Saturday, July 30, 2005

God--According to Most Americans

A recent study by two researchers (see below) at the University of North Carolina found that American teenagers have the following beliefs about God:

  • "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on Earth."

  • "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."

  • "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."

  • "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."

  • "Good people go to heaven when they die."

  • The findings were based on interviews of 3,000 teens. My guess is that these teens reflect the beliefs of the majority of Americans. The key question: are these beliefs true? The question is not whether we want them to be true, because they may well be a picture of the God that we would design if we could, a God who reflects an enlarged version of--ourselves.

    In coming blogs, I will compare each of these beliefs to the book that Jesus said was God's autobiography: the Bible. As we look at these Scriptures, I ask that you open your heart and see if God speaks through the Bible to you to confirm that the Bible is indeed his autobiography.

    Citation on study: Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), in the book: Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press).

    Saturday, July 16, 2005

    Design your own God

    I saw an ad this week that trumpeted "Design your own house." That is an idea that appeals to many people. This is the age of made-to-order and "have it your way." It is no surprise that many take the same approach to spirituality. Today it is popular to design your own God according to what you think he should be.

    There is a problem with that. Does my wanting God to be a certain way make him that? If one person wants God--I'll use a meaningless example to make the point--to hate green beans and another wants God to love green beans, can God be both?

    Have you ever had someone assume something about you that was not true? Maybe he assumed that you had a certain belief that you did not: for example, that you did not respect a certain ethnic group. Suppose you argued that, no, you fully respect that ethnic group, that you are not prejudiced. If he kept insisting that you were prejudiced, that does not mean you are. His assumptions about you do not make them true.

    Likewise, the hundreds of differing beliefs that people have about God, and the fact that people dearly want them to be true, do not make them true. God is who he is. God is the authority on God. We cannot design God. We have to deal with God as he is. We have to face reality, like it or not.

    In my next blog I'll continue on this theme by looking at what the majority of Americans believe about God. Then, we'll talk about how we can avoid the error of designing our own God.

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Do you want secondhand or firsthand information?

    "My friend told me that his friend said that...."

    I guess I can live with what my friend's friend said about a restaurant or a good book, but if it was about something important--like where I have my investments--I don't want secondhand information. I want to hear it firsthand.

    I suggest you have that attitude toward spiritual things, toward the question of Jesus Christ. There are all sorts of opinions and ideas floating around about what the Bible says that are simply not true. If you have never actually read the Bible firsthand, I encourage you to do so. A great place to begin is with the Gospel of Mark. That is the second book in the Newer Testament (the Christian Bible is broken into two major sections: the Old Testament--the Scriptures written before the coming of Jesus--and the New Testament, written about Christ and after Christ).

    Read from a translation that is modern and easily understood (I recommend the New International Version).

    Very important: each time before you read, pray that God will speak to you and enable you to understand what you are reading.

    Read with an open mind, and see if you don't think that the Bible has the ring of truth to it, the ring of the divine.

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    Batman and God

    Batman Begins is getting great reviews. I grew up reading Batman comics. Here's an excellent article on what the Caped Crusader teaches us about having a relationship with God: