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Final Jeopardy

Whenever popular pollsters give a spiritual pop quiz to American Christians, the results are pretty predictable.

Most professing believers in Christ have a pretty shaky view of what they believe.

Surveys consistently show that most Christians have a better chance of answering a Final Jeopardy question –

“I’ll take ‘History of Swiss Dentistry’ for $1000 Alex!” –

than being able to name the 10 Commandments.

Or even the names of the four Gospels.

Or even answering even Sunday School 101 level questions about the content of the Christian faith.

The latest spiritual SAT results, courtesy of the Barna polling group, are in.

And they ain’t pretty.

Most U.S. Christians Don’t Believe Satan, Holy Spirit


The majority of American Christians do not believe that Satan is a real being or that the Holy Spirit is a living entity, the latest Barna survey found.

Nearly six out of ten Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”

Likewise, most Christians in the United States do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.”

The bottom line?

A majority of professing Christians deny essential Christian doctrine.

You might be thinking, “Well, supernatural stuff like Satan and the Holy Spirit have always been confusing. But I’m sure on the absolute essentials American Christians have a clue!”

And you’d be wrong.

Other survey findings include a significant number of self-described Christians believing that Jesus sinned when he lived on earth, contrary to the core teaching of Christianity that teaches the divinity and perfection of Jesus.

More than one-fifth (22 percent) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17 percent agreeing somewhat.

If you are keeping score at home, 58% of professing Christians in America deny the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit.

That means nearly 60% deny the doctrine of the Trinity.

And 39% believe Jesus is a sinner.

How did we make our way into this swamp of spiritual ignorance?

George Barna’s take is that Americans are so used to seeing only the physical, that the idea of the spiritual realm is hard for them to grasp.

“Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world,” commented George Barna, founder of The Barna Group and author of books analyzing research concerning America’s faith.

“It’s hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces.”

Our culture’s bent toward pull yourself up by your bootstraps individualism and a pervasive seeing is believing mentality may have an impact on these results.

But I’d like to suggest the really source of these results runs a little deeper.

49% of those who believed the Holy Spirit is not personal surprisingly also agreed the “the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches.”

In other words, the Bible tells us the truth.

We just have never taken the time to find out what that truth is.

And herein lies the fatal spiritual flaw that threatens even Bible believing churches and individuals today.

We major on spiritual feelings, but minor on spiritual content.

We believe Christianity is true because it makes us feel good or provides us with positive experiences.

Not because we believe in Who Jesus is or what He taught on the most basic subjects.

For instance, Jesus didn’t believe that Satan was a symbol.

Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. (John 8:43-45)

Jesus didn’t describe the Holy Spirit as an impersonal influence or a feeling.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-14)

It doesn’t take a PhD in theology to discover what the Bible says on these subjects.

But if our faith is founded on feelings rather than facts, chances are we will never take the time to find out what we believe or why we believe it.

And here’s the danger.

If we are Christians because it makes us feel good, what will happen when following Jesus makes us feel bad?

Like convicted about an area of our lives that is out of God’s will?

Or excluded and mocked by those who live for their own egos or to stimulate their nerve endings?

If our faith is based on feelings instead of facts, chances are it will fail under pressure.

But if we take the time to get to know Jesus as He is revealed in His Word, and let His perspective on crucial spiritual issues become our own, our faith will not only survive, but strengthen and sustain us in tough times.

At the end of His most famous public speech, the Sermon On the Mount,  Jesus closed with a challenge that is especially real and relevant for the times we live in.

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

How seriously, personally and practically do you take the Words of Jesus today?

Those who put their faith in feelings are in great spiritual jeopardy.


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