There’s a common assumption whenever we talk about God in America, and it needs to be exposed. Too many of us assume that when a person affirms, “I believe in God,” that they are talking about the God described in the Bible. That is far, far from true.
First, you have the statistical evidence, like that cited in a recent survey released from Pew Research Center:
Although some 80 percent of Americans say they believe in God, only a slim majority of the nation's approximately 327 million people believe in God as described in the Bible, according to results of a new study released by the Pew Research Center. And among those younger than 50, belief in the God of the Bible drops lower than 50 percent…
Only 56 percent of the people surveyed indicated that they believe in God "as described in the Bible" and the strongest supporters of this response were Christians who self-identified as members of the historically black Protestant and evangelical traditions. Some 92 percent of those who identified with the historically black Protestant tradition said they believe in God as described in the Bible while 91 percent of those who identified as evangelicals support that position. These groups also overwhelmingly supported the view that God is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful.
But on top of that, when you dig deeper into the roughly 50% that still claim belief in the God of the Bible, you have to take into consideration something I wrote about just a few days ago: many of those same folks don’t regularly read or study the Bible and often know very little about it. That leads to a phenomenon of Burger King Christianity where adherents literally “have it their way,” taking out the parts of Scripture or the faith that runs afoul of their social, cultural, political, or philosophical preferences.
For Biblical Christians that might seem to be a sobering reality, but it is also highly motivating. The American church has unquestionably slipped into a complacency where we “do church” on our terms, often reducing the power of the transformative gospel to a feel-good, do-good self-help social club. We shape it so that it conforms to our beliefs rather than shaping our beliefs to conform to its truth. We water down its doctrine and rub off its sharp edges to make it palatable and comfortable for our lives. There’s no struggle, there’s no transformation, merely assurance and affirmation.
People cannot be saved by a false Jesus, and they can’t be changed by a false gospel. That means Bible believers should recognize we are living the words of Scripture where, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
Consequently, there’s never been a better time for the full-throated proclamation of God’s truth by unashamed, unabashed disciples of Christ Jesus. But it’s well past time we recognize that to be truly faithful, our proclamation must invade a Burger King church culture content with complacency. And it must also shrewdly infiltrate conversations we have with those who claim to “believe,” given that may actually have no idea what it really means.