In and of the World

At a recent presentation on Capitol Hill, researcher George Barna said, "Twenty five years from now, historians are likely to say the year 2001 was right around the time when the era of moral and spiritual anarchy began." In his talk, Barna predicted that, of all the changes likely to occur in the next few years, moral chaos will have the most devastating impact on American culture. It's a bold and shocking prediction. What are we to make of it? In his prophetic new book Boiling Point, Barna and co-author Mark Hatch report that while most Americans today claim to be Christians, this commitment is becoming less and less meaningful. Consider the following: eighty-five percent of all adults claim that religious faith is very important in their lives. Also, eighty-five percent claim to be Christians. More than four out of five adults claim to know the basic teachings of the Bible and nine of ten own at least one Bible -- good. Yet, just one in four adults and only one teenager in ten believes in absolute moral truth. In fact, less than half of those who call themselves "born-again" Christians believe that anything is "absolutely true." If a majority of Americans own a Bible and value its content, if they know that Jesus says "I am . . . the truth," [John 14:6] then why do so few believe in absolute truth? The disconnect comes from what Barna and Hatch call Americans' "evolving values." Our culture's embrace of moral relativism has led to an abandonment of traditional values -- including loyalty, morality, accountability, and sacrifice. Many Americans, Barna says, now cling to the values that best align with relativism -- that is, independence, personal happiness, tolerance, comfort, instant gratification, the right to make ones own choices -- all of this centers on the individual. Christ spoke to this problem long ago when He said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" [Matthew 6:21]. When God is no longer the center of our lives and when we replace worship with our own self-interest, spiritual and moral anarchy inevitably follow. And without firm religious foundations, our society will have enormous difficulty arriving at a moral consensus to cope with the dramatic changes that lie ahead. Most distressing, the church sometimes seems right in line with today's evolving values. Barna and Hatch note that people's church preferences often align precisely with their relativistic approach to life. Americans often do not join churches these days; instead, they attend churches based on how far they have to drive, the convenience of the worship schedule, the kinds of emotional experiences they can enjoy, and whether or not the sermon is upbeat and interesting. Now none of these reasons are inherently bad, but all too often people are choosing their church without regard for doctrinal purity or reliable teaching. Convenience, comfort, and emotion tend to be the values that drive today's spirituality. Accordingly, Christians are increasingly indistinguishable from their non-Christian friends. A 1999 study of sixty-five common values and traits showed that the values of born-again Christians were not substantially different from any other segment of culture. Can such a church expect to change the world? If we have any hope of renewing the culture, we'll need to rediscover what Jesus meant when he called us to be in the world but not of it. For further reference: Barna, George and Hatch, Mark. Boiling Point. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary