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September 16, 2008

Comments

Aaron

I haven't had a chance to read the whole book yet, but I have perused it for some of the findings you've commented on. Below are a couple of questions/comments that I emailed to Barna group to see what they thought. Unfortunately, they did not really provide satisfactory answers and didn't have time to look a little deeper into some of the questions I asked. But I do think my comments are useful for anyone trying to make sense of the research findings they present. From what I can tell, while their survey research is useful for understanding certain aspects of how Christians are perceived by outsiders, I'm not sure they are as clear or definitive as they could be.

1. While it's entirely appropriate that you concretely define what you believe by 'biblical worldview', don't you think your requirement that one 'strongly agree' with each of the 8 statements is a little bit stringent when defining a biblical worldview? I would suggest that one could legitimately maintain a biblical worldview if they responded with 'somewhat agree' on items defining a 'biblical worldview', or I would even say that they can honestly respond to the items with 'don't know' as an indication that they have no means of knowing with objective certainty that the item is true, yet they maintain a worldview that assumes the items are true and live according to the principles outlined in a 'biblical worldview'. I would be interested in seeing how many respondents said 'i don't know' to each item, and what proportion indicated 'somewhat agree' for each item as well.

2. I am curious about what criterion were used for selecting the 8 items? As I'm sure you are aware, there are a variety of Christian perspectives regarding how to define a 'biblical worldview' I find it curious that the items selected seem to cater to a somewhat conservative, perhaps even fundamentalist take on how a biblical worldview ought to be defined. For example, it seems perfectly reasonable for a Christian who maintains a biblical worldview to state that while the Bible offers insights into moral truth, it is not the source of moral truth (for example, God might be considered the source of moral truth). According to your definition, any christian who believes God supercedes the Bible as the source of moral truth would not be considered to hold a 'biblical worldview'. I also am familiar with many Christians who understand a Biblical worldview to include the teachings of Jesus about loving God and loving one's neighbor, aiding the poor, caring for the sick and weak in society. Your definition does not tap into these legitimate aspects of a biblical worldview. How did you come to decide that these particular 8 statements were necessary and sufficient aspects of a biblical worldview?

It seems to me that your presentation of the results in 'Unchristian' have the potential to be misleading, partly due to omitted details about the survey itself (#1 above) and partly due to a failure to acknowledge differences of opinion regarding what a 'biblical worldview' entails (#2 above). Readers who do not have experience with survey methodology may not recognize some of these limitations that are inherent in the way your results are presented. I would suggest you provide more information when presenting your research findings, and perhaps share your data with interested outsiders for further analysis and understanding.

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