World News and Trends: Does America really understand God?

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Does America really understand God?

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World News and Trends: Does America really understand God?

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A recent survey identified four ways Americans primarily see Him, ranked as follows: authoritative, 28 percent; benevolent, 22 percent; distant, 24 percent; critical, 21 percent. The remaining miniscule 5 percent represents atheists and agnostics. (According to surveys, about nine out of 10 Americans apparently believe in God’s existence.)

These survey results were obtained by telephone inquiries in connection with a study by Baylor University in central Texas. The rationale for the poll was to help Americans understand their way of life in terms of how they understood God.

The writer observes: “Our views of God have been fundamental to the nation’s past, help explain many of the conflicts in our society and worldwide, and could offer a hint of what the future holds” (Cathy Lynn Grossman, “How America Sees God,” Oct. 8-10, 2010). According to the article, America’s national understanding of God affects “how we see daily life and world events.”

To briefly summarize the primary viewpoints, the authoritative category pictures God as meting out specific punishments for mankind’s transgressions of His moral law, broadly represented by events in the distant past such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Noah’s Flood.

The benevolent category looks at God as a positive influence in the world, but one who does not judge human beings, hearing the prayers of saints and sinners alike.

The distant category pictures God as setting nature in motion, but then withdrawing from the world with little further interest in our human activities.

The critical category views God as very judgmental of our human conduct, but primarily reserving His wrath for the final judgment in the afterlife.

One or two of these viewpoints are more accurate than the others, but none fully represents “the whole [or complete] counsel of God” concerning Himself (Acts 20:27 Acts 20:27For I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.
American King James Version×
). Although God reveals crucial, saving knowledge about Himself to those who obey Him (Psalms 111:10 Psalms 111:10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endures for ever.
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), there are limits to human understanding of God (see 1 Corinthians 13:12 1 Corinthians 13:12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
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; Deuteronomy 29:29 Deuteronomy 29:29The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
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).

His divine attributes cannot be conveniently categorized into neat, distinctive labels. Certainly Jesus Christ did speak with authority (Mark 1:22 Mark 1:22And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
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). And although God’s infinite mercy remains beyond human comprehension (see Psalm 136), He will ultimately judge persistently stubborn, unrepentant sinners after having given them opportunity to repent of sin and be saved.

Our Creator is mercifully benevolent as expressed by Christ’s wishes to impart an abundant life (John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
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). He does, however, distance Himself from sinners (Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 [1] Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: [2] But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
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), while patiently looking for repentance and reconciliation (Matthew 9:13 Matthew 9:13But go you and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
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;
2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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). The age to come and the second resurrection to judgment are much more about offering the overwhelming majority of human beings a wonderful opportunity to repent and be saved than punishing sinners per se.

The USA Today article observes that political scientists specializing in the religious scene conclude that “Americans of every stripe overwhelmingly believe that all good people go to heaven, that many faiths contain truth and that religious diversity is good for the nation.”

While many may hold to this manifestly liberal view, it simply is not based on or found in the Bible. Further, it may come as a surprise to some that Scripture does not teach that the saved go to heaven when they die (Acts 2:29 Acts 2:29Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day.
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, 34). It does, however, teach that salvation can be obtained only by and through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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), as He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
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). To see what the Bible actually says on these matters, request or download our free booklets Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? and The Road to Eternal Life.

To understand much more about the true nature and character of our Creator, ask for or download our free booklets Who Is God? and Jesus Christ: The Real Story.  (Source: USA Today.)

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