Earlier this week, a major study was released that shows that while 92% of Americans believe in God (whoever he, she or it may be), 70% of those people also believe that many religions can lead to eternal life, including 57% of evangelical Christians.

????? Don’t these people know what their churches teach? Did they miss John 3:16? Did they forget “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life: No one comes to the Father except through me”? Is it easier to believe that God is a slightly dopey Santa Claus rather than believe him the Creator of the universe, Savior of mankind and Lord of … everything? Are we too worried about hurting someone else’s feelings to worry about them spending eternity in hell? Have we become so focused on tolerance as a virtue that people don’t see distinctions between religions as important anymore?

JJ said something interesting regarding this topic. He said, “If everyone had the chance to spend 5 minutes in heaven and 5 seconds in hell, we’d see a big turn-around in that statistic.” When I ponder the fact that many of the people around me, including many people that I know and care about, are likely headed for hell, it literally puts the Fear of God into me, and makes me much more willing to talk about Jesus to the people in my life. Does it really matter what they might think of me? Not a bit. Today is not forever, but eternity never ends.

The devil is alive and well in our world today. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Yes, I am the aforementioned “JJ.” Anyway, I took the opportunity of her post to write an apologetics-related response, which I will also repeat here. This will give also you a little info about some of the apologetics links I’ve listed.

Westerners have an odd way of dealing with religion. (Well, actually, most cultures do, but Westerners have their own unique odd ways of dealing with religion). We’re either part of some religion because of family heritage, or we pick something that we generally like and ignore the aspects/teachings we don’t care for. Maybe that works for television shows. Maybe that works for recipes. Maybe that “works” if your religion is primarily based on philosophy and psychology. But…

If a religion (Christianity) is based on objective facts that happened in history (a death and resurrection), and if these objective facts are recorded by reliable eyewitnesses and transmitted in a reliable fashion (let’s just say its record is more reliable than any other historical document from the ancient world), and if the person around which these objective facts occurred said that these miraculous events would be the evidence that he is God incarnate – if all that is historically accurate, then I can no longer take the smorgasbord approach to Christianity and pick and choose what I like. Then I must acknowledge what it says is objectively true whether I like it or not. And if God incarnate says “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me,” well, then I can argue till I’m blue in the face that our progressive society has moved beyond such archaic views, but facts are facts.

Objectivity aside, people are not just a walking left brain, and therefore will not be persuaded even by a presentation of objective evidence. The sinful condition residing within every person (Christian or not) is powerful enough that it prefers to bury its head in the sand or concoct excuses rather than deal with facts. Hence, even with an objective presentation of the Christian faith, the Holy Spirit has to do his work in human hearts.

Anyone interested in exploring this further might want to check out some of the apologetics-related links on my blog, http://www.pastorstrey.wordpress.com (yes, that’s shameless self-promotion!). I especially recommend John Warwick Montgomery’s lecture, “A Lawyer’s Defense of Christianity” and Gary Habermas’s lecture, “The Veracity of the New Testament.” Both are available on the Veritas Forum link on my blog page. Sifting through past shows on the “Issues, Etc.” link will also provide other information in this area. Good reading about these issues can be found at the link for the Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy. Anything by Montgomery should be excellent.

The other odd quirk about Americans and religion is how we define “truth” with an opinion poll. If 70% of religious Americans believe such-and-such, then it’s probably true – at least in many people’s minds. But let me remind you: Look at the politicians we elect. The majority does not always (often?) get it right!

I’m the last person who wants to get into arguments about religion. The title “pastor” didn’t change that in my personality one bit. But little by little I’ve confessed the Christian faith in less-than-friendly situations, not because I wanted to be the least popular person in the room, but because I’m convinced that we’re dealing with objective facts and not spiritual fiction with a moral point attached.

Eternity is a long time.