Don’t allow others to define Christianity, workshop leaders say

Bruce Gourley, online editor of Nurturing Faith, leads a workshop during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly. (Photo / Isa Torres)

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DALLAS—Christians in the United States have allowed other groups to define their faith, and that gives room for misunderstanding and misrepresentation, leaders of a workshop at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly said.

John Pierce, executive director and publisher of Nurturing Faith, said the general public has the wrong perception of who Christians are, and he called churches to live out the right definition of the faith.

Pierce and Bruce Gourley, online editor of Nurturing Faith, explained the differences between a biblical worldview and a Jesus worldview.

The term worldview is the way someone thinks or perceives the world, Pierce explained. A Barna study published last year reported only 17 percent of Christians had a biblical worldview.

Gospel according to Barna

By the Barna Group definition, to be counted as having a biblical worldview, Christian must believe:

  • Absolute moral truth exists.
  • The Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
  • Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic.
  • A person cannot earn his or her way into heaven by trying to be good or do good works.
  • Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.
  • God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.
John Pierce, executive director and publisher of Nurturing Faith, said the general public has the wrong perception of who Christians are. (Photo / Isa Torres)

That’s no way to define Christianity, Pierce insisted.

“Barna’s criteria of a ‘biblical worldview,’ or a ‘Christian worldview,’ is absent of the basic calling Jesus gives to follow him,” Pierce said.

The Barna definition closely tracks the biblical worldview as defined by David Barton, founder of the Wallbuilders organization, which he founded to educate Americans regarding their country’s “godly foundation” and to influence government policies to reflect “biblical values, ” he noted.

Pierce noted Barton’s misunderstanding of the Christian faith is reflected in the book his publisher, Thomas Nelson, pulled from distribution for making false statements about Thomas Jefferson.

Barna’s 17 percent of Christians with a biblical worldview only represented a group called SAGE Cons–which stands for Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives, Pierce said.

‘Follow Jesus’

This is not the first time Christians need to provide a correct definition to what their faith is, Gourley said. It is also not the first time the faith has to be distinguished from the powers of a nation.

“When Israel was being occupied, around the time of Jesus, there were other people who claimed to be the messiah,” Gourley said. “They all offered the same, to make Israel great again.”

In U.S. history, wrong perceptions of Christianity have been used to support slavery, sexism, and exploitative economics, Gourley said.

People easily can claim a Christian worldview when that perception advances their agenda, but only Jesus can provide a model of who God is, he observed. That is the difference between a nurturing God and an authoritarian one, he added.

In divided America, it would be easy to engage in political and doctrinal debates, Pierce said, but answers will not be found there.

“Jesus is always the answer,” he said. “Never take the low road of getting caught up in those little arguments.”

But following Jesus comes with a cost, Gourley said.

“If we downplay following Jesus being as hard as Jesus says it is, then we have allowed others to redefine Christianity,” he observed.

Christians in the United States need to examine which aspects of their faith reflect what Jesus called them to be and what is part of the authoritarian and selective religion the church has adopted, Pierce said.

“Christians who do not follow the authoritarian Christianity of today are probably not considered Christians by many—just as Baptists were not considered Christians in early American history,” Gourley said.

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