June 2017 – “I grew up in a Christian home and made a profession of faith at a very young age, but when I got to my teenage years I began to digress from that,” said David Wheaton, radio host of the Christian Worldview and professional tennis star. “By the time I got to college, I had very little interest.”
It’s an all too common story. By high school and college, other ideas and influences creep in, and Christian thought and behavior are replaced by the void of secularism. It has been an enigma to the church and to Christian parents for decades. “What is causing our kids to stray from a biblical worldview?” they ask.
Closing the worldview age gap
The problem may begin with misreading the predicament. A makeshift and shaky worldview is the norm among people of all ages, even professing Christians and not just those who vacate church pews. A February 2017 Barna survey done for the American Culture and Faith Institute found that only 4% of Millennials (18- 29-year-olds) held beliefs consistent with biblical teaching (based on 20 questions about core spiritual beliefs). At the same time, no more than 17% of adults ages 50 and above held to those same Christian teachings.
Overall, 10% of Americans surveyed in the general population aligned with a Christian perspective, but 30% of the population consider themselves born again Christians who have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as Savior; of that latter group, only 31% held biblical beliefs.
“Most of us are familiar with the concept of young people losing their faith when they go to college, but what really happens is doubts creep in much earlier,” Abraham Hamilton III, AFA general counsel and public policy analyst, told AFA Journal. “People growing up in church may not be converts, but even if they are, they are not getting answers to the big questions of the day. So they go to other places of learning like a modern Areopagus* and there they are presented with answers. So you have powerful, secular forces filling the gaps that have been left in people’s thinking.”
The problem is clear – not just young people are weakening and losing their faith – the vast majority of mature, serious believers have never developed a sturdy Christian worldview and less than a third grasp Christian teachings well enough to apply them to their lives.
What is the basis for my worldview?
The concept of worldview is often compared to a pair of glasses through which one looks at the world – and in that case, Christians are lacking in their worldview. The first oversight may come from failure to discern the difference between Christian doctrine and Christian worldview.
“The simplest distinction between doctrine and worldview would be that Christian doctrine helps us understand what the Bible teaches; a Christian worldview would explain how doctrine should be applied to the world in which we live and the culture that people have built,” Ed Vitagliano, AFA executive vice president, clarified. “A Christian worldview is the lens through which a believer comprehends and interacts with the world around him or her.”
Understanding what the Bible teaches is key because the Bible is the source of knowledge for the Christian and must inform and correct blind spots in one’s worldview.
“By the time I was 22 years old, I realized that my motivations in life were not the way they should be,” Wheaton told AFAJ. “And this is an encouragement to parents who raise their kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord – Scripture does not return void. It was in the back of my mind as a conscience to me.
“But the Christian worldview is thinking and living based on what God has revealed in His Word. The Bible is the foundation, not just for how we think, but how we live it out.”
Where is my information coming from?
Two of the Barna questions addressed the Bible specifically. The survey found that less than a quarter of Millennials and little more than a third of all other adults agree that the Bible is totally accurate in life principles, and even fewer in both groups agree that it is the most reliable source of absolute truth. While they may ascribe to Christian doctrine, the basis for the way they view and react to the world around them is coming from many different places, and their responses and opinions could vary greatly.
“For example, the Bible teaches that Christians should help the poor,” Vitagliano said. “That is doctrine. But how should we help the poor? This is the point at which worldview helps us. Should the poor be helped by the individual, the church, the government, or all three? Should the government confiscate money from individuals via taxes to help the poor?”
Without the Bible being the popular guidebook by which to answer such questions, the loudest voices in shaping culture are the major institutions that make themselves heard in daily life: popular culture, news and media, music and films, corporations and advertising, the educational system, the legal system, and politics, not to mention one’s own experience from family, nationality, or economic sphere.
“One of the most important things you can ask someone is ‘Who or what have been the key influencers in your life?’” Wheaton said. “Most people’s worldview looks like what their plate looks like after they’ve gone through a buffet line. They pick up a little bit of this and a little bit of that, based on personal taste. There is a bit of a syncretistic blend of different influences that shape many Christians’ worldview.”
How do I navigate the issues?
Interviewees pointed to three items from secular culture that many Christians accept: an unbiblical sexual ethic that justifies unbiblical divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, or cohabitation; a wavering morality on the sanctity of life issue; and the undermining of family and gender roles portrayed by popular entertainment.
As Hamilton pointed out, these are a few of the many issues where arguments based on misguided compassion overwhelm the Christian without a properly formed worldview.
“People are easily manipulated by emotional arguments that are not very logical and, at the bare minimum, are not founded in Scripture,” he said. “If you’re doing what I call an outside-in analysis, where you look at the various issues of the day and then try to find ways to understand the issues, you’re already starting in the wrong place. As disciples of Christ, we have to be grounded and steeped in Scripture on the front end.”
How do I recognize truth?
However, far too many people are at a loss as to how to study and interpret Scripture, and even in the church, they often receive incomplete teaching on God’s Word. Thus, they are left with a worldview ill-equipped to stand up to the real world.
“People are looking for an explanation of the world, a map of the world that fits the world,” explained Greg Koukl, founder of Christian worldview and apologetics ministry Stand to Reason. “If a worldview does not deal adequately and consistently with what we understand fundamental reality to be like, it can’t be legitimately considered an accurate worldview. Now, Christianity does the best job of explaining the world that we actually encounter. But if people don’t get the big picture that the Bible lays out, if their map of reality only looks like ten square feet of ground beneath their feet, they’re going to be completely lost.”
It is at this point that developing a Christian worldview meshes with the fundamentals of Christian living – growing a robust spiritual life and biblical wisdom. One critical area where that happens is through discipleship.
“Everybody is discipling,” Koukl pointed out. “There are basically two ways to look at the world – the way Jesus did, and all the other ways: the views of reality that are according to human wisdom. We have to know what is the view according to Christ or we will be discipled with a lie.”
As Hamilton emphasized, the instruction of Jesus in the Great Commission was not to stop with proclaiming the gospel, but to make disciples. It is the lack of discipleship, combined with the absence of full biblical teaching that has allowed the standards of the world to take over the weak points in Christians’ worldview.
Does the truth change the way I live?
The second necessary ingredient that allows the Christian’s thought to be transformed into action is “to be truly born again,” Wheaton said. “Without the indwelling Holy Spirit inside us, we’re not able to read Scripture and understand it properly, and we certainly don’t have the power to live it out.” That is what Wheaton experienced in his own testimony after he came to saving faith at the age of 24.
“Since then it has been a process of growth,” he shared. “There’s a journey in life called sanctification, and your worldview sharpens in that process. We can all have a sharper biblical worldview. To have the mind of Christ – that is exactly the perfect Christian worldview.”
That is where the Christian worldview is tested – not just as a mental construct, but as a way of life – powerfully transforming minds, hearts, and even society.
“When we’re talking about worldview, we’re really talking about productivity and fruitfulness as believers,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people can give Christian answers as a rote response, but when you start evaluating lifestyles, you see their worldview in a moment.
“Is it just a cerebral reaction, or do you believe it so much that you’ll adjust your personal conduct to reflect that belief?”
*Areopagus: a city council or court of law that held the highest authority and respect in the ancient city of Athens, Greece.
A worldview self-examination
▶ Do moral absolutes exist? If so, where do they come from?
▶ What are the world’s biggest problems? What are the solutions?
▶ Does God exist? If He does, what is He like?
▶ What is the purpose of institutions like family, government, or church? How should they function internally and how should they intersect?
▶ What guides my attitudes and actions toward others?
▶ What is my purpose and responsibility in life?
▶ What is the source of my beliefs about the world?
▶ Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
▶ The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl
▶ Tactics by Greg Koukl
▶ 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity* by Alex McFarland
American Family Radio shows °
▶ The Christian Worldview, David Wheaton, Saturday, 8 a.m. (CT)
▶ Stand to Reason, Greg Koukl, Sunday, 5 p.m. (CT)
▶ The Hamilton Corner, Abraham Hamilton III, Saturday, 5 p.m (CT)
▶ Behold Your God*
* Available at afastore.net
° AFR is broadcast on 192 stations nationwide and at afr.net.