Setting the Record Straight on Marriage and Divorce in the Church

Over the past year, a few times in secular media interviews I’ve done, it was thrown in my face that divorce rates among Christians were higher than non-Christians, so obviously Christianity doesn’t help marriage. I have read such statements in newspapers and other media sources.

Recently, one of our Answers in Genesis board members, who is an attorney, read a similar accusation in a newspaper—so, he decided to research this topic more thoroughly, checking original sources to correctly understand the statistics that have been analyzed and announced. His conclusion? Here is what he shared with me.

The surveys clearly show that those who read the Bible seriously and without compromise put their faith as a much higher priority in their lives. As a result, they lead very different lives, to include some of the lowest divorce rates in the country, well below the atheists, agnostics, and general public. Interestingly, those who profess faith in Jesus Christ but not in what the Bible teaches appear little different than the rest of the world.

When one looks at the data, you almost have to marvel at the chutzpah of the mockers. Not only does an honest look at the surveys vindicate biblical Christianity, it reveals the depressing picture of atheists and agnostics.

Now, that is different from what I have read or been told numerous times. The article our board member wrote on this issue begins:

A friend emailed a copy of a January 17, 2010, article in The Sun News, a paper out of Myrtle Beach, SC, that trumpeted a Barna survey allegedly showing that “born again” Christians suffer the highest rates of divorce and atheists/agnostics the lowest. At first I thought this must simply be agitprop. A few minutes on the Internet, however, produced several websites corroborating the sources, surveys, and statistics. See for example here. However, at least one purported Christian website here stated that evangelicals had a lower rate of divorce than the national average and lower than atheists and agnostics.

Before this, I was unaware of the Barna distinction between “born again” Christians and evangelicals, and with exceedingly few exceptions, was unaware of people calling themselves “born again” outside evangelical circles. My curiosity piqued and smelling mischief in the gloating newspaper article, I did a little research. What I found demonstrated that biblical Christianity makes a difference in peoples’ lives and that newspapers generally cannot be trusted in matters regarding Christianity. In other words, nothing new.

This South Carolina paper and these websites weren’t telling the entire truth, not even close. Digging further revealed that Barna himself reports that evangelicals have among the lowest divorce rates (26%) and people of non-Christian denominations have the highest rates (38%). Agnostics and atheists are within the statistical margin of error of the national average of approximately 33% divorce rate. However, far fewer agnostics and atheists (65%) marry than the national average (74%). “Born again” Christians average a 78% marriage rate, the highest in that poll.

The Barna surveys appear odd when it comes to “born again” Christians. As stated, evangelicals had about the lowest divorce rates in the survey. What the skeptics and mockers seem to be fixating on is a class Barna identified as “born again” non-evangelicals, whose divorce rate was 33%, statistically indistinguishable from the national average and above the atheist/agnostic rate of 30% (of those that married). Some skeptics proclaim that this proves Christianity makes little difference in lives. One site even went so far as to list this survey as evidence that God doesn’t exist.

So, who are these non-evangelical, born again Christians that give the mockers such joy and comfort? This is where it gets interesting and where the mockers engage in gross intellectual dishonesty. In the Barna surveys, to qualify as “born again,” a person must have made a personal “commitment” to Jesus Christ and believe that they will go to heaven because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. The respondents are not asked whether they consider themselves “born again.” So who or what is “evangelical” according to Barna? Evangelicals are a subset of the “born again” respondents. To qualify as evangelicals for Barna, the respondents (in addition to the foregoing “born again” faith in Christ) stated that they believe that salvation is through grace alone, Jesus led a sinless life, the Bible is inerrant, they have a duty to share their faith, Satan is real, and God is omnipotent and perfect and created the universe. In other words, “evangelicals” are Christians that believe what the Bible says. Apparently, “non born-again” evangelicals in Barna’s surveys do not believe the same biblical truths. Barna also reports that “[e]vangelicals were twice as likely as non-evangelical born again adults (47% vs. 21%), and almost five times more likely than notional Christians (47% vs. 10%) to place faith at the top of the list [of their priorities in life].

I would encourage you to read the rest of this report by our board member.

Answers in Genesis in Georgia This Week

On Wednesday and Thursday, I will be speaking in Georgia (same talk at both venues) at First Baptist Church of Woodstock (Atlanta area). The Thursday speaking engagement is at the National Sunday School conference. You can find out the details here.

Devotion

Old hatred

(Ezekiel 25:15) Thus says the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred

No person or plan, but only the Lord Jesus Christ can remove the old hatreds, bitterness, and refusals to forgive that have festered within and become a way of life.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken