A recent American survey has produced some shocking results which should be very disturbing to everyone concerned with the deterioration of today’s Christian Church. LifeWay Research is an evangelical organisation and has concluded, on the basis of answers provided in their latest survey (28th Oct), that MOST CHRISTIANS TODAY would be classed as heretics, if their beliefs were compared with those of the Bible. Although this is an American survey, I have no doubt that similar results would be found in many Australian Churches. Note too that the survey included representatives of all religions, but I have only extracted the data concerning Christians.
Some of the results:
1. Around half (48%) of all Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is “a force” rather than a person in the Trinity as taught by the Lord Jesus (eg, John 16:14), Paul (eg, Romans 8:27) and Luke (eg, Acts 13:2). And another 10% are not sure. Such a low view of the importance of the Holy Spirit has always been considered heresy and reveals ignorance, bad teaching by leaders and wilful disobedience to the Scriptures.
2. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Christians believe heaven is a real place, but most of them (55%) believe there are “many ways to heaven.” So much for Jesus’ categorical declaration: “No-one comes to the Father but through me.” (eg, John 6:44). We would have to conclude that Paul’s missionary journeys were therefore useless and unnecessary treks to dangerous places if people can actually get to heaven however they want. Who was right?
3. Nearly 20% of Christians think Hell is not a real place – I would think the percentage in Australia would be greater than that, judging from the rubbish that gets preached from many pulpits, or the lies spouted at so many funerals today.
4. A staggering 80% or more of Christians say people must contribute some effort toward their own salvation. This is in direct contradiction of Paul’s teachings that declare that our good works do nothing to obtain salvation. It may also reveal another misunderstanding owing to poor teaching or lazy understanding: that anyone who declares he is a Christian has been truly saved. Both Paul and James need to be read together.
5. The diagram above some interesting information about Christians’ beliefs about the Word of God – the Bible. A large proportion (from 18% to 50%) believe that the Bible is helpful but not literally true. Despite the unfortunate wording of the statement (no-one for example would be expected to believe the figurative term where Jesus said, “I am the door”) many of these Christians come from traditionally evangelical Churches. What it shows is a disastrous misunderstanding of the importance of God’s written Word for salvation, edification and living.
6. Christians are split on the topic of sex outside marriage. At least one quarter of all Christians surveyed think it is acceptable, despite what the Bible has always taught and the Church has taught down through the ages, until about the 1960’s of course.
There are many other issues and results of this survey. Most of them are disturbing to serious followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Overwhelmingly one can see the large degree of disagreement that Church-goers and other self-styled Christians have with many of the statements of belief put out by their Church, or the historical creeds repeated formally every Sunday in some denominations.
But Does it Really Matter?
Heresy is fortunately no longer punished by death, but some Churches may expel false believers who make an issue of their rebellion. In most cases however, the rule now seems to be “live and let live.”
The Apostle Paul had different ideas – not death as a punishment, but he was strongly and clearly aware of most of the theological issues which Christians disagree on today. No serious reader of the Bible could doubt that, despite the contorted effort some go through to justify themselves.
Here is why our beliefs matter: We cannot expect to be saved by ourselves – only faith in Jesus’ sacrifice can save us. And only God Himself can do it. Without that faith we are doomed. So many other beliefs are contingent on that one article of faith. If we believe in a Jesus who might be just a man, or in a God who is lying about Heaven and Hell, or in a human book about God but not by God, then our faith is based on wishful thinking, that’s all.
I want my salvation based on something solid that I can believe in, not hope for the best after I die. I pray you are the same!
The Terrible Decline
This survey illustrates “the pervasive influence of humanism” according to R.C. Sproul. It is as we have being saying all along: the beliefs of the people in the Churches are becoming increasingly heretical, increasingly based on worldly attitudes, perceptions and behaviour. The only hope is to return to historic, Biblical faith, as the overall ship flounders and sinks in the Great Apostasy before our Lord returns.
I believe part of the answer lies in continued, clear and stubborn preaching by faithful men of the true faith from the pulpit, and the other part lies in our own individual and habitual study of God’s Word, as we see what God commands us to do.