(Source: The Barna Group, Ventura, CA)
Barna, who included much more analysis of the results, commented: 'The data show that millions of people who are aligned with the Christian faith have not thought very much or very clearly about what spiritual maturity means. Perhaps the outcomes of the survey will encourage church leaders to help people not only prioritize their spiritual development, but also to consider what spiritual transformation looks like in practical terms. The old adage tells us that 'you get what you measure' and the survey revealed that most Christians don't measure much of anything beyond church attendance when it comes to their spiritual maturity. This information could help leaders assist followers of Christ in connecting the dots regarding the meaning of and the route to spiritual growth.' He also cautioned people regarding the interpretation of the results: 'Keep in mind that people's self-assessment was subjective. The same behaviour that constituted 'complete development' to one respondent may have been described as 'average development' to another. That very confusion highlights the challenge in the Church: most people do not know what faith maturity looks like. Equipping people to be more sensitive to their spiritual development, and to become more specific and objective about their spiritual maturity, would be enormously helpful in guiding them to become more like Jesus Christ.'
BORN AGAIN CHRISTIANS HAVE THE SAME LIKELIHOOD TO DIVORCE AS DO NON-CHRISTIANS
89% PERCENT OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN HEAVEN AND 75% BELIEVE THEY WILL GO THERE
Despite the efforts by Christian churches to try and dissuade congregants from divorcing, Barna confirmed 'a finding identified a decade ago (and further confirmed through tracking studies conducted each year since): born again Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians ... Among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce ... identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.' [emphasis added]
George Barna also noted that one reason why the divorce statistic among 'non-born again' adults is not higher is that 'a larger proportion of that group cohabits, effectively side-stepping marriage - and divorce - altogether ... Among born again adults, 80% have been married, compared to just 69% among the non-born again segment. If the non-born again population were to marry at the same rate as the born again group, it is likely that their divorce statistic would be roughly 38% - marginally higher than that among the born again group, but still surprisingly similar in magnitude.'
Analysis of the data according to the ages at which survey respondents were divorced and the age at which those who were Christian accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour 'suggest that relatively few divorced Christians experienced their divorce before accepting Christ as their Saviour.' And Barna further explained: 'If we eliminate those who became Christians after their divorce, the divorce figure among born again adults drops to 34% - statistically identical to the figure among non-Christians.' Thus he also indicated that a surprising number of Christians experienced divorces both before and after their conversion. Multiple divorces are also found to be unexpectedly common among born again Christians, for Barna's figures show that nearly one-quarter of the married 'born-agains' (23%) get divorced two or more times.
Do these figures give Christians any good reason to believe that the occupants of churches today are leading holy lives as demanded by the Word of God (Hebrews 12v14: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord') and that the majority of the church is not subject to poor discipleship, and is therefore seriously weak and incapable of Biblical evangelism?
So what is the overall degree of deception in the USA? Can we believe the ABC News Poll (conducted October 5-9, 2005), that concluded that 89% percent of Americans believe in heaven and 75% believe they will go there ('Nine in 10 Americans Believe in Heaven,' ABC News, Dec. 20). The survey found that 79% of the respondents think of themselves as Christians. Of those who believe in heaven, a whopping 78% think it is a place where people exist 'only spiritually.' 60% of those surveyed believe that heaven is open to Christians and non-Christians alike, and 90% of Roman Catholics surveyed also believed that to be true!
Perhaps even more revealing of the methods which much of the West uses to draw conclusions was found in a survey of Canadians (taken June 9-12, 2005), in which 16% said they had read the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and 32% of those said they believed that 'a holy bloodline exists and that this secret has been protected through the ages by a dedicated society' ('Canadian Readers Believe Da Vinci Code,' The Ottawa Citizen, June 24). The nationwide survey was funded by the National Geographic Channel. If the survey results were extrapolated, it would mean that 5 million Canadians have read the book and about 1.7 million agree with its thesis! The Da Vinci Code is a foolish novel that purports that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, fathered a child by her, and intended for her to assume leadership after his death and that it was 'the church' that covered up this 'fact' and replaced it with the doctrine that Jesus is divine and the imposed male-led ecclesiastical institution has tried to keep all of this a secret ever since. The influential book has sold more than 25 million copies in 44 languages. That could account for another large group of seriously deceived citizens!
What is the effect of so much ignorance? A typical example of contemporary ignorance in the church was demonstrated when Peter Howard, executive assistant to Bishop Michael Sheridan, head of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, warned Catholics not to attend Protestant services. Ted Haggard, Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), responded: 'New Life doesn't try to 'convert' Catholics' and would never discourage its members 'from becoming Catholic or attending Catholic Mass.' Haggard claims to affirm 'the necessity of being born again....' yet accepts Catholics as Christians who have been born again - by infant baptism! The 16th-century Reformers would be horrified!
How do Rick Warren's un-Scriptural views impinge on his judgement of such things? Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life contains extensive documentation of his dangerous and un-Scriptural 'judge not' ecumenical philosophy. On page 164, Warren states: 'God warns us over and over not to criticize, compare, or judge each other. ... Whenever I judge another believer, four things instantly happen: I lose fellowship with God, I expose my own pride, I set myself to be judged by God, and I harm the fellowship of the church.' In his ignorance, Warren makes no distinction between judging hypocritically (forbidden in Matthew 7 - see the bottom of page 5 for exposition on the factors concerned in judging correctly) judging on the basis of personal preference in matters not commanded in Scripture (forbidden in Romans 14), and judging on the basis of the Bible.
Christians are clearly obliged to judge everything by God's Word. The believers at Corinth were rebuked because they were careless in this regard and were tolerant of false teachers (2 Corinthians 11v1-4) while the Bereans, on the other hand, were commended because they carefully tested everything by the Scriptures (Acts 17v11). The Bible says 'he that is spiritual judgeth all things' (1 Corinthians 2v15) and Jesus taught that we should 'judge righteous judgment' (John 7v24). We are to judge preaching (1 Cor. 14v29) and sin in the churches (1 Corinthians 5) and we are to 'try the spirits' (1 John 4v1). Far from being 'a matter of pride,' as Warren foolishly claims, it is wisdom and obedience to test the message of Christian speakers and writers carefully by God's Word!
On page 34 of The Purpose Driven Life, Warren states: 'God won't ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him?' This is another severe error, for the New Testament reveals twice as many verses concerning doctrine as about behaviour (how can you be sure of your behaviour if you're unsure of your doctrine?) - and why did the apostles call for doctrinal purity on every hand? Paul instructed Timothy to allow 'no other doctrine' (1 Timothy 1v3) and the same strict stance on doctrinal purity is found throughout the apostolic writings. Rick Warren is another deceiver who is leading millions away from basing their lives upon the pure Word of God and encouraging them to follow his teaching instead: 'In this book I have passed on to you what others taught me about the purpose of life; now it's your duty to pass that on to others' (p. 309). If God is unconcerned about doctrine, why did the apostles spend so much time warning about false doctrines and doctrines of demons? (ref. 2 Cor. 11v1-4; Gal. 1v6-12; Phil. 3v18-21; Col. 2v8; 1 Tim. 4v1-5; 1 Tim. 6v20-21; 2 Tim. 4v1-4; 2 Pet. 2)
Rick Warren requires members of his church to sign a covenant promising to protect the unity of the church (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 167) - a dangerous and un-Scriptural covenant. Christians are never to submit to church leaders blindly and at any cost, but are commanded to 'prove all things' (1 Thess. 5v21; cf. The Berean example - Acts 17v11). No preacher or leader is above being tested by God's Word. The Bible states: 'Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge' (1 Cor. 14v29). Preaching, teaching and prophecy is to be carefully judged by God's Word. The pastor has God-given authority and, dependent on his faithfulness to the Word revealed in 'the outcome of their life' we are to 'imitate their faith' (Heb. 13v7, 17). But he never receives unquestionable authority and it is not his own authority. He is not a shepherd over his own flock but an 'under-shepherd', an 'overseer' (Acts 20v28), over God's sheep - and he will give an account to the Great Shepherd (1 Pet. 5v1-4). The pastor's authority is not in his own word but in God's Word (Heb. 13v7) and if he strays from the Word of God he has no authority over God's people and should not be followed. Blind loyalty to a church and its leader is cultish and gross heresy.
Warren makes clear his aversion to those who would stick to an inerrant view of Scripture and seek to order their lives by the Word of God when, in an appearance before the Pew Forum in May 2005, he made the following comments:
'Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America. ... Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity, and when I say there are very few fundamentalists, I mean in the sense that they are all actually called fundamentalist churches, and those would be quite small. There are no large ones. ... that group is shrinking more and more and more' ('Myths of the Modern Mega-Church,' May 23, 2005, transcript of the Pew Forum's bi-annual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life).
Apart from his obvious attempt to 'rubbish' fundamentalists as holding 'a very legalistic, narrow view,' without attempting to define or distinguish his brand of 'fundamentalist' from those in the USA who are far more Biblical and orthodox than Warren has ever been, he is in error regarding his view of church growth. Many who hold themselves to be 'fundamentalist' are in churches which are growing in size and in number with a congregation often running into the thousands. Lancaster Baptist Church, north of Los Angeles in Warren's native California, has a membership of 4,000 and the fundamental Baptist movement has tens of thousands of churches in America alone, many of them with a membership of a thousand and more with a large and zealous missionary arm that exceeds that of the Southern Baptist Convention. For the origin of the fundamentalist movement, see:
If fundamentalism is a 'narrow view of Christianity,' as Warren claims, the fundamentalists in the USA are often only as 'narrow' as the Bible - a fine standard to aim for! And Warren's claim that fundamentalism is a form of 'legalism,' reveals his clear anti-Biblical view of Christianity, for preaching absolute faithfulness to God's Word is hardly top of his agenda - as the previous evidence reveals. Warren's views are far from that of the apostle Paul who was inspired to write: 'For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God' (Acts 20v27).
It is very difficult to take Warren seriously. His ability to firmly thrust both feet into his mouth - up to the kneecaps - is only exceeded by an ability to talk out of the back of his head! At the 'Pew Forum' in May 2005, Warren predicted a 'New Reformation' or a 'Third Great Awakening' for America when he declared:
'You know, 500 years ago, the first Reformation with Luther and then Calvin, was about beliefs. I think a new reformation is going to be about behavior. The first Reformation was about creeds; I think this one will be about deeds. ... The first Reformation actually split Christianity into dozens and then hundreds of different segments. I think this one is actually going to bring them together. Now, you're never going to get Christians, of all their stripes and varieties, to agree on all of the different doctrinal disputes and things like that, but what I am seeing them agree on are the purposes of the church. ... Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. Now, that's wide spread. We had Catholic priests, we had Pentecostal ministers, we had Lutheran bishops, we had Anglican bishops, we had Baptist preachers. They're all there together and you know what? I'd never get them to agree on communion or baptism or a bunch of stuff like that, but I could get them to agree on what the church should be doing in the world' ('Myths of the Modern Mega-Church,' May 23, 2005, transcript of the Pew Forum's bi-annual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life) [emphasis added].
Incredibly, Warren claims a 'New Reformation' will be about 'the purpose of the church.' Clearly it couldn't be about beliefs or doctrinal purity where he is concerned! Having made it clear it is not important that a church be Biblical, and therefore doctrinally correct and preaching the Biblical gospel (apart from his writings he is content to have such as Catholic priests at his meetings), he claims it is only important that 'churches' agree on their purpose? How can a church have a Biblical purpose when it does not have Biblical doctrine? It is an extraordinary oxymoron! How can a church have a Biblical purpose when it preaches a false sacramental gospel - as Papal Rome does? Warren thinks sound doctrine is not a foundational issue, while the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to 'charge some that they teach no other doctrine' (1 Tim. 1v3)? Who are you going to believe - the Word of God or a modern day liberal-heretic?
(Continued on page 204)