Michael Brown on This New Poll Could Raise Serious Concerns for American Pentecostals and Charismatics

A new Barna poll points to a dramatic drop in biblical beliefs among American Pentecostals and charismatics. If the findings are accurate, what are the likely causes?

According to the poll, “although we proclaim “In God We Trust” on our currency, a slim 51% majority of Americans believe in a biblical view of God—down from 73% 30 years ago. Increasingly, the research finds mounting evidence that Americans are both redefining—and rejecting—God.

“Stunningly, Americans are more confident about the existence of Satan than they are of God. Overall, 56% contend that Satan is an influential spiritual being, yet almost half (49%) are not fully confident that God truly exists.”

More specifically, “The largest declines in possession of an orthodox, biblical perspective on the nature of God since 1991 were among individuals who attend Pentecostal or charismatic Protestant churches (down by 27 percentage points); people in the 18 to 29-year-old category (down 26 points); adults in the Elders generation, (that is, people born before 1946, down 25 points); and women (down 25 points).”

To be sure, some of this data is perplexing. Why has an almost identical decline occurred among the old and the young? One would have expected this from 18 to 29-year-olds but not from those born before 1946. And why virtually the same decline among women? What explains that?

As for the dramatic drop among Pentecostals and charismatics, that is perplexing as well, since in other, international polls, Pentecostals and charismatics led the way in daily Bible study and prayer. They also tended to have higher standards of holiness and be more engaged in outreach. (For details and discussion, see the chapter “Testing the Spirits” in my book Authentic Fire and see this major, 2006 survey.)

In keeping with this, a survey released earlier this year indicated that Pentecostal and charismatic pastors were much more likely to uphold the biblical definition of marriage than so-called mainline pastors. Indeed, they were less likely to affirm same-sex “marriage” than even Baptist pastors (respectively, 1-3%).

That’s because Pentecostals and charismatics tend to have solidly conservative views of the Bible and also put a strong emphasis on personal piety and devotion. Their Bible colleges and seminaries tend to me more conservative as well.

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SOURCE: Charisma News