Ligionier Ministries just published a blog on “The State of Theology: What Do People Really Believe in 2018?” The results were interesting and astounding, while also saddening and disheartening. You can find the results at thestateoftheology.com, which is the source for this Pastors’ Corner. While many responses to questions would be alarming to most, let’s focus in on three primary areas: man’s sin, the identity of Jesus Christ, and the exclusivity of Christ.
The first statement of focus that elicited quite alarming responses is phrased this way: “Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” An alarming 69 percent of people surveyed selected that they either strongly disagreed or somewhat disagreed with this statement. That’s almost seven out of ten people who felt that sin is not deserving of the punishment described in the Bible! What lies beneath that mentality is the notion that we aren’t all that bad. The popular view of Americans is that while we may do stuff that hurts others, at the end of the day, we’re not all that bad.
People have no sense of the holiness of God and His separation from all that is unholy and unrighteous. The Bible puts it this way in Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…” Psalm 14 says, “…They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” The Bible is definitive in its declaration that we are sinful—ALL of us.
The second statement of note in the survey reads as follows: “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” Almost 80 percent of people responded with agreement to that statement! Almost eight out of ten people think that Jesus was created by God! To say that a different way, almost 80 percent of our population think that Jesus is not the eternally existent Creator God.
Jesus Himself claimed equality with God when He said in John 10:30, “The Father and I are one.” The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “About the Son, however, God said: ‘Your kingdom, O God, will last forever and ever! You rule over your people with justice.” (Hebrews 1:8) How disheartening that almost 80 percent of our population has no clue that Jesus is the infinite, eternal, Creator God.
The final statement we will focus on in the survey is statement number 3: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” Over 50% of the respondents agreed with this statement. More than half of the people surveyed think that the labels of Christianity and Islam are essentially irrelevant to God. They believe that one can just as easily access God through Islam as one can through Christianity.
The Bible says that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And yet, more than half the people surveyed felt that one could just as easily access God through the name “Mohammed” as they can through “Jesus.” What a sad state of affairs!
So, what do we do with this information? Do we crawl into a dark corner and cry? Do we throw our hands up in frustration and anger? Do we yell at the world for their blindness? Even though we may feel like doing any or all of those three things from time to time, we know that’s not the right response. In the midst of a world that was just as confused and mistaken as our own, Jesus took a different route. The Bible tells us that He consistently had compassion on them. It’s so easy to get frustrated with a world that is so messed up. But that was not Jesus’ response. “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) The truth of the matter is that the deficiency that these people have is not a deficiency in knowledge. They are not primarily lacking in proper theology. Primarily, they are lacking in a relationship with a shepherd who loves and cares for them. You don’t get mad at sheep for being ignorant. You love them, care for them, hurt for them, and long for their good. When you interact with one of those sheep this week, take Jesus’ path—have compassion on them, knowing that ultimately, their main problem is that they don’t know the True Shepherd.