Seeing the world through transformed eyes

A recent national survey by Barna Research concluded that only four percent of Americans have a biblical worldview. Only nine percent of those described as born again have a biblical worldview. Barna did not let people describe themselves or their worldview but asked a series of questions designed to categorize their understanding of salvation and their view of truth. (Baptist Press reported Barna’s findings Dec. 2.) The headline told of the small percentage of the general population who have a biblical understanding of truth. The real shocker was the small percentage of “born again” believers who have such an understanding. In fact the percentage for Republicans was higher than for “born agains.” These things should not be true.

Maybe this is a place where further differentiation is needed. Regrettably, we have seen term after term become useless as a description of merely biblical faith. At one time, “Christian” said it all. That term became weaker and vaguer until it was a political party in some countries and tied with horrible persecution in others. Barna’s survey from last fall suggests that we have reached a point where the term “born again” backed by very specific questions about salvation is inadequate for our communication within even the body of Christ.

Most people who consider themselves Christian seem to have separated the Christ revealed to us in Scripture from the Christ of their personal experience. Barna’s understanding of a biblical worldview is mostly an affirmation of things the Bible claims to be true: the existence of absolute truth defined by the Bible, the sinless life of Christ, the complete power, knowledge and sovereignty of God, salvation by grace, the reality of Satan, the responsibility of all believers to witness, and the complete accuracy of the Bible. Something is wrong when more than 90 percent of Christians doubt one or more of these basic tenets of orthodox Christianity.

Can one who doubts these things rightly call himself a Christian at all? I’m going to offer a qualified “yes” to this question. It is possible if the believer would forfeit the assurance of serving a God whose “yes” is “yes” and whose revelation of himself is a unity. Of course, he foregoes one of the great blessings of our redemption, a certain hope, in doing so. I would go so far as to say that some of these could be surprised to find themselves in heaven. They wish that it might be but have no basis for confidence.

A recent survey of our neighborhood in suburban Dallas illustrated this. On church visitation we visited scores of homes where people gave vaguely biblical answers to questions about their faith. A surprising (to me) number knew the language of grace and redemption. When we asked what one must do to be saved, many replied “believe in Jesus.” They became less certain when asked about their personal assurance. They were less confident still when asked about participation in church. Most knew a church and had attended one in the last 10 years or so but they had no discernable connection with the body of Christ. It was uncomfortably similar to our experience in the Mormon communities of Salt Lake City. While the Mormons did not give faith answers to our questions, they still knew some of the language of redemption. They also had no confidence in their relationship with God.

That’s why I say that Christians who either reject or never consider the reality of God’s involvement in our daily lives (revelation, guidance, morality) might be surprised to find themselves in heaven. Salvation is of the Lord and he is faithful to even promises unknown to us. On the other hand, I expect many more will be surprised that they are not in heaven. They lack certainty because their lives have not been transformed. They have heard and even spoken good words but they are not changed. That, better than anything else, explains why so many of our respondents are so comfortable in a faithless life and worldview.

A Christian worldview sees reality through changed eyes. At redemption, we begin a process of seeing all things as Christ sees them. While we will never completely have God’s perspective, ours becomes more godly as we live our lives in his direction.PAN>

Not all the confusion results from people being out of church. Sometimes our churches cloud the issue. We may teach as though some parts of Scripture are more inspired than others. Some teachers will pit some parts of God’s word against another. When we do that intentionally or by neglect, we imply that some truth is outside God’s reign. Thus we see the disconnect between religious observance and our careers or families. Some churches will reduce Jesus’ ministry to mere good works or Moses’ to legalism. In fact, the Bible has the same author, authority, and message in every place. Picking and choosing what parts of God’s word we will honor leads our people to find other ways of understanding their world.

Churches may also confuse people by falling into moral relativism. I have known at least one church where an ongoing adulterous relationship was tolerated to avoid church division. Others have counseled divorce or abortion in the name of compassion and peace. These are conservative churches that send mixed messages to their members and children. Here too, the people must look elsewhere for guidance on how to apply eternal truth to everyday situations. That is, if they retain any regard for eternal truth.

The way we think will always reveal itself in the way we behave. A renewed mind will think differently than it did before. Our behavior becomes important as we apply our new way of thinking to our actions. Many don’t make this connection adequately and are thus spiritually befuddled.

If we obey the God who has revealed himself and who involves himself in the details of our lives, we will continue to be transformed by him. Most of us already know more of God’s will than we do. Believers can gain a more godly perspective using what we already know?by following the Jesus that saved us. No mistake here, this is the Jesus we can only know about through the Bible. If that book is not authoritative, we know nothing. To separate the written word from the living Word is to leave us with an inspiring legend and a merely interesting book. Not much to build a worldview on.<

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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