The findings on the other three Christian traditions are even more stark than those on evangelicals. Dr. George Barna said the survey reveals the “theological demise” of those who are members of Pentecostal and charismatic congregations. Sixty-nine percent do not believe in absolute moral truth. Even larger percentages of people from this tradition do not believe that human life is sacred and do believe the Bible is ambiguous about abortion. The “most unexpected perspective,” however, among Pentecostals and charismatics is how many people welcome the government’s involvement in their lives. For example, 69 percent said they preferred socialism to capitalism. And the study found that 45 percent were not born-again Christians, which Barna described as an “unexpectedly large proportion of people.”
Barna found mainline Protestants to be “the most secular” out of the four Christian traditions surveyed. Nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of the beliefs of those who attend mainline Protestant congregations “directly conflict with biblical teaching.” Said Barna, “The worldview possessed by most mainline church attenders revolves around three concepts.” These concepts are 1) individuals determine their own truth and morality, 2) there is no objective, transcendent purpose to life, and 3) traditional Christian practices (such as confessing sin, praying, and reading the Bible) are not important to one’s faith. Fifty-nine percent of those who attend mainline Protestant churches are not born-again.
Catholics, said Barna, “are the segment of the Christian community most likely to believe that a person can earn salvation by being a good enough person or by doing enough good deeds throughout their lifetime.” Catholics are also the most likely group to accept behaviors such as lying, speeding, and premarital sex. While mainline Protestants are the least likely Protestant group to be born-again, Catholics are the least likely group out of the four to be born-again—Barna found that 72 percent were not.
“What may be unexpected, though,” said Barna, “is that the most common answer given by Catholics regarding their eternal consequences is that they will experience Heaven because of their confession of sin and embrace of Christ as their savior (i.e., being spiritually born-again).”
Dr. George Barna hopes that shining light on these disturbing developments within American Christianity will prompt a reformation akin to that initiated by Martin Luther rather than the “post-Christian Reformation” that is currently taking place. He said,
It’s one thing for Americans to be confused on the finer points or even hotly debated elements of theology, but for Americans to misunderstand or to flat out reject the Bible as a foundational source of truth and moral guidance, to reject salvation by grace alone, and to reject core doctrines of the Christian faith points to a major crisis in our society. Hopefully, bringing these issues to light can generate greater attention being paid to what matters and how to fix what’s clearly broken.