict biblical teaching

Integrated Disciples

  • 97% have a biblical worldview.
  • Assimilate their beliefs into their lifestyle.
  • Consistently comes closest to reflecting biblical principles into their opinions, beliefs, behaviors, and preferences, albeit imperfectly.
  • Less than 10% hold unscriptural positions

The Number of Adults Who Fall into These Categories

Description of the categoryPercent of AdultsNumber of Adults
Self-identified Christians69%176 million
Self-identified born-again Christians3589 million
Self-identified evangelical Christians2871 million
Theologically born-again Christians2871 million
Integrated Disciples – possess a biblical worldview615 million
Source: National research conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.

Comparison of Religious Beliefs of the Five “Chrisitan” Segments

American Christians survey

Digging Deeper into the Perceptions of Deity

How Has a Biblical View of God and the Bible Changed In 30 Years?

Belief/PerceptionPercentage 30 Years AgoPercentage in 2020/2021
God is the “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules the world today.”73%51%
Perception of “a higher power may exist, but nobody really knows for certain1%20%
 “God refers to the total realization of human potential or a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach”16%10%
A belief that: “there is no such thing as God”1%6%
The Bible is without error58%41%
humanity is “basically good”83%69%

The Largest Declines

The largest declines in an orthodox, biblical perspective on the nature of God since 1991 were:

  • Pentecostal or charismatic Protestant churches: down by 27 percentage points
  • People in the 18- to 29-year-old category: down 26 points
  • Adults born before 1946: down 25 points
  • Women: down 25 points

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.

The other half have alternative views about the being, or some concept of a divine presence, that can be summarized in five contrasting options.

  • 20% embraces a conventional agnostic perspective: “a higher power may exist, but nobody knows for certain.”
  • 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.”
  • 6% hold a traditional atheistic view: i.e., that “there is no such thing as God”
  • 4% who possess a polytheistic view: “there are many gods, each with different powers and authority”
  • 3% who are pantheistic: “everyone is god”

6% of the public does not know what to think about the notion of God.

Breakdown of Belief Segments

Most Likely to Embrace Orthodox Biblical View of God

People groups are most likely to embrace the orthodox biblical view of God are as follows.

  • 92% SAGE Cons (Spiritually Active Governance Engaged) Conservative Christians
  • 84% born-again Christians
  • 70% political conservatives
  • 62% blacks
  • 67% Republicans
  • 59% college graduates with above average household income
  • 57% people 50 or older

Least Likely to Embrace Orthodox Biblical View of God

People groups that are least likely to embrace the orthodox biblical view of God are as follows.

  • 9% of “nones” – (i.e., atheists, agnostics, those who have no religious interest or associations)
  • 23% political liberals who are Independent
  • 29% adults associated with non-Christian faiths
  • 35% political liberals, regardless of their party affiliation
  • 36% adults who self-identify as LGBTQ
  • 38% adults 18 to 29 years old

Views about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Satan

Statement Agree Disagree Not Sure/ No Opinion
“It is impossible to be certain about the existence of God; it is solely a matter of faith.”57%36%8%
“When He lived on earth, Jesus Christ was fully divine and also fully human, and therefore committed sins, like other people.”44%41%16%
“The Holy Spirit is not a living entity but is a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity.”52%32%17%
“Satan is not merely a symbol of evil but is a real spiritual being and influences human lives.”  56%30%14%

Americans are now more confident about the existence of Satan than they are of God

  • 56% contend that Satan is an influential spiritual being
  • 51% believe in a God who is an influential spiritual being and
  • 49% are not fully confident that He truly exists.

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 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. 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.

Dr. George Barna

Many Beliefs About God Table

American Christians survey

Do Christians Believe the Bible is True?

The AWVI 2020: Faith and Worldview (Report #2: 04-07-2020) shows that people’s beliefs about the Bible directly correlate with whether they develop a biblical worldview. Trust in the Bible can be seen to vary by religious affiliation, with growing skepticism continuing to drive the decline in the biblical worldview.

It is not surprising, then, to find that different segments of the Christian population have varying incidences of biblical worldview possession.

Americans who attend the following church families believe:

Statement Evangelicals Pentecostals /Charismatic Mainline Protestant Catholics
the Bible is the word of God84%78% 60%61%
the Bible has no errors74%68%37%47%

Beliefs and Worldview

Among the adults who say they are Christian, less than (9%) have a biblical worldview.

“Born again” Christians are one-third of the population (33%).

These people were identified by:

  1. claiming to be Christian
  2. and to believe that they will experience Heaven after they die solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

Although this group is often described as the “backbone” of the Christian Church, only 19% had a biblical worldview. A figure that was low but triple the national average (6%).

Belief About the Bible Table

American Christians survey

Perceptions of Morality & Moral Choices

America is undergoing a radical reshaping of what constitutes morally acceptable behavior. Consequently, Americans today no longer embrace values of honesty, respect for the rule of law, the sanctity of life, and traditional sexual morality when facing moral issues.

According to Dr. George Barna, CRC Director of Research, “Americans have been aggressively redefining the nation’s morality for the past several decades. That shift is still in progress. Our research provides a compelling picture of our nation’s ongoing moral recalibration, away from biblical truth and the biblical worldview.”

With six out of ten adults now contending that there are no moral absolutes, it’s not surprising that traditional moral choices are being redefined.

What may be unexpected is the way in which Americans are making moral and ethical decisions.

The research shows this seismic shift occurring even among people of faith.

The Moral Acceptability of Specific Behaviors Table

American Christians survey

Groups that Considered Actions Morally Unacceptable

American Christians survey
BWV – Biblical Worldview
SAGE Cons is the acronym for Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians.
BAC – Born again Christians
Evan. – evangelical
Pent. – Pentecostal
Cath. – Catholic
X – Data not given

A Quick Look at what Other Groups Say

  • Not repaying a small amount of money borrowed from a relative because the relative hasn’t mentioned repaying it …groups least likely to say this behavior was morally unacceptable were:
    • adults who are not registered to vote (49%)
    • people under 30 years of age (53%)
    • people who are aligned with a non-Christian faith (53%)
    • Those with no faith at all (55%)
  • Telling a falsehood of minor consequence to protect their personal best interests or reputation. A minority of several people groups argued that the lie described was immoral. Those included:
    • Catholics (43%)
    • non-Christian faiths (39%)
    • spiritual skeptics (32%)
    • adults who are not registered to vote (38%)
  • Having an abortion because their partner has left, and your friend knows they cannot reasonably take care of the child. Indicating that having an abortion is not immoral were:
    • spiritual skeptics (17%)
    • political liberals (22%)
    • adults connected to a non-Christian faith (29%)
  • The groups least likely to critique speeding as immoral were:
    • Catholics
    • people from non-Christian faiths
    • spiritual skeptics
    • political liberals
    • Independent voters
  • Having sexual relations with someone that they love and expect to marry in the future. The groups least likely to call non-marital sex as immoral were:
    •  spiritual skeptics (7%)
    • political liberals (14%)
    • people associated with a non-Christian faith (20%)
    • Adults under age 30 (20%)

Sources of Moral Guidence

American Christians survey

Adults who qualify theologically as born-again Christians were three times as likely as other self-identified Christians who are not born-again to rely on the Bible for their primary moral guidance.
Even so, less than half of the born-again segment (48%) turns to the Bible for moral direction.
 
Among people associated with non-Christian religions, only one out of ten trust religious sources for moral guidance. Not surprisingly, only 1% of religious skeptics rely upon religious sources for moral guidance. Most Skeptics (52%) said they would simply trust themselves to ascertain their best moral decisions.

Is God the Basis of Truth and Morality?

When Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who allowed Jesus Christ to be unjustly crucified, was
interrogating Christ, he famously ended their exchange by asking, “What is truth?”

Americans are still wrestling with that question. And even though the most acknowledged basis of truth is God, a majority of Americans believe that sources other than God are the basis of truth.

According to findings AWVI 2020: Perceptions of Truth, belief in absolute moral truth rooted in God’s word is rapidly eroding among all American adults, whether churched or unchurched, within every political segment, and within every age group.

58% of adults surveyed believe that moral truth is up to the individual to decide.
Moreover, the study shows that among Americans under age 30, moral standards are decided by the individual (60%).

However, even among those who do identify God as the source of truth, there is a substantial rejection of any absolute standard of morality in American culture.

Those Who Embrace Absolute Moral Standards:

  • 62% SAGECons
  • 48% Evangelicals
  • 43% born-again Christians
  • 42% of mainline Protestant
  • 42% political conservatives
  • 42% Republicans
  • 39% college graduates 
  • 37% people 50 or older
  • 31% Pentecostal or charismatic churches.
  • 31% in the Catholic church

What is The Basis of “Truth”?

5% state there is no such thing as truth and 13% state they do not know the basis of truth.

American Christians survey

Agree – Absolute Moral Truth is up to the Individual

85% who have a biblical worldview reject the idea that moral absolutes do not exist and therefore people must create their own moral standards.

American Christians survey

Other segments among whom a majority denied the existence of absolute moral truth included:

  • LGBTQ adults (73%)
  • Hispanics (65%)
  • Blacks (63%)
  • People under age 50 (62%)

Perceptions of the Value of Human Life

As our nation’s biblical foundations continue to erode, Americans’ understanding of the fundamental nature of humanity and the value of human life is shifting significantly.

Are People Good?

69% believe that “people are basically good.” In fact, that perspective is so pervasive that a majority of every population subgroup examined adopted that view, ranging from just over half to more than three-quarters of those groups.

52% of people with a biblical worldview claim that “people are basically good.”

However, 56% of Americans, a slight majority hold the biblical teaching that “human beings are created by God and made in His image but are fallen and in need of redemption.”

American Christians survey

What is a Human Being?

56% of Americans believe that human beings are created by God and made in His image. However, one-third of Americans possess alternative views about humanity. For instance:

  • 12% claims that people are simply “material substance – biological machines.”
  • Another 12% argues that people are “part of the mind of the universe.”
  • Smaller numbers describe humans as “an illusion,” claim we do not exist; or as “sleeping gods, part of the soul of the universe.”

The Value of Life

American Christians survey

Similarly, it was no surprise to find that the people most likely to describe human beings as created by God, made in His image, fallen, and in need of redemption were:

  • people associated with evangelical or Pentecostal churches
  • adults with a biblical worldview
  • born-again Christians
  • SAGE Cons

More than four out of five of the people in each of those segments chose that description of human beings.

The Biggest Shock

The biggest shock of the survey, though, may have been discovering that most Americans now believe that human life has no intrinsic or absolute value. More than 60% of adults could not bring themselves to perceive life as sacred.

Instead, a substantially larger share of the population combined to offer views such as:

  • 37% – “life is what you make it, but it has no absolute value”
  • 11% – “life does not attain its full value until we reach our highest point of evolution and expression”
  • 10% – admitted they did not know how to appraise the value of human life.

In addition to the people segments charted above, only a handful of subgroups – all of which were conservative, deeply religious segments were populated by a majority who construed human life to be “sacred.”

Those groups were:

  • 93% – adults with a biblical worldview
  • 53% – people 50 or older
  • 53% – Republicans
  • 46% – attendees of Pentecostal churches
  • 45% – attendees of mainline Protestant churches
  • 43% – attendees of Catholic churches

As well as:

  • 25% of people associated with a non-Christian faith groups
  • 19% of adults 18 to 29 years old

This study also shows that in addition to the 37% that say the Bible is ambiguous about abortion:

  • 41% say the Bible is not ambiguous about abortion and…
  • 22% admit they do not know

This means that 59% of adults believe the Bible is not the arbiter of appropriate action on abortion. In raw numbers, that amounts to roughly 150 million adults who would not seek guidance from the Bible regarding abortion.

Perceptions of Sin and Salvation

The Rev. Billy Graham was among the 10 most admired men in the world a record 61 times during his lifetime, according to the annual Gallup survey. If the late evangelist was preaching about sin and salvation today, he might find a less receptive public. Trusting Jesus for salvation and the importance of evangelizing non-believers are perspectives now embraced by a minority of the U.S. population

Recent research shows that unlike past generations, who readily recognized the reality of sin and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ, American adults today increasingly adopt a “salvation-can-be earned” perspective, with a plurality of adults.

Some type of religious faith is more important

The context for the changing views on faith in America is exemplified by the fact that almost two out of every three adults (63%) say that having some type of religious faith is more important than which faith a person aligns with.

Consciously and consistently attempt to avoid sinning

Concern about personal sin is on the wane in the United States. Even though seven out of ten adults claim to be Christian, and another one out of ten adults belongs to some other faith group that discourages sinful behavior, only slightly more than half of U.S. adults say they consciously and consistently attempt to avoid sinning because they know it offends God.

Being good enough or works will “earn” a place in Heaven.

More shocking, huge proportions of people associated with churches whose official doctrine states, “eternal salvation comes only from embracing Jesus Christ as savior” and not from being or doing good, believe that a person can qualify for Heaven by being or doing good.   

Christ Alone

In an interesting side note, the survey revealed that a minority of adults (46%) who describe themselves as “Christian” expect to experience eternal salvation because of their confession of sin and acceptance of Christ as their savior.

Personal Responsibility to Share Christ with Others.

Surveys over the past three decades have consistently shown that the most effective form of evangelism is through conversations about God’s forgiveness and offer of salvation through Jesus Christ that occur within the context of a trusting relationship.

The Eternal Destination Americans believe

  • 54% will experience Heaven after they die
  • 15% don’t know what will happen after they die
  • 13% said there is no life after death
  • 8% expect to be reincarnated
  • 8% they will go to a place of purification prior to entering Heaven
  • 2% they will go to Hell

Those Who Agree with the Following Statements on Faith, Sin and Salvation Table

A look at the following chart will show how various people segments agreed to five of the statements in the survey within faith families and political Ideology.

American Christians survey

Closing Thoughts from Dr. George Barna

“It’s one thing to lack theological clarity regarding biblical perspectives on immigration policy or the end times.

It’s a much more serious condition when the general public outright rejects God as the source of truth, the Bible as the conveyance of truth, and the very importance of integrating a known, proven, and stable source of truth into our daily decision making, and lifestyle.”

“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.

“Because God was described as the pure, perfect, and just creator whose character and motivations are impeccable, He served as the basis of all truth. The truth principles He provided to us in the Bible are consistent and pertinent to everyone, in all situations, at all times,” Barna said. “Knowledge of good and evil, meaning and purpose, and everything else that matters is accessible by studying the Bible and gleaning the truth God had provided for our well-being.”

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. 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.”

“Our baseline problem is rebellion against goodness and holiness, driven by our arrogance and selfishness. Our problem is we have a sin nature, pure and simple. We can deny it, but it still exists.”

After reviewing the above survey results It is imperative that those who are being deceived be set free from the prison of deception. This is a war that means eternal life or death. The master deceiver has up to now been too successful in his lies and brainwashing.

This will be the focus in part two, God willing.

Do you have any respectful thoughts, comments, or suggestions? Please leave them below.

Do you have a relationship with the King of kings, Jesus Christ?

Maranatha! Until next time, I am Passionately Loving Jesus, the Anchor of my Soul.

ABC’s of Salvation – Repent and be saved from the Wrath of God to come.

Maranatha! Until next time, I am Passionately Loving Jesus, the Anchor of my Soul.

ABC’s of Salvation – Repent and be saved from the Wrath of God to come.

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