George Barna is senior research fellow for Biblical worldview at the Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Washington Times on November 22, 2023.
America is facing many challenges these days: crushing national debt, gender confusion, LGBTQ rights, illegal immigration, human trafficking, government overreach, institutional distrust, and so much more. Deeper scrutiny of these challenges reveals that they are inevitably due to bad decision-making, which is a result of reliance upon bad worldviews.
Everyone has a worldview. It is the decision-making filter you need to get through the day, guiding every choice you make on the basis of your understanding of life, opportunities, beliefs and values. There are many different worldviews people can choose from, such as Biblical Theism (the biblical worldview), Postmodernism, Secular Humanism, Modern Mysticism, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, Marxism, and many others.
The worldview you choose determines your lifestyle because you do what you believe. Your lifestyle is merely a reflection of what you believe is good and bad, right and wrong, and useful or useless, based on your worldview.
Despite the presence of those recognized alternatives, Syncretism is the dominant worldview in America, currently embraced by 94 percent of adults. That is a customized grab-bag of ideas that draw from a variety of the more comprehensive, well-known worldviews such as those mentioned above. Syncretism is largely based on emotion and experience, believing that there are no documents (such as the Bible), philosophies, or faiths (such as Christianity) that represent absolute truth. Instead, people turn inward, to their feelings, to make their life choices. As a worldview, Syncretism is renowned for containing beliefs that are inconsistent with each other, but are embraced because they are comfortable, popular, accessible, or expected.
How did Americans become Syncretists?
Many people argue that America was historically a Christian nation, but it is uncommon to encounter such a claim about contemporary America. The latest national studies by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University show that just 4 percent of all adults possess the biblical worldview as their foundation for life, even though 68 percent of adults consider themselves to be Christian. In fact, 51 percent claim they have a biblical worldview according to research conducted by the Family Research Council.
Research suggests that the social and spiritual collapse of the United States can be traced back to what we do with our children.
A person’s worldview begins being formed at 15-to-18-months of age, and is fully formed by about age 13. During those formative years a young person is trying to figure out life and their place in the world. They are pondering and answering the big questions of life: “Who am I? How did I get here? Who is in charge? Why am I here? What matters in life? How can I discern right from wrong? How can I make the most of my life?”
These and other questions arise daily, through the conversations, experiences, and mental explorations of young people. Each time they arrive at a satisfying answer, it becomes part of their worldview and enables them to behave in ways that conform to their newfound beliefs and thereby minimize cognitive dissonance.
Over the past 50-plus years, as our culture has affected Christians more than Christians have affected the culture, Americans have become less attuned to biblical truth and more seduced by cultural truth. Churches have increasingly turned away from investment in the spiritual development of children and in adult discipleship emphasis and are more concerned about size, budget, programming, and reputation. Stepping into the resulting spiritual void, the arts and entertainment media have become the primary sources of influence on truth views and worldview development, replacing parents and churches.
Currently, the Cultural Research Center data show that only 2 percent of the parents of children under the age of 13 have a biblical worldview. In fact, only 9 percent of parents who are born-again Christians have a biblical worldview. Because you cannot give what you do not have, those parents are presently incapable of raising a generation of children to become Christ-like adults. In fact, recent surveys by the Cultural Research Center among adolescents and teenagers show young people are even less likely than their parents to develop a biblical worldview.
Is it hopeless for America? Is the nation doomed to the growing acceptance of ideals drawn from Marxism, Secular Humanism, Nihilism, and Postmodernism? Are we inevitably going to become a nation of atheists, hedonists, narcissists, and polygamists?
Not at all! A national spiritual turnaround will not happen overnight, but it can certainly start now and build momentum. How? By people who influence children under 13 – parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, pastors, and celebrities who are devoted disciples of Jesus Christ – strategically and intentionally discipling children.
My new book, “Raising Spiritual Champions” is based on seven original research projects we recently completed that provide practical insights into how young people are being equipped to be devoted followers of Jesus Christ. The book describes the achievable, biblical approaches that enable today’s children to reach their full potential in Christ. Those efforts include:
- Understanding what it means to be a disciple, according to Jesus
- The identity and mindset of disciple-making parents
- Simple ways of preparing and planning for effective, biblical parenting
- The seven cornerstone beliefs that facilitate developing a biblical worldview
- How to regularly evaluate whether the child is making progress toward discipleship – and what you can do to enhance your guidance on that journey
- How to combat the influence of arts and entertainment media and technology on the lives of children
- The most effective strategies and tactics in discipling young people today
- What churches are doing to help parents raise spiritual champions
There are never any guarantees regarding parenting outcomes. But the Bible makes clear that every parent is chiefly responsible for the spiritual development of their children. The outcomes are in God’s hands. The determination and effort to disciple your children is in yours.