Do you believe in God? Yes. I think. Don’t I?

I believe in God.  That’s a common answer when someone is asked, “Do you believe in God?”  But, is that really true?  I’ve been amazed by survey results that appear to show a belief in God but then has so many contradictions in the questions that follow.  That’s the reason for the second part of the title – “Yes. I think. Don’t I?” 

Unfortunately, I think I found my answer in a Christianity Today survey.  It’s sad.  It’s depressing.  And yet, it’s also cause for hope. Really? Yes, because if Christians actually did what Jesus commissioned us to do, it’s a situation we could possibly change.

But will we?

The caption on the image says “Believe”.

But believe in what?”

Apparently, that’s a key component that has been left out of a lot of surveys to see whether or not we believe in God.  Here’s something from the PEW Research Center when the question of “in what” was more fully explored.

My source for this is 80% of Americans Believe in God. Pew Found Out What They Mean. A subscription is required to read the entire research paper.

The United States has long ranked high among the world’s nations in its level of religious belief. But the Pew Research Center recently examined just what 80 percent of Americans actually mean when they say they “believe in God.” Here’s what its survey of more than 4,700 adults found:

56% of Americans believe in God  —  “as described in the Bible”.

I hate to say it, but that number, if anything, still sounds a bit higher than I expected.

What does “as described in the Bible” mean”?

Well, for one thing, it means the “Yes. I think. Don’t I?” in the heading is all too appropriate.

We’ll look at some of the attributes of God in the survey. How people answered. Or didn’t. And what the Bible really says about those attributes.

Wow. 80% of the people said yes, they do believe in God. However, when we get to “God as described in the Bible”, then we’re down to 56% of U.S. adults who claim to believe in the God of the Bible. And that’s only about 70% of those who said they even believed in God.

Now, let’s look at some details, and see what happens to the numbers after that.

Attributes of God

Of those 56% who said they believe in the God of the Bible, we see the following responses to three more questions:

  • Is God all-loving?
    • Only 93% think so.  That’s 7% who either think God is not all-loving or don’t have an opinion.
  • Is God all-knowing?
    • Only 87% think so.  Now we’re up to 3% who either think God is not all-knowing or don’t have an opinion.
  • Is God all-powerful?
    • Sadly, we’re down to 78% on this one.  That leaves 22% who either think God is not all-powerful or don’t have an opinion.

The number that came from combining all of the responses is even worse.  From the responses only 83% believe that God is all three – all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful.  That means 17% disagree.  That’s nearly 1 out of 5 who say they believe in God, as described in the Bible – and yet apparently don’t believe what the Bible says – or something along those lines.  Maybe that sounds cold.  Like I’m overreacting.  But – what do they do with the passages below?

What do those responses mean?

It does sound bad. I mean, if we say we believe in the God of the Bible, then how come, when it comes right down to it, we actually don’t believe what God said about Himself? How can we believe in someone when we don’t even believe His own words?

Let’s take a closer look at those three attributes of God from the survey.

What if God’s not all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful?

Before we get to the conclusion, let’s see something Paul wrote about the importance of the resurrection – of Jesus and for us. In other words, something about the impact to us if God isn’t all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

The Resurrection of the Dead

1Co 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

That’s pretty bad. If God can’t do the things He said He can in the Bible, then we, Christians, are to be pitied more than all men.

Given that, one more time, why would anyone who claims to be Christian not even want to believe what God said about Himself? Sure, if you’re happy with this life, and you don’t mind the idea of just disappearing into nothing at your death, You have no reason to want to believe the Bible.

But if you claim to be Christian, why do you not want to believe what God said? Because if you don’t, as Paul wrote, you’re to be pitied more than anyone. Even more than the non-Christian who had no expectation. And, I believe, even more than the Christian who does believe what God said about Himself, but it turns out it’s not true.

Why? Because, in essence, someone who claims to believe in God, as He described Himself, but doesn’t actually believe God, is wanting God to fail! It makes no sense.

Conclusion – Do you believe in God? Yes. I think. Don’t I?

As I said, I’ve been amazed by the high percentage of people who respond to surveys and say they believe in God.  But now here’s this survey saying that only 56% of Americans believe in God, as described in the Bible.  But still – even that 56% who claim to believe in God, as described in the Bible – really don’t believe in God as described in the Bible.  It’s like the people who don’t believe in God at all, but still talk about someone who has died “going to a better place”.  (For more on that thought, please see The problem of “a better place”.)

How is it that some of the 56% don’t really seem to know God – as described in the Bible?  Sadly, too many reasons.  For some info on that, please see Americans want to read the Bible more, but don’t.

However, there is hope.  For those that believe in God – as described in the Bible, there is Jesus’ commission to us:

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We need to do just that.  Teach them about God, as described in the Bible.  Not the way too many people think He is.  The way He is really described.  After all, The Bible is from God.  And who better to describe God that Himself?

Paul wrote the following passage in his letter to the Roman church.  Some time, it would be good to write more on it.  But for now, I leave it for you to read.  And remember.  And act on.  And to live it.

The Weak and the Strong

Ro 14:1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Ro 14:5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Ro 14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.’ ” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Ro 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Ro 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

Ro 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Ro 15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Ro 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ro 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing hymns to your name.” 10 Again, it says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” 12 And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
the Gentiles will hope in him.”

Ro 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, what about you?

Do you believe in God? Do you believe in God, as He described Himself?

Ultimately, this may be a question of who created who. Did God create us in His image? Or did we create God in our image?

It matters, because if the God we believe in was created by us, in our image, that God is loveless, without true knowledge, and powerless. He is going to fail. But if the God we believe in created us in His image, He will succeed. And we will share in His success.

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