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Dr. Tracy F. Munsil | February 28, 2023 | CRC | American Worldview Inventory 2023
From the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University

The first national study of Americans’ worldview since the COVID-19 lockdowns shows that the incidence of biblical worldview has fallen to a mere 4%—a drop of one third from the 6% recorded just three years earlier.

In fact, the 6% benchmark measure recorded in January 2020 may prove to be the high-water mark of biblical worldview among American adults for the foreseeable future, according to a new report from the American Worldview Inventory 2023 from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.

The report shows declines in biblical understanding throughout American society since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest report from Dr. George Barna, CRC Director of Research and creator of the American Worldview Inventory.

The number of adults who don’t possess a biblical worldview, but still hold “a substantial number of beliefs and behaviors consistent with biblical principles,” has also fallen dramatically. Only one of every seven adults (14%) belong to the category of what Barna identifies as an “Emergent Follower.” That number was 25% only three years ago.

The bulk of the American adult population—82%—falls into the “World Citizen” category, described as people “who may embrace a few biblical principles but generally believe and behave in ways that are distinct from biblical teaching.” According to the report, this group has grown substantially from the 69% registered in 2020.

The research also found a decline in biblical worldview in almost every demographic subgroup in America. The most striking shifts in biblical worldview levels were recorded among born-again Christians (down 6 percentage points) and people from households earning $60,000 to $100,000 (down 5 points), according to the report.

Barna, who has measured the worldview of American adults for more than 30 years, said these new lows among American adults could effectively spell the “extinction” of biblical beliefs in our nation.

“When you put the data in perspective, the biblical worldview is shuffling toward the edge of the cliff,” Barna commented. “As things stand today, biblical theism is much closer to extinction in America than it is to influencing the soul of the nation. The current incidence of adults with the biblical worldview is the lowest since I began measuring it in the early 1990s.”

The veteran researcher noted that “young people, in particular, are largely isolated from biblical thought in our society and are the most aggressive at rejecting biblical principles in our culture.”

Facilitating a return to biblical thinking and living in America will take “an intentional, strategic and consistent effort by the remaining population that represents a biblical approach to life,” Barna said.

Similarly, ACU President Len Munsil pointed to the new report as evidence of the desperate need to train and equip the next generation of Christian leaders to know and live according to biblical truth.

“We are committed to making sure our students develop a biblical worldview while they are at Arizona Christian University,” Munsil explained. “But as you look at the bigger picture—at the dramatic erosion of biblical understanding throughout our nation—we need a concerted effort by every biblically faithful university, K-12 school, and church, along with the few remaining parents who hold a biblical worldview.”

“As bad as this data is, we should never discount the possibility that God is setting up His next Great Awakening,” Munsil said. “In the meantime, we must remain faithful wherever God calls us to equip the next generation in biblical truth—so they have every opportunity to flourish.”

Here are other key findings from the report:

  • Most Americans (68%) still consider themselves to be Christians. Among these self-identified Christians, though, only 6% have a biblical worldview. Less than half of the self-identified Christians can be classified as born-again, defined as believing that they will go to Heaven after they die but only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Within the born-again population (just 33% of the adult population), a shockingly small proportion (13%) hold a biblical worldview.
  • Age has a consistent correlation with biblical worldview incidence. The younger a person, the less likely they are to be an Integrated Disciple (i.e., have a biblical worldview). Among adults under 30, just 1% have a biblical worldview. The incidence rises to 3% among people in their 30s and 40s; 5% among those ages 50 to 64; and peaks at 8% among adults 65-plus.
  • Adults without children under the age of 13 living in their household were slightly more likely to have a biblical worldview than those adults who do have preteen children (5% compared to 3%).
  • People from the highest-income households were more likely than other adults to qualify as Integrated Disciples. Overall, 6% of people in homes earning beyond $100,000 were Integrated Disciples, compared to 4% among people in the $60,000-$100,000 category and also 4% among people from households with a pre-tax combined income below $60,000.
  • People living in regions of the country considered to be more religiously active had slightly higher levels of biblical worldview. Six percent of residents of the South and 5% of those living in the Midwest had a biblical worldview, compared to just 3% in the West and 1% in the Northeast.
  • Formal education shows little correlation with having a biblical worldview. The incidence of biblical worldview among those who never attended college is 3%; among those who attended college but do not have a 4-year degree is 4%; and among those with a bachelor’s degree or more, it is 5%.
  • Among adults who are consistently conservative on political issues, 12% are Integrated Disciples. In contrast, just 2% who are consistently moderate on political issues and 1% of political liberals and progressives have a biblical worldview.

In his analysis of the research, Barna emphasized the need for more Christian churches and schools to focus on biblical worldview development.

“People do not develop a biblical worldview randomly or by default,” he explained. “The impact of arts and entertainment, government, and public schools is clearly apparent in the shift away from biblical perspectives to a more experiential and emotional form of decision-making.”

“It will require parents, in particular, and cultural leaders who care about this matter to energetically and creatively persuade children and their influencers to embrace biblical principles as the foundation for personal decision-making,” Barna said.

The American Worldview Inventory (AWVI) is an annual survey that evaluates the worldview of the U.S. adult population (age 18 and over). A project of Dr. George Barna and the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, AWVI is an annual tracking study begun in 2020 that measures both beliefs and behaviors across eight categories of worldview application. The American Worldview Inventory is the first-ever national survey conducted in the United States measuring the incidence of both biblical and competing worldviews.

The American Worldview Inventory 2023 was undertaken in January 2023 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, and has an estimated maximum sampling error of approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The full report, AWVI 2023 Release #01: “Incidence of Biblical Worldview Shows Significant Change Since the Start of the Pandemic,” is available here. CRC Intern Savannah Smith contributed to this report.