World News and Trends: Does America really understand God?

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World News and Trends: Does America really understand God?

MP3 Audio (13.86 MB)

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). Although God reveals crucial, saving knowledge about Himself to those who obey Him (Psalm 111:10), there are limits to human understanding of God (see 1 Corinthians 13:12; Deuteronomy 29:29).

His divine attributes cannot be conveniently categorized into neat, distinctive labels. Certainly Jesus Christ did speak with authority (Mark 1:22). 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). He does, however, distance Himself from sinners (Isaiah 59:1-2), while patiently looking for repentance and reconciliation (Matthew 9:13;
2 Peter 3:9). 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, 34). It does, however, teach that salvation can be obtained only by and through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), as He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). 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.)