In March of this year, the American Culture and Faith Institute conducted a survey to find out how Americans, and particularly born-again Christians, perceive our culture’s effect on children. As I happened to be one of the people selected to participate in this survey, I was especially interested in the results.
The survey asks questions to both determine whether a respondent is a born-again Christian, and whether they have a biblical worldview. (Previous surveys have demonstrated that many born-again Christians hold beliefs that do not align with scripture, and thus have an unbiblical worldview.) The results showed that while 51% of American adults as a whole believe the culture has a negative effect on children, the number is 66% among born-again Christians, and 93% among those with a biblical worldview.
The full report can be found on ACFI’s site, but I found the analysis of George Barna, the lead researcher on the ACFI project, to be particularly poignant:
Barna, who serves as the Executive Director of ACFI, felt that the survey was very telling about America. “Culture is the inescapable context in which children are raised,” he noted. “But it is adults, including parents, who shape and control that culture. If adults believe our culture is harmful to children – including their own – then why aren’t they changing it? Is it because they don’t love their children? Because the culture doesn’t bother them, personally? Because they think nurturing and protecting their children is someone else’s responsibility? Because they don’t care what the future will be like?
“Think about it,” he continued. “Adults are flat-out predicting that it will be increasingly difficult to raise godly, Bible-compliant children. Yet 70% of adults consider themselves to be Christian, half of all adults believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God, and four out of five adults claim they support traditional values. Most adults want America to thrive. How do these elements fit together?”
Barna pointed out that logically if it is becoming harder to raise Bible-centered children then it must also be getting more challenging to live as a Bible-centered adult. “So, can we conclude that most Americans don’t care whether they live consistent with biblical principles? And if we land on that conclusion, can we then realistically proclaim that most Americans, despite their self-descriptions, are not really Christian and need to admit it – to themselves, to others, and to God? On the other hand, if people maintain that they are Christian in more than name, that their beliefs matter, that they support biblical principles, and they want their children to live lives that reflect biblical principles – then where is the movement of such people who are committed to preventing what they currently predict is going to happen? How will things change for the better if we don’t get involved now?”
Citing an eclectic array of data that suggest a movement can sway a culture if it has at least 15% of a population actively on its side, Barna then questioned whether that means the US lacks 15% or more of the population that is genuinely dedicated to being disciples of Christ. “The essence of faith is not merely belief; it is belief resulting in action. The gay population, even now just three percent of the population, proved it was serious by changing the way Americans view homosexuality, family, and marriage. Black Americans, who were only ten percent of the population in the civil rights era, proved it was serious about racism and racial discrimination by sacrificing lives, money, and reputation to change America’s thinking and lifestyle.
“Our recent worldview research found that only ten percent of adults have a biblical worldview. Is that the extent of the true Church in America?
“So I look at the numbers in this survey, and many others regarding peoples’ dissatisfaction with our country, and have to ask: Where is the Church? Where are the disciples of Christ, who are required to be light in the darkness, to be the soul and conscience of the nation? What excuses can we possibly accept for the decrepit state of the nation in which we have influence, or for allowing society to undermine our children and their future? What kind of patriots are we if we stand by and let others destroy what our fathers and forefathers sacrificed so much to build? If this is not the time for the Church to stand up and reintegrate biblical principles and lifestyles into American society, then when will that time be?”
To that I say, “Amen.”
I’ve written before on the importance of grounding the next generation in God’s word, and the great privilege we have in our present age to have such opportunity to do this. The question posed however, is whether we will take that opportunity. And we’re currently answering that with an emphatic “no.”
So how can those of us who see this erosion of the foundations, and failing of the faithful, begin to revive the godly? Barna did not attempt to provide a solution in the above quote, only to point to what must ultimately be done: the church must reintegrate biblical principles into society. It is clear that at the heart of this is the Bible, the word of God.
Yet, as Barna pointed out, surveys show that half of all American adults believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word. And this has apparently not profited them (Hebrews 4:2). Large numbers who confess this do not have a biblical worldview. It seems that they are not familiar enough with the teachings of scripture to even know the truth of such things as heaven and hell. If they truly believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word, they have taken very little time to actually read and study and understand it.
As I’ve said before, we know that the word is necessary, and many think that we are putting it to use, yet we fail to get the expected results. It is clear that we are doing something wrong, or rather, many things. One thing is clear: on the whole, the godly are not being revived.
But when David cried out to God in similar straits, saying:
Psalms 12:1 Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
God responded that he would arise, and uphold the faithful with his word:
Psalms 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
The pure word of God, the LORD has promised, shall purify and preserve the godly.
Has this promise been broken? God forbid. But it is we, who if we cry out like David, must also receive and declare the pure words of the LORD, that with them our cry may be answered. It is the word of God which can purify the hearts, and faith comes by hearing it (Romans 10:17). So though men profess it, we can be sure that too often it is not rightly being heard, if hearts are not being transformed.
It is time for us to search the scriptures, that we may know how to profit by them (2 Timothy 3:16-17). To discern our errors, and to take up God’s word aright. To set aside the words of men, and take up the pure words of the LORD, that the hearts of our people might be purified.
Our children’s future depends on it.