In a recent survey of born-again Christians, less than half claimed to believe that Jesus lived a sinless life while on Earth, or that human life is sacred.
The American Worldview Inventory (AWVI) 2023— a national representative survey of 2,000 adults, including 650 born-again Christians, was conducted in January by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.
The AWVI 2023 found that church attendance has declined by about 6% since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Now, just one out of three adults (33%) currently attend a church service, either in person or online during a typical week—a decline representing the loss of about 15 million churchgoing adults each week, according to researcher George Barna, who directed the study.
More alarmingly, significant declines in Biblical beliefs and behaviors, notably among born-again Christians, have occurred when compared to the survey’s findings before COVID-19 struck.
For example, among born-again Christians, those who believe the Bible is unambiguous in its teaching about abortion dropped from 58% in 2020 to 44% in 2023.
The survey revealed another 14-point decline among the same group who think that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life during His time on Earth, dropping from 58% three years ago to 44% this year.
The other double-digit decline among born-again Christians was a 12-point downturn in people saying human life is sacred, down from 60% in 2020 to 48% in 2023.
Perhaps the most paradoxical survey finding is that less than half of born-again Christians, 48%, reject the idea that it is possible to gain eternal life through good works completed on Earth. Meanwhile, the survey’s definition of a born-again Christian is that they claim assurance of their personal salvation solely on the work of Christ on the cross, not their own goodness or performance.
Barna said that the sometimes-contradictory nature of the changes identified is the result of the most widespread worldview choice of Americans, which entails combining beliefs from a variety of worldviews into an unpredictable, customized blend that satisfies the emotional needs of the individual.
“Although some of the belief and behavior shifts seem to conflict with each other, this is precisely what happens when the prevailing worldview of the nation is Syncretism,” he said. “Syncretism does not rely upon logic or consistency,”
Other declines among born-again Christians in 2023 compared to 2020 are:
- Those who believe that they have a unique, God-given calling or purpose for their life was sliced nearly in half, from 88% to 46%.
- Those claiming that they are deeply committed to practicing their religious faith dropped from a very robust 85% in 2020 to 50%.
- Adults attending an evangelical church is down from 28% pre-pandemic to 21% post-pandemic.
- Those who believe that God is the basis of all truth declined from 69% in 2020 to 63% this year.
Barna said the significant changes found in the study are highly unusual.
“Most religious beliefs change over the course of generations, not a few years,” he said in a press release. “However, we know that major life crises have the capacity to introduce substantial change quickly in the foundations of people’s faith.
“The pandemic was certainly a life crisis for our nation, so even though this magnitude of spiritual shift was not expected, it is feasible given the physical and psychological effects of COVID along with the economic, relational and lifestyle effects of the government’s drastic policies.”
Citing his research that shows a 9-point increase in the percentage of born-again Christians who believe that the purpose of life for everyone is to know, love and serve God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, Barna said the survey findings demand that pastors and churches alike uphold sound Biblical doctrine.
According to Barna’s latest survey, currently about two out of three adults in the born-again community (65%) endorse such teaching. “This is a time when pastors would be wise to return to many basic Christian principles to rebuild the spiritual foundation of congregants and to celebrate the blessings of God, reminding people how great their God really is,” he said.
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