Bad News?

newspaper-changesI was reading the book of John recently and was surprised how relevant it is to something in the news today.  In John 6 after feeding the five thousand, Jesus discusses with the people how they may simply be following him for another free meal.  He encourages the people to seek him as the true bread of life, an everlasting sustenance that leads to eternal life.  And like today, when, Jesus’ message became too hard to swallow, people left in droves.  Jesus explains to his disciples in John 6:63 that, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit, and they are life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” 

Today, we have Christians bemoaning the results of an extensive study of religious belief by Pew researchers that Christianity is on the decline.  Atheists are screaming from the rooftops of their victory over ignorant believers.  I would propose that the study actually shows some good data.  One, claiming to be a Christian in a study is not the same as actually living like one.  And two, when following Christ gets tough, we will see people leave the faith.  In today’s society it is becoming more difficult to claim Christianity.  Just like in Jesus’ day, when the message was tough, people left.    But I welcome the opportunity to profess my faith in Christ in tough times.  While I do want to practice my beliefs in peace, Jesus never promised me that following him would be easy.  In fact, he preached the exact opposite…that I would have to carry my cross daily to follow him (Luke 9:23).

(Another great article on what the Pew research results mean for Christianity can be found here.)

-Joe

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4 thoughts on “Bad News?

  1. Amen to that. I’ve wondered how many Americans were calling themselves “Christian” while possibly not really meeting the criteria for some time.

    The American Religious Identification Survey showed all the way back in 2007 that about 70% of Americans were certain that a God exists. About 75% of Americans identified as Christian. Which raises questions about how we’re defining “Christian,” if at least 5% of the total American population was describing themselves as “Christian” while simultaneously saying they weren’t sure there was a God.

    Likewise, growing up in a devout Catholic community, I was surprised to get out of it and find that the majority of “Catholics” I ran into did not, in fact, follow or even approve of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Most of them seemed to be either “cafeteria Catholics” who called themselves Catholic because they liked some teachings but not others, or “cultural Catholics” who didn’t even pretend to have an interest in religion but considered themselves “Catholic” because their parents had been and they celebrated a couple of major holidays each year with Catholic traditions.

    Of course, I’m also very interested in discussion of how we define “Christian.” Lots of people have made very different, heartfelt arguments about what the requirements for that are over the years. I’ve heard people suggest that Catholics are not really Christian – and I’ve heard at least three completely different reasons offered as to why they don’t meet the definition of “Christian.”

    Likewise, Jehova’s Witnesses, Mormons, and certain New Age groups consider themselves “Christian” while having some radically different beliefs and practices from the major Christian denominations.

    My personal prerequisite for being “Christian” is to give Christ some sort of significant, active role in your spiritual or philosophical life. Although it’s admittedly tempting to use a narrower definition when a lot of people are running around putting forth very specific requirements as to what a “Christian” may or may not do.

    1. Joe Butler

      You’ve brought up some wonderful points here. I would address the end of your comment this way. While many denominational churches preach a form of Christianity that differ from the Bible in many ways, I try every day to live my life in accordance with the commands and examples laid out in scripture. Churches who have added to the Bible with their books and catechisms have created a man-made form of Christianity that involves very little sacrifice and is only marginally associated with the teachings in the Bible. We have extensive archealogical and scientific evidence as well as first-person accounts of Jesus’ life, crucifiction and resurrection found in the Bible. If we do our best to follow the examples laid out for us by Jesus, his disciples and the early church, I think we can proclaim the name “Christian” as Jesus intended.

  2. John 6:66 shows the dividing line that forms when the teachings of Christ don’t fall in line with what culture is comfortable with: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

    These were people that had followed Jesus; hearing him preach and seeing him perform unexplainable wonders. They’d had their bellies filled with loaves and fishes. When he asked the Twelve if they would leave, though, Simon Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

    That’s a pattern that’s been repeated through the ages since, and will continue on for ages to come.

    1. Joe Butler

      Thanks again for your article reference and your comments here. I wish that Christians around the world and especially in America would wake up and realize that the comfortable form of Christianity that we’ve become accustomed to is not necessarily what Jesus called us to look like. The churches today look nothing like the 1st and 2nd century church that was willing to stand on God’s word even unto death. I pray daily that God would reveal this to his people so that we would procrastinate no longer and be the church that Jesus died for.

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