Thursday, July 03, 2008

What Do You Believe?

Yesterday, in a post about the Bishop of Rochester, Rich included this:

We are rebels in arms against God, and only God's gracious offer of amnesty through Christ can change that....F-A-C-T. T-R-U-T-H, not just "for me," but objectively, is true regardless of who believes it.

Maybe some of us have never really believed that in the first place.
This reminded me of a recent Pew Research study of religion in the United States. There’s a lot of stuff in there, and if you’re interested in statistics about religion you can find a lot to chew on.
There’s some alarming trends, like this:

The Landscape Survey confirms that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country; the number of Americans who report that they are members of Protestant denominations now stands at barely 51%.
And this:

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.
And then, if you dig into the report (available in PDF files at the link), you’ll find this:

Most Americans agree with the statement that many religions--not just their own--can lead to eternal life. Among those who are affiliated with a religious tradition, seven-in-ten say many religions can lead to eternal life. This view is shared by a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including more than half of members of evangelical Protestant churches (57%). Only among Mormons (57%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%) do majorities say that their own religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life. (emphasis mine)
I’m really troubled by this. Honestly, I don’t understand why you would spend time and money on religious activities if you don’t actually believe you’re following the Truth. Why are you messing around? And the Truth in my church, and most evangelical churches I know, and most importantly, in the Word of God, is that Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There are a lot of other verses to back that up, but it seems pretty clear to me. So what are people thinking?

I’m pretty sure that our current cultural view of tolerance is one of the factors here. We are told in school, in movies, in the media that we shouldn’t tell people that they are wrong. We shouldn’t believe in absolute truth. Clearly it’s started to creep into our churches as well. Plus, I guess, there is the human tendency to wish that no one has to be consigned to hell, or at least only a few really really bad people like Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler. But just because something sounds nice doesn't make it true.

I wish I had an answer. I guess all I can do is remind you that it’s important to THINK, not just feel, about your faith. Know what your core beliefs are, and why you hold them. Think about how they should affect your life, change your behavior, modify your mental habits. Think honestly about the challenges to those beliefs that you might hear from a non-Christian, and know how you would respond. Know what ideas in the culture might pull you away from those beliefs, and be on guard against them. Be ready to talk about this information with others.

It doesn’t seem like enough, somehow, in this multi-cultural, “tolerant,” media-saturated society. But I’ve chosen to believe God’s Word, and in it Jesus says: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." So that's the best I've got, and since it comes from God, I have to trust that it's good enough.

UPDATE: A friend just pointed me to a great article by Cal Thomas on the same topic: "Do They Think Jesus Was a Liar?" It's good, not too long, you should check it out!

UPDATE 2: Just realized this post had no title, so I added one. Sorry!

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