The 9% Problem with Christians

Our worldview is one of the most important things about us. The English journalist and lay theologian G. K. Chesterton proved this point by using an everyday example: “For a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy.”

My own experience confirms the truth of Chesterton’s claim. When my wife, Lisa, and I first moved to Philadelphia right after college, we had no money, no jobs, and no income. The day we looked at the beautiful attic apartment that eventually became our home, three other couples were walking through it at the same time. Yet the landlord gave us the lease, almost against his better judgment. I believe his exact words were, “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m going to let you have the apartment.” Why did he make this decision? Because we had told him that I would be attending a nearby seminary in the fall, and thus he knew our philosophy, as Chesterton called it—our worldview. Even though he was not a devout Christian himself, he rightly concluded from our faith commitment that we would find employment, work hard, and pay our rent on time.

It is desperately important for Christians to have a truly and fully Christian worldview—not just when we go apartment hunting but all the time. Living wisely in the world requires proper perspective. Do we see ourselves and the world around us the way that God sees them, or are we viewing things from some other perspective? This question is crucial to ask about any worldview. Does our way of looking at the world correspond to the world as it actually is? Do we see the world as it is according to God?

In these post- or hyper-modern times, some people claim that reality itself is plastic, that the universe will adjust to our way of looking at things, that there are as many worlds as there are worldviews. This is not really the case, however, as we discover the moment we try to impose our opinions on other people, or when the difficulties of daily life knock the rough edges off our own particular worldview. The person who says that everyone should have totally unrestrained freedom and the person who says we need to have moral and social restraints cannot both be correct; something has to give. One of my schoolteachers used to say, “Your freedom to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose.” Unfortunately, some people believe instead that “might makes right.” These two worldviews are incompatible. Sooner or later they will collide, and when they do, it will become painfully obvious that they cannot both be correct.

The English music critic Steve Turner uses delicious irony to criticize the claim that all worldviews are equally valid. His critique comes in the form of a poem—a confession of faith for a postmodern worldview:

We believe that all religions are basically the same

At least the one that we read was.

They all believe in love and goodness.

They only differ on matters of

Creation, sin, heaven, hell, God and salvation. . . .

We believe that each man must find the truth

That is right for him.

Reality will adapt accordingly

The universe will readjust.

History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth

Excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds.

Turner’s poem bears the ironic title “Creed.” His point is that people who reject all creeds nevertheless have a creed all their own. The question is: Which creed is correct? Who has the right worldview?

The premise of this book is that the only worldview that fully corresponds to the world as God knows it is a completely and consistently Christian worldview. Unfortunately, it is somewhat doubtful whether most Christians have any very clear understanding of the worldview that belongs to them by the grace of God. One way to demonstrate this is to consider what popular surveys reveal about the way we live. Time and again we are told, to our dismay, that Christians live basically the same way that everyone else lives. We have roughly the same incidence of domestic violence, the same rate of divorce, the same selfish patterns of spending, and the same addictive behaviors as the general population. How can this be true?

When we probe a little deeper, we discover that Christians who are in full agreement with the main principles that undergird the Christian worldview actually do live in a distinctively Christian way. To that extent, what the surveys say about the way Christians think and behave is somewhat misleading. But here is the problem: according to one influential survey, only 9 percent of all born-again adults and only 2 percent of born-again teenagers truly espouse the basic principles of a biblical worldview. If people in the church do not think Christianly, it is hardly surprising that they do not live Christianly, either.

The disconnect between what Christians say they believe and the way they actually behave may be illustrated from a provocative comment in a ministry newsletter for Christian men. The newsletter reported, “For every ten men in your church, nine will have kids who leave the church, eight will not find their jobs satisfying, six pay the monthly minimum on their credit card balances, five have a major problem with pornography, four will get divorced, and only one has a biblical worldview.”

The last statistic in this series is the one that explains all the others: only a fraction of Christian men have a truly and fully Christian worldview. If these figures are correct, then the reason so many men fail to provide good leadership for their families, find joy in their daily work, manage their finances well, or resist sexual temptation is that their lives are not totally shaped by the story of salvation, as they would be if they embraced a completely Christian view of the world—not just knowing the Christian worldview but also living it out.

Christian men are not the only ones who have this problem, of course. There are ways in which all of us see the world our own way rather than God’s way, regardless of our age, gender, or situation in life. Nor are we the only people who are affected by our failure to live in a consistently Christian way. Generally speaking, the reason the church fails to have a more positive, transforming influence on our culture is that we do not fully grasp the Bible-based, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, God-glorifying perspective that belongs to us by grace—which is why we need to learn how to live the right worldview.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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