In a somewhat shocking revelation, a study published by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University showed that 58% of people who identify as Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is not a real living being but merely a symbol of God's power, presence or purity.
In another surprising statistic, while 176 million American adults identify as Christian, only 15 million, or 6%, actually hold a biblical worldview.
George Barna, the lead researcher at the Cultural Research Center, says that the term Christian has become "somewhat generic" rather than a name that reflects a deep commitment to passionately pursuing and being like Jesus Christ."
"Too often, it seems, people who are simply religious, or regular churchgoers, or perhaps people who want a certain reputation or image embrace the label 'Christian,' regardless of their spiritual life and intentions," Barna says.
"The survey results clearly demonstrate how careful you have to be when interpreting data associated with a particular segment of people who are labeled as Christians," he says. "Political polling, in particular, may mislead people regarding the views and preferences of genuine Christ-followers simply based on how those surveys measure the Christian population."
While nearly 7 in 10 adults (69%) have adopted the label "Christian" to identify their faith, this large group entertains a wide range of perspectives that are not in harmony with biblical teachings. One that is particularly disturbing says that 58% believe that if a person is good enough or does good things, they can earn their way into heaven.
The Bible clearly states in Ephesians 2 that "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8a).
Among the errant perspectives most widely embraced are:
— 72% argue that people are basically good.
— 71% consider feelings, experience or the input of friends and family as their most trusted sources of moral guidance.
— 66% say that having faith matters more than which faith you pursue.
— 64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value.
— 58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into heaven.
— 58% contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God's power, presence or purity.
— 57% believe in karma.
— 52% claim that determining moral truth is up to each individual; there are no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time.
Self-identified Christians are also likely to reject a number of biblical teachings and principles. For example, slightly less than half (46%) believe that the marriage of one man to one woman is God's plan for humanity, across all cultures; just 40% believe that when they die they will go to heaven, but only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior; only one-third (34%) believe that people are born into sin and can only be saved of the consequences by Jesus Christ; just one-third (32%) believe premarital sex is morally unacceptable; and about 1 out of every 4 (28%) believe that the best indicator of a successful life is consistent obedience to God.
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