In David Kinnaman's excellent presentation for Messiah College's 2010 Next Generation Symposium, he stated that 3% of 18-29 year olds and 9% of 30+ year olds have a BWV, while Barna reports that less than .05% of adults 16-24 years old have a BWV. On one hand, this doesn't suprise me. In my informal survey of 70 undergraduate students at Messiah College (a private Christian institution), only 7 had read the entire Bible. How could the general population be expected to have anyone's sort of Biblical Worldview? However, I can't help return to some even more basic considerations.
First, the BWV that Barna went looking for insisted on agreement with (at least) 2 propositions that younger adults would be likely to resist affirming: the existence of absolute moral truth and the accuracy of the Bible in all that it teaches. Let it be noted that only 34% of the population and 46% of all of Barna's "born-again Christians" agreed on the former (absolute moral truth). I suspect that in all cases, this has more to do with epistemological humility (our capacity to discern absolute moral truth) and awareness of moral complexity (is it wrong to lie/kill/steal to save a life?) than complete moral relativism. On the latter item (Biblical accuracy in all it teaches), I suspect that "accurate" is the wrong word here on several levels:
First, most young adults are probably more versed in the "Scopes Trial" inquisition of William Jennings Bryan that clearly calls "accuracy" into question. Even Bryan could not uphold complete "accuracy."
Second, is "accurate" the right word to describe the imperative to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or "love your neighbor as yourself"? It might be quite easy to affirm the rich "truth" of these statements, but "accurate"? Are the Psalms and Proverbs "accurate"? Is it accurate to say that blessing will fall upon those who would take the child of a Babylonian and dash it against a rock (Ps. 137)? Still, this verse communicates the "true" rage of the exiles in brutal poetry. The survey could not get at such nuances, but that is the problem with surveys and perhaps surveyors. The other day, my son was doing an online learning exercise when I overheard the computer instruct him that "a fact is something that is true." It is the classic Modernist flaw to turn this around to say that "only those things which are facts (ie. accurate) are 'true.'" The BWV survey falls into this trap, as demonstrated by Barna's book, Think Like Jesus. This fact/truth equivalency is a more fundamental element of Barna's own worldview than any of the items on the Barna BWV list. It is common sense to many (southern White Protestant?) older adults and it is not for many younger adults. David K. Naugle's Worldview: The History of a Concept points out that any definition of "worldview" is actually dependent upon the pre-existing worldview of the person who constructs the definition. I challenged the selection of BWV items in the last post. Here, I want to challenge the prioritization of worldview itself:
"Worldview" as a crucial category and concept goes back to Kant (1724-1804), among Christians to James Dorr and Abraham Kuyper (c. 1840-1920) and among American evangelicals only to late-20th century leaders Francis Schaeffer and Chuck Colson. This is a new phenomenon and I have used the language of worldview frequently myself and often found it helpful. Though Tertullian (160-225) asked "What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?" many early Christians freely defined Christianity as a philosophy. Others have been quite comfortable with their "religion," but today many evangelicals want to define themselves as "followers of Jesus" and comment that, "Christianity isn't really a "religion," it's a 'relationship.'" Is it a worldview? Is it helpful for evangelicals to think about increasing the percentage of people (or Christians) who ascribe to the Barna BWV?
Barna defines "worldview" as "the product of all the information, ideas and experiences you absorb to form the values, morals and beliefs that you possess (Think Like Jesus p.19)." If this is the case, then it is massively naive to insist that there could ever BE a desirable static worldview shaped by the Bible, since the Bible can only ever be one element (even if it is the most significant element) in one's worldview. Everyone who opens the Bible and everyone opens themselves TO the Bible, does so with a culturally influenced WV already in place. For instance: The Bible by itself will NOT provide anyone with the fact/truth equivalency assumed by Barna, and perhaps by polling in general.
At Messiah College, Kinnaman pointed out that 57% of 18-29 year olds had a commitment to Jesus, with no BWV as did 66% of 30+ year olds. After doing a tiny bit of demographic research and rudimentary math, I can say that without BWV, the ratio of 18-29 y.o-s. commited to Jesus compared to 30+y.o-s. commited to Jesus was about 1 to 4. The ratio of these age-groups with BWV was about 1 to 11. The Barna BWV construction results in generationally divisive judgements and programs designed to assimilate younger people to some theoretically more foundational Christian position than Jesus. Socialization of youth is a normal and natural part of any healthy community or society, but so is change. The conversation will continue, but I've said enough.