I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. [Galatians 1:6-7 (NIV)]
Because people in the Galatian church were twisting the truth about Jesus, Paul wrote and called them back to the true gospel. After reading the results of a recent poll conducted by the Barna Group, I can only imagine what Paul would have to say about Christians today. The Barna Group is a research company that studies the way faith and culture intersect. For the purpose of their poll, people identified themselves either as practicing Christians, having no faith, or having another faith. “Practicing Christians” were defined as people who identified themselves as a Christian, attended worship at least once a month, and said their faith was very important in their lives.
Eight out of ten of the 1,000 people polled expressed concern about our nation’s moral condition. Wanting to know whether Christians view morality and truth differently than non-believers, the Barna pollsters questioned how people determine moral truth. Are truth and morality relative or absolute? 83% of practicing Christians agreed that, “The Bible provides us with moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exceptions.” While the Apostle Paul would prefer 100%, at least eight out of ten Christians acknowledged the Bible’s authority.
The poll continued its questions to determine if, in actuality, Christians really do go to the Bible for moral truth. Apparently not, at least not for the 41% of practicing Christians who agreed that, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know.” Nearly half of the Christians agreed that, “Every culture must determine what is acceptable morality for its people.” 72% of Christians agreed that to be fulfilled in life, we should pursue the things we most desire. 67% of them agreed that the highest goal in life is to enjoy it as much as possible and more than three quarters agreed that the best way to find yourself is to look within yourself. I thought the Ten Commandments were commandments, not suggestions, and that Jesus is the way and the truth—not that truth is whatever way works best for us. Jesus didn’t speak of finding ourselves but of denying ourselves. When He told us to take up our crosses, I doubt our enjoyment was on the top of His agenda. As for fulfilling ourselves, I thought we were supposed to fulfill God’s plan not ours. Life is to be done God’s way, not our way!
The Barna poll indicates a disconnect between what practicing Christians say they believe and how they actually live their lives. For most of those polled (Christian and non-Christian alike), truth and morality appear to have nothing to do with an external God-ordained code but rather with some code each individual finds within himself. Yet, from the beginning of time, we have been a fallen people; even a quick glance at the Bible tells us that doing it our way hasn’t worked.
The early Christian church faced many challenges: leadership issues, immorality, false teachings, persecution, dissension, various languages, and keeping unity among a diverse group of people. That it survived is truly amazing. From reading the results of this poll, I wonder whether the modern church can do the same.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car. [Laurence J. Peter]