70, 6, 2
What are these numbers? According to recent research conducted by George Barna in the inaugural American Worldview Inventory, 70% of Americans identify as Christians yet only 6% of Americans have a Biblical worldview. What is even more alarming is the fact that only 2% of adults ages 18-29 have a Biblical worldview. My friends, it seems we have a problem.
American Christianity is in a precarious position. On the surface there are a lot of people claiming to be Christians, but in actuality most do not seem to have a clue as to what it is about. Further, the group with the lowest number of people having a Biblical worldview are young adults. The present seems bleak, but the future almost nonexistent. Still, this crisis is not unknown. These numbers have been in decline for years with research dating to at least the late 1990’s. In fact, Barna claims in the report that 25 years ago the number of people with a Biblical worldview was as high as 12%. In just a quarter of a century, the number of people with a Biblical worldview has been halved.
As a young Christian dedicated to the apostolic faith, I am deeply troubled by this recent report. And I am tempted to ask who is to blame for this? Surely those who came before could have stopped this! Why have the previous generations failed? Why did they not do more? But these are not productive questions to ask. Anger and frustration about the past nor worrying over what the future holds will not accomplish anything but to further exacerbate the issue. Yet this attitude is all too common among young people.
This situation reminds me of Frodo Baggins, one of the protagonists from the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The setting is grim, Sauron has returned to Mordor after his defeat thousands of years earlier. The powers of darkness are rising up. And upon finding that the magic ring he had inherited from Bilbo was the One Ring of the dark ruler, Frodo tells the wizard Gandalf “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” And Gandalf in his great wisdom responds:
So do I and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black.”
This is a magnificent idea Tolkien has captured here. No one wants to be alive during ominous times. Yet, we do not decide when we get to live. That is not within our power to control. What is within our power is how we choose to live within the time we have been given no matter how dark it may appear.
Another quick glimpse into the same chapter from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring is just as important. Gandalf, in the midst of explaining how the Ring came to Frodo, tells him that:
It was the strangest event in the whole history of the Ring so far: Bilbo’s arrival at just that time, and putting his hand on it, blindly, in the dark…the Ring was trying to get back to its master.”
How strange that a hobbit of all creatures would pick up such a mighty tool. In fact, Gandalf continues by saying:
There was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to have it, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it.” [emphasis in original]
Tolkien here is inserting the idea that something seems to be guiding the course of the events within his world. A greater power seems to be at work. And this greater power intends that Frodo be the one to take up the burden of destroying the One Ring. The parallels to our world are obvious in both passages. For we know that God is directing things according to His will. God has appointed us to live in the present moment. For what purpose or task, we may not yet know. But we must choose to play our part in God’s story if we are to call ourselves Christians.
And so, the task of my generation is to decide what we will do with the time given to us. The questions we should be answering are whether we will participate in the story God is writing. How will we participate? What task has God appointed to us? What is our cross to bear? My generation will answer these questions in a myriad of ways. We are a diverse bunch of people. However, I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of those who love God and serve Jesus Christ our Lord.
As for me, it is my belief that this blog can be a launching point to create a forum for Christians to discuss the historic, orthodox faith. That’s my answer to the predicament of 70, 6, and 2. My goal is to help us to better understand that which we have lost connection to. This is because I believe that we have lost touch with God’s story after the New Testament period. We do not know who we are anymore and my goal is to help us find out.
So while 70, 6, and 2 is a problem for American Christians, it is not insurmountable. This contemporary obstacle is but one chapter in God’s story. And we have the opportunity to take part in God’s solution. This role will look different for each person, but we do this by bringing glory to God no matter the circumstances we face or the means we use to interact with our world. I hope to accomplish this through my writing as I continue to define why I think looking back to the apostolic faith is better than innovating new ways of understanding God.