Dr. Tracy F. Munsil | March 14, 2023 | CRC | American Worldview Inventory 2023
From the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University
Biblical worldview among American adults continues to drop precipitously, including a drop from 6% to 4% since the start of the pandemic. But new research reveals a possible solution to counter this national worldview crisis—the “seven cornerstones of the biblical worldview.”
If these seven particular beliefs are in place, a person is far more likely to possess a biblical worldview, according to a new report from veteran researcher Dr. George Barna and the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.
In fact, the research shows that more than 80% of adults who embrace these seven basic biblical teachings hold a biblical worldview, compared to only a relative handful of people who do not hold all seven. Without all seven cornerstones in place, the research shows it is highly unlikely a person will have a biblical worldview.
According to Len Munsil, President of Arizona Christian University, focusing on these seven cornerstones could dramatically reshape the nation’s worldview landscape.
“This latest research identifies how to turn around more than 30 years of biblical worldview decline,” Munsil said. “It gives us an empirical, data-driven roadmap for expanding biblical worldview in our nation—and it’s not complicated.”
Munsil continued, “At ACU, we’re in the process of considering how an understanding of these seven cornerstones can be used on campus, especially in our classrooms, to help our students develop and deepen their biblical worldview. Because we know that those with a biblical worldview—who align their beliefs and behaviors with Scripture—are able to flourish in life because they are living according to God’s design.”
In the latest report from the American Worldview Inventory 2023, Barna identifies the “seven cornerstones of the biblical worldview.” They are:
- An orthodox, biblical understanding of God.
- All human beings are sinful by nature; every choice we make has moral considerations and consequences.
- Knowing Jesus Christ is the only means to salvation, through our confession of sin and reliance on His forgiveness.
- The entire Bible is true, reliable, and relevant, making it the best moral guide for every person, in all situations.
- Absolute moral truth exists—and those truths are defined by God, described in the Bible, and are unchanging across time and cultures.
- The ultimate purpose of human life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul.
- Success on earth is best understood as consistent obedience to God—in thoughts, words, and actions.
Barna is quick to point out that these seven cornerstones are basic Christian tenets, not advanced or sophisticated theological constructs.
“What’s so shocking about these beliefs is how basic and simple they are— almost like an outline of what used to be the Sunday school lessons shared with elementary school children,” Barna explained. “These are not advanced theological principles; they’re straightforward principles for how to make the most of the gift of life.”
Barna continued, “Reviewing the data made it clear that these principles, although simple, serve as a foundation on which you can build a more satisfying and influential life, and one that brings glory to God.”
Still, these deceptively simple biblical principles require more than casual assent. The worldview research indicates that an individual must have both an understanding of the principles and a passionate, thoughtful ownership of them in order to build a biblical worldview.
“Statistically, we see that if this base is not solid, a person’s worldview will be an inconsistent and unpredictable mess,” Barna said. “Since worldview is our decision-making filter, a person who has a weak foundation will be characterized by a life that is a constant struggle.”
He explained, “For people who put these seven commitments together as a foundation for their decision-making, these guidelines are both powerful and transformative. Rather than experiencing life as a continual surprise and a daunting challenge, they give us the strength and confidence to make solid decisions each time.”
Most American adults tend to pick and choose from among the seven cornerstones. The research found that most people (80%) embrace one or more of the seven cornerstones, while 20% reject all seven. On the other hand, only 3% of adults currently ascribe to all seven cornerstones for their life. The remainder of the population falls within those extremes.
According to AWVI 2023, the younger an adult is, the less likely they are to embrace all seven or even a majority of the cornerstones. Among adults 18 to 29 years old, just 1% agrees with all seven of these core life principles; only 10% accept four, five, or six of the seven as valid. Perhaps the most startling insight, however, is the relationship between the seven cornerstones and possession of a biblical worldview.
The survey revealed that more than four out of five adults who embrace all seven cornerstones (83%) have a biblical worldview. Conversely, it is exceedingly unlikely that someone who does not embrace all seven cornerstones will develop a biblical worldview. Just 2% of adults who reject one or more of the cornerstones possess the biblical worldview.
Today’s release from the American Worldview Inventory 2023 goes deeper into how American adults fare on each of these seven cornerstones. Most of the numbers are low:
- Only 50% of American adults embrace the true nature of God.
- 35% believe Jesus is the only way for salvation.
- 27% recognize humans as sinful.
- 46% accept the Bible as true and reliable.
- A slim 25% believe in absolute truth rooted in the Bible.
- 36% see their purpose as serving God.
- Only 23% define success as obedience to God.
Surprisingly, the research showed a handful of measurements shifting significantly from 2020 to 2023—with increases in recognizing human sinfulness, viewing the Bible as the true and reliable words of God, and defining life’s purpose as serving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. A decline was seen in the acceptance of the existence of absolute moral truth, from 32% in 2020 to 25% in 2023.
Worldview shifts such as these are unusual. As Dr. Barna explains, “We don’t often see adults initiating large shifts in their life philosophy, but these statistics remind us that such change is possible, especially in times of social instability and uncertainty, such as we have today.”
Those changes remind us that it is possible to increase the incidence of biblical worldview in America. As Barna notes, while most people settle into a comfort zone with the beliefs they adopted during their first 12 years of life, the recent shifts underscore the possibility of positive worldview change.
Prior research by Barna points to times of personal crisis and pain as periods of openness to such change. Among the types of worldview-altering suffering and instability he discovered were personal bankruptcy, the death of a loved one, sustaining a debilitating injury, imprisonment, job loss, an acrimonious divorce or disrupted relationship, and the loss of material goods due to a natural disaster.
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 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 AWVI 2023 Release #02: “Research Identifies the Best Starting Point for Developing a Biblical Worldview,” is available here.