A prominent Christian professor discussed why many Christians have divergent worldviews while claiming the same faith and how to discern God's voice amid the noise of other voices.
Dr. George Barna, an Arizona Christian University professor who founded the Barna Group and is presently the Director of Research at ACU's cultural research division, was interviewed on Tim Ferrara's "Everyday Discernment" on Nov. 22.
Barna's journey to faith began when he was unable to receive answers to his queries from a priest. He and his young wife went on a search for God and discovered a little Bible-reading, Bible-studying congregation. To fulfill the pastor's request, Barna had to study the Bible everyday, pray for God's guidance, and attend weekly Bible classes. In this way, Barna met Jesus.
When it came to his and his team's work, he said that he had a moment of introspection about how he would spend the rest of his life. After looking at his roughly 300 projects again, he wrote down what he'd learned and how he might use that knowledge to help others.
"It occurred to me that it was all about worldview because everybody has a worldview, but we develop our own worldview. We don't have to embrace any particular one.," he said. "So, what I found is, because our worldview enables us to make every decision we make-- if they don't like the way the culture is, if they don't like the way our life is, if there's anything they don't like--- it's because of the decisions we're making. We're making bad decisions."
"And so, for me, this latter end of my career in life is all about worldview, measurement, and understanding and development. We know that only 6% of American adults have a biblical worldview. What can we do to help the other 94% get on board with God? And to really have that mindset, whether thinking and therefore living in concert with the book that He gave us that would help us to live a thriving, successful, meaningful, godly life. And so, that's really the primary focus of cultural research centers to look at and how they can get translated into cultural transformation."
Barna went on to explain that they provide reports every few weeks depending on the most current study they've done. People may download these for free from the Cultural Research Center website. They may download them, share them to others, or sign up for alerts to be notified when new studies are available.
"So, we'd love people to get that because we think that as we were just saying, you know, being informed is a big deal. You can live in ignorance, but that's not the best way to do it," he said.
When asked to give some practical steps to hearing and discerning God's voice, Barna said that reading the Bible and living it out are essential. Second, he said that prayers are necessary, but only those in which God is permitted to speak more than one person praying.
"Over the course of time, through a series of hard lessons, I've learned that my prayer doesn't need to be about me talking so much as it is about me being available to hear God speak to me," he said. That's because God "wants the best for me. He loves me, and he's willing to guide me if I'm willing to listen and obey."
Despite Ferrara's assertion that Christianity is all about giving God control, he noted that American Christianity has deteriorated into several worldviews throughout time, and asked Dr. Barna's opinion on this.
"So it really is part of that spiritual battle," Barna replied.
Because he's been keeping track of "absolute moral truth" for a long time, Barna doesn't find it surprising that more and more people are turning away from it. Despite his disappointment, he said he was not surprised by it. There's one, however, that surprised him.
"I think one of the things that does surprise me is the growing number of people who do not believe that we're sinners and as a result of that, we believe that we can make good choices," he said. "We don't have to worry about the impact of those choices as long as it makes us feel good brings us happiness. Those are the things that matter to most people and that's how they define the purpose of life, success in life, you know."
Barna then highlighted that just one out of every five Americans believes that true success in life is based on constant obedience to God.
He also cited previous research indicating that among the seven out of ten people who identify as Christians, just three out of ten meet that criterion and only six out of ten have an authentic biblical worldview.
"And so, there's all those different levels we can look at from very casual Christians to really committed Christians a lot of people in between on that spectrum," he said.
To explain why there is a disconnect between professed faith and practice, Barna said that their study indicates that it is because most people associate their emotions with what they are reading from the Bible. Second, the Church has been influenced by the culture of the world more than the Church has influenced culture.
The rest of the interview is available at Charisma Podcast, in which Dr. Barna expands on the Barna researches picked by Ferrara for his episode.