The Deity Question

The Deity Question July 9, 2012

Mike Nappa did a survey of 845 Christian teenagers, The Jesus Survey, and asked them the deity question — in particular, he asked if they thought Jesus was God.

I have some quibbles with his own theological explanation and one of the questions, but the numbers below may surprise some but shouldn’t surprise those who minister to and alongside teens. My quibble about his first question: “Jesus, in some mysterious way, is both the Son of God and God himself.” Well, OK, but what does “Son of God” mean here? Human? Messiah? or God? He seems to think the first, which is an odd use of Son of God, and the second is surely very Jewish, and the third a later trinitarian use of the term. The question is not a good one, but it may do the job since it seems to be asking if Jesus is human and God. My quibble with his own explanation: he seems to think what Jesus thinks of himself (Did Jesus think he was God?) is the same as what Scripture says (Does Scripture say he was God?). These are two different approaches, and the two are not the same. His harsh language about “toilet habits” here doesn’t help.

Do you think the deity question is important? How important? Why do you think teenage Christians waver on this one? Do you think the “Jesus” books and teachings and preaching of the last two decades have anything to do with the numbers below?

On to the survey: Do Christian teenagers think Jesus is God?

1. Again, the positive statement got a stronger affirmation of orthodoxy than the negative one. 56% strongly agreed (Son of God and God himself) and 31% somewhat agreed. 87% orthodox teenagers! But when approached from a negative — Jesus was not God — only 62% strongly or somewhat disagreed. The numbers move from 87 to 62%.

2. His synthetic conclusion: 34% believe Jesus is God; 25% say he might be or he might not be; 30% haven’t decided or don’t know; and 11% say No.

3. 66% of teenage Christians can’t commit to Jesus being God.

4. On “Jesus did not sin” probe: 54% strongly agree; 17% somewhat agree. On “Jesus wasn’t sinless” probe: 14% strongly agree and 25% somewhat agree, while only 49% strongly disagreed.

5. Nappa’s synthetic conclusion: 24% of Christian teenagers [added: strongly affirm] the deity of Christ while 75% are on a spectrum of doubting his deity.

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