What “Most Christians” Think

What “Most Christians” Think October 12, 2012

My last post included a slide that mentions “most Christians.” And so I thought I should offer a follow-up post, acknowledging that it is almost impossible to figure out what with precision what “most Christians” think, believe, and practice, without actually asking most Christians – and even then, we would still be unable to answer the question about what most Christians have thought historically. Throughout most of history, including today, the vast majority of people have not written or recorded their viewpoint. We can read what theologians say, but how typical are their views among “most Christians” – since most Christians have not studied theology? We can take surveys, but do “most Christians” respond to surveys?

I honestly think that most Christians down the ages did not share the insistence on rejecting data from the natural world and observation that typifies the modern phenomenon of young-earth creationism. Even the original “Fundamentalists” did not regard opposition to evolution and other scientific conclusions as one of their fundamentals. To the extent that there has been a growth of anti-scientific forms of creationism around the world, it is a direct result of the exporting of those teachings from English-speaking countries.

It can be hard to tell what “most people” think, and not just “most Christians.” I think the important thing to take to heart is that most people who have shared or currently share the label with which you self-identify, whatever label that might be, may well have viewed many matters in a different way than you do.

Here are two posters from Facebook which seem relevant to this topic:

Any thoughts on these? Any way we can tell whether most Christians were those who promoted or engaged in crusades and inquisitions, those who vocally or silently opposed them, or those who fell victim to them? Maybe only one thing is sure: whatever “most Christians” think and have thought, throughout history, as today, “most Christians” have actually been quite diverse in their views on “most” subjects…

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  • I think it is interesting when the MSM wants a “religious view” on almost any topic, including exorcism, politics or social issues, they end up including, as a minimum, a Catholic priest. Their opinion is not at all representative of most Christians.

  • I honestly think that most Christians down the ages did not share the
    insistence on rejecting data from the natural world and observation that
    typifies the modern phenomenon of young-earth creationism.

    -Polling of the Christian community was relatively rarely practiced for most of Christian history. Thus, it is not all that easy to confirm or deny your thought. As all that is exclusively religion is non-science-based, I strongly suspect your thought is incorrect.

    • Your first point is what I said, and your second point is a poorly-worded circular argument that bumps up against the point I thought we agreed on. What is “non-science-based”? Valuing human beings as inherently deserving of dignity and respect is not “based on science” but it isn’t incompatible with it. Most of history, modern science did not exist, and so nothing was “science based” and religion was an integral part of philosophical attempts to explore and reflect on the nature of the natural world. Today, when we have the natural sciences, most Christians apart from relatively recent fundamentalists have rejected them, and even those do not reject them altogether in their entirety.

      I really don’t think you’ve given this matter the thought it deserves.

      • “Non-science based” means just what it looks like it means; not based on the methods of the knowledge-finding enterprise known to us as science. Ethics is, indeed, non-science-based (although it may use science to explore its relevant matrix), and, thus, I suspect it has a tendency to reject data from the natural world. I agree with the rest of your comment up to the word “Today”; what are the “them” you are referring to?

    • Pseudonym

      “Most Christians down the ages”, like everyone else, are normal people trying to get through their day who don’t think very hard about these things because it wasn’t directly relevant to chopping wood and carrying water.

      However, here’s something that should be easier to tell: Find all of the historic theologians who expressed an opinion on, say, Genesis 1. What proportion of them advocated a non-metaphorical view of that particular section?

      My guess is that the figure is close to none. Augustine didn’t, Aquinas didn’t, Calvin didn’t, Luther didn’t, Wesley didn’t… is there anyone who did?

      • I think “did not advocate a metaphorical view” would be better phrasing in place of “advocated a non-metaphorical view” in your comment above. The majority of theologians throughout history have advocated metaphorical views on Genesis 1, though some also believed Genesis 1 was a literal history of the creation as well as a metaphor-rich text.

        • Pseudonym

          It might be more accurate to say that far more ink has been spent mining Genesis for its allegorical or metaphorical value than arguing that it is historically accurate. Before the 19th century, anyway.

          Incidentally, this is also true of the Bible itself.

  • Craig Wright

    I teach adult Sunday School and another men’s Bible study at a Baptist mega church in southern California, with an attendance of about 2500. Our church could be described as conservative evangelical, but not fundamentalist. I have taught and held forums on science and the Bible from the viewpoint of acknowledging scientific evidence, and not viewing Genesis 1-2 as a literal scientific presentation. Almost everyone agreed with me.
    I also taught an “ultimate reconciliation” idea, questioning the traditional concept of hell, and was then asked to be the permanent teacher of the class.
    I have also taught the “inspiration” view of Scripture, as opposed to the “inerrantist” view, showing contradictions, and varying views within the same Bible. No one has seriously challenged me.
    I am geting ready to challenge the traditional view of homosexuality in the church, again using the Bible as the authority, and using the concept of “trajectory”, in which the church can accept gay Christians who want to have a faithful, monogamous relationship. I presented my views to our pastor and asked if it was OK to teach on this subject, and he gave me the go-ahead, while not necessarily agreeing with me.
    I think our church demonstrates a fairly average representation of American evangelicalism. After all, they are mostly all Republicans. I was raised in this atmosphere, and am now 65 years old. I have evolved in my thinking and am now being instrumental in influencing others. By the way, I have read your “The Only True God” and “The Burial of Jesus”, which also caused me to read Dunn, Hurtado, and Bauckham. I’m still hanging on to the incarnation. I do enjoy reading your blog regularly. Thank you.

    • That sounds like a wonderfully positive church environment. I’ve had a similar experience in my own Baptist church!

    • Gary

      Give me a hint to the city your church is in. Maybe I will want to join up.

      • Craig Wright

        I attend Whittier Area Community Church or WACC (Baptist General Conference now known as Converge) in Whittier, CA. The website is wacc.net.

  • Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  • hzcummi

    If pastors, priests. rabbis, and “so called” Christians would stop their false (old Earth) and foolish (young Earth) teachings, and start promoting the truth of Genesis (Observations of Moses), then there would hardly be any room for the ridiculous teaching of evolution.

    Collectively, Bible believers are so “blind”, that their approach to Genesis is a joke. Instead of seeking the truth, they continue to support the current lies and foolishness of Creationism. Genesis does not have any “Creation accounts”.

    When you keep telling a person that their car is running out of gas, and they refuse to look at the fuel gauge and go to the gas station, you begin to wonder how “dumb” they are. Perhaps they are just like the Jews, who value tradition over the truth of scripture.

    Is it strange that Atheists want the cram their false beliefs down everyone else’s throats, without allowing a (valid) opposing view?

    Herman Cummings


  • Reader

    My views: ChristianityisDying.com