Religiously Hybridized America

Religiously Hybridized America

Christian pollster George Barna has uncovered another shocking statistic. Previously, he found that only 4% of people in America hold a consistent biblical worldview. This statistic tells us a lot about the state of the church in America, but it also leaves a lot unsaid.

The biggest remaining question that comes to mind is, “If only 4% hold a biblical worldview, what about the other 96%? What do they believe?” It is only when we know the answer to that question that we can begin to address the problems we face in trying to share the gospel with those who don’t know Christ. So the first thing we need to discern is: Who are the 96%? Well, Barna breaks that down, too.

Of the 96%,

  • 2% are Mormon
  • 2% are Jewish
  • 2% are Muslim
  • 2% are Buddhist/Hindu
  • 25% are people who don’t believe in God (Atheists and Agnostics)

Totaled up, that brings us to 33%. That still leaves 63% who fall into some other category. And that other category is (drum roll), people who hold syncretistic beliefs – and these are mostly self-identified Christians who have mixed in non-biblical beliefs with their Christian faith.

Of course, a large number of those are people who rarely, or never, go to church. They may be on some church roll somewhere, and maybe go at Easter, Christmas, and funerals, if they go at all, but don’t take their faith very seriously.

But the scary thing is, there are also a massive number of Christians who do attend church, many even regularly, who also fall into this syncretistic category. That is, they self-identify as Christians, but have also incorporated some non-Christian beliefs into their belief system.
The possibilities for syncretization are practically endless, but there are certain categories that are quite common among folks in modern society. For instance:

  • Belief in the Theory of Evolution - There are many people who believe that the theory of evolution and biblical teachings are compatible. They are not. God either created the world the way the Bible describes or it happened in some other way. These “other” ways contradict what the Bible teaches. Both can’t be true.
  • Prosperity Theology (also called “prosperity gospel,” “name it and claim it” and “health and wealth gospel”) - This is the belief that salvation in Christ also includes liberation from poverty, sickness, and other ills. Pastors and TV evangelists who promote this teaching tell their followers that if they will just have faith to give more money to their church or “Christian” ministry, God will bless them with health and wealth. This is not the teaching of Scripture.
  • Non-Biblical Theology - There are various erroneous ways to interpret the Bible. One approach interprets it through a metaphorical lens. It begins with its own non-biblical beliefs, and interprets the Bible symbolically to correspond to those beliefs. This approach can be found in such faiths as Christian Science and The Unity School of Christianity.

Another variation is what we see in Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. They claim the Bible as their (or an) authority source, but really have other places that are the basis of their theology.

One more common approach uses a naturalistic worldview lens and interprets the Bible based on the personal beliefs of its adherents. These approaches are typically identified as “liberal” theological positions. Some of the more well known include Existential Theology, Liberation Theology, Postmodern Theology, and there are others. Numerous “Christian” denominations have adopted this false theology, yet still identify as Christian.

None of these “non-biblical” approaches interpret the Bible based on what is actually written in the text.

  • Moral Relativism - Many self-identified Christians (and even entire Christian denominations) hybridize based on sexuality and don’t fully accept biblical sexual morality. They  approve of casual sexual relations outside of marriage, or even “shacking up.” Many also accept homosexuality, with some actually ordaining homosexuals into their clergy and denominational leadership.

We could go on with such things as self-professed Christian business people intentionally exercising immoral or unethical business practices, self-identified Christian politicians supporting policies that are contrary to biblical teachings, educators claiming to be Christians, yet teaching their students values that are contrary to what is taught in the Bible, and many more.

What this Means for the Church

Well, these are some interesting facts, but do they hold any practical value? Well, indeed they do, particularly as it relates to expressing our faith in the public square.

Regardless of the particular hybridization a person incorporates into their faith, there is always one thing that holds true – doing that creates irreconcilable internal contradictions. That is simply the nature of hybridizing beliefs to create a syncretistic belief system. You can’t bring in beliefs that are contrary to what a faith believes and it not have contradictions.

Barna’s statistics themselves are shocking, and most pastors who are concerned about the condition of the church in America will readily acknowledge the problem. But recognizing the problem is not enough. Even doing something is often not enough ... if it is not the right thing. So just what is the right thing?

It is, of course, essential that a pastor be committed to preaching and teaching true and accurate biblical worldview doctrine. On top of that, the church as a whole must not only back the pastor, but themselves be committed to taking the truth into society. But it is possible to have that commitment and still not do it.

Sadly, there are relatively few churches that have put into place an effective discipleship training methodology to pull that off in real life. It is not sufficient to merely have some random training classes. The problem that exists is not just that Christians are not trained, but that they believe wrong things. The solution to that is to find out specifically what wrong things people believe, and implement a way to correct their false beliefs.

This is often difficult to do. The primary reason it is difficult is that this kind of discipleship training is not in the DNA of most churches. Historically this has not been necessary in America, so the traditions most churches have established, over many years, don’t include it. The traditions include a focus on strong worship services and Bible study classes, along with children’s and youth programs – and perhaps a women’s and men’s ministry. These might teach right things, but they don’t correct wrong things. The biggest problem is that people are incorporating the wrong things into their theology.

The solution to this problem is to incorporate worldview training into the mix – not just biblical worldview (which only teaches the right things), but general worldview training that provides the means to compare and contrast false beliefs to the true ones. That is what will be necessary to drag the 63% of syncretistic believers into the camp of those who hold a genuine biblical worldview. The church can’t put this off any longer.

Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books entitled The Truth MirageRules for Christians RadicalsLiberalism vs. Conservatism, and his latest book Shattering the Truth Mirage and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.

You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.

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