By Nathan Jones
The Barna Group, a Ventura, California organization that researches cultural change and spiritual development through surveys, has released their January 12, 2009, Barna Update titled "Christianity Is No Longer Americans' Default Faith." It is both disturbing, yet confirming.
Barna reports that according to their research, Christianity for the first time in over 200 years of American history has lost its place as the default religion of the country. The report begins, "half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from."
Of the 1,004 adults surveyed, "50% of the adults interviewed agreed that Christianity is no longer the faith that Americans automatically accept as their personal faith, while just 44% disagreed and 6% were not sure." Of that group, two-thirds (64%) of them were evangelical Christians professing salvation and classical Reformation doctrine! Clearly, Christians as well as non-believers feel confirmed that Christianity is no longer the default faith of the American people. America, finally, is truly post-Christian in its majority.
What's the new flavor?
Contrary to the waning of Christianity as the religion of choice in America, the report shows religious emphasis in people's lives is still very strong. "74% to 23% — adults agreed that their religious faith was becoming even more important to them than it used to be as a source of objective and reliable moral guidance."
So what has replaced Christianity in America? Barna reports "that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination's slate of beliefs… (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.
In another words, the religion of choice is the one you make up. It's called "individualism."
How does individualism play out?
The first is an increasing comfort in "picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible." The Bible becomes a smorgasbord that people, plates in hand, can wade through and choose what they feel best fits their own definition of moral standards. Inerrancy of the Bible to individualism is unthinkable. For those who still hold to both individualism and inerrancy, they exist in a world of contradiction.
The second result is relativism. Christianity becomes just one table in the buffet line along with Buddhism, Islam, New Age and any form of religion — even secularism.
Thirdly, individualism results in ignorance. Barna reports "With people spending less time reading the Bible, and becoming less engaged in activities that deepen their biblical literacy, faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching. Feelings and emotions now play a significant role in the development of people's faith views." Education is out, and feelings are in as the litmus test for deciding what is right and wrong.
Where does individualism take you?
The answer is humanism, with "you" as your own god. It's an idolatrous religion where the "you" is the center and reality revolves around its core.
The reality of this deluded condition is to live a lie. Adam and Eve fell to that lie when Satan convinced Eve in Genesis 3:5 that "you will be like God." Adam and Eve acquire the ability to know the difference between good and evil, but their sin separated the whole human race from God, and we learned quickly we're not "God-enough" to handle living on our own.
That lie also has eternal consequences, as a life that hasn't accepted Jesus forgiveness for its sin is destined to God's ultimate punishment – the Lake of Fire, also called Hell. Humanism terminates always in eternal death (Matt. 25:46).
Where does Christianity take you?
If humanism teaches people they can become their own god apart from Jesus, and we know from the Bible that it's a lie, then how infinitely better that God teaches us the truth in the Bible that we can become "sons of God" (John 1:12). That we who have accepted Jesus as Savior are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Pet. 2:9). And, that we are "children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Instead of eternal death, as God's children we receive eternal life (Matt. 25:46).
Is it worth giving up Christianity so one can live a lie, when reality in Jesus is so, so much better?