16.11.06

Is the UK a Christian country?

"Most people reading this (in the UK) will have a version of Christianity." That is how the quote in yesterday's post started. I want to examine this a bit more.

Statistics from various sources on the 'net suggest that 71% of the population of the UK profess to being Christians. So on the face of it the UK is a Christian country. However in a similar poll, when asked if they believed in God only 55% of the UK said yes! And the percentage for those who actually attend a church meeting is only 6%!

What kind of "version of Christianity" is that?! A Christianity where nearly 1 in 4 disbelieve in God, and less that 1 in 10 do anything about their beliefs!

Let's be straight. The UK is not a Christian country, and the "version of Christianity" that most people in the UK profess is not Christianity at all! This is the problem. There is a massive ignorance about what being a Christian actually means.

Living in a (so-called) "Christian country" does not make you a Christian.

Being brought up in a "Christian home" does not make you a Christian.

Being sprinkled with water in church when you were a baby does not make you a Christian.

Accepting the "basic values" of the Christian faith does not make you a Christian.

Attending church does not make you a Christian.

Even believing in the God of the Bible does not make you a Christian.


The only thing that makes you a Christian is when you make a personal decision to follow Jesus Christ; when you surrender your life to him, ask him to forgive you for all your sins, and tell someone that you have done it.

By all current analysis, being brought up in the UK gives you no advantage in this area. It may even serve as a disadvantage, if like me you grew up beleiving you were a Christian, when you were not, just because you believed in God and tried to be nice!

Compare this to Africa where the number of Christians has grown from 3% of the population in 1900 to a figure of 45-50% today, with an estimated 16,000 people converting to Christianity every day!

Or Korea. In 1900 Korea had no Protestant church and the country was deemed impossible to penetrate. Today Korea is 30% Christian with 7000 churches in Seoul alone and several of these churches have over 1,000,000 members.

Or China. There are currently 60-80 million Christians in China with between 10,000-25,000 converts a day.

Or South America, or India... There a places all over this world where the Gospel is exploding.

So, let's not accept the nonsense that Christianity is a "western phenomenon" or a "geographic lottery". It is the largest faith worldwide, with more converts per year than any other - undisputed.

This "version of Christianity" that the quote refers to is what Paul called "a form of godliness but denying its power." This weak and insipid variety of nominal belief only serves to inoculate people against the real deal. People think they know about Jesus when in fact they have never seriously investigated his claims.

If you're not sure if you are a Christian, or what Jesus actually claimed, don't take it for granted - read it for yourself in the Gospel of Mark.


* The statistics on this page are not exact and whilst not deliberately wrong are almost certainly inaccurate to some degree - but they are representative of the overall picture.

22 comments:

Steven Carr said...

'The only thing that makes you a Christian is when you make a personal decision to follow Jesus Christ; when you surrender your life to him, ask him to forgive you for all your sins, and tell someone that you have done it.'

So presumably babies who die all go to Hell as they are not Christians.

Where does it say in the Bible that you have to ask Jesus, and not the Father , to forgive sins?

According to Jesus on the cross, he cannot forgive people himself and ask to ask his Father to forgive people.

Steven Carr said...

'So, let's not accept the nonsense that Christianity is a "western phenomenon" or a "geographic lottery". It is the largest faith worldwide, with more converts per year than any other - undisputed.'

Really? What sort of percentage of people in Britain are True Christians?

Anonymous said...

Good topic again, you guys are getting good at posting opinion jerking questions. First, for Steven, John 14:6 - "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Secondly, this problem with false Christianity is huge, I see it daily in my country, America. There is a higher percentage in regards to those who attend service weekly in the U.S., but that does not mean that these people are Christians. There are Churches that preach nothing, and churches that pat their attendants on the back so they keep coming, and then there are the very few that preach the real gospel. We minister to SOuth American countries, and the passion that these new christians exhibit would embarass most of us who have claimed Christianity for years. This brand of Christianity, as it was stated in the post, is "luke warm". In Revelation 3, Jesus states that he wishes we were either hot or cold, but that since we are lukewarm (we claim to be hot, but are really just going through the motions), he will spew us out of his mouth. A high number of supposed "christians" sounds nice, but the proof is in our lives, not our words, or even our church attendance. By the way, I heard a sermon on the reasons for what we call sufferings last night, coincidence?

Mark H said...

Heh Steven,

Glad you're still enjoying the conversation. I'm enjoying your company :-)

> So presumably babies who die all go to Hell as they are not Christians.

Various opinions were shared yesterday as to why this is not the case. I for one was (and still am) prepared to admit I'm still studying this one through to fully comprehend the HOW, and I'm not sure that we will ever bottom it to your personal satisfaction.

However, Chris made the point yesterday that we enter into a RELATIONSHIP with God and I also said in a comment to you on my own blog that "it is not the mind that becomes convinced, but that the heart experiences". Further, I said yesterday that I confidently trust my children to the God that I've come to KNOW, not just know ABOUT. A friend reminded me of this verse today which says so well what I was struggling to say eloquently yesterday:

"It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18:14)

God is a loving Dad and his will is not that any little ones should perish. Although I don't yet fully comprehend the means by which He does this, I am confident of His heart.

> Where does it say in the Bible that you have to ask Jesus, and not the Father, to forgive sins?

Moody made a good point. But maybe I could clarify a little?

Romans 8:34 says that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. That means that our Father forgives us our sins, but it is Jesus who presents us to Him on our behalf. The point of the gospel is that we need to come through Jesus. Some find that offensive because it means we just need to believe in God's grace, which is His unmerited favour. We don't need to (more than that, it's futile to) jump through a myriad of religious hoops. We cannot earn merit with God. We like the religious hoops because it makes us seem "good". We don't like grace because it humbles us. Similarly, we don't like faith because it humbles our intellect.

> What sort of percentage of people in Britain are True Christians?

Dunno. Who does? How would one conduct a survey to find a "true Christian"? But on the basis of Chris' figures, I would guess less than 6%. Would you agree?

Keep on uncovering the Truth,

Mark

richard bentall said...

Chris - better late than never

What it means to be a Christian?
Christian life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and in common with other Christians in the church seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught.
For Christians God is understood and known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
…Father… God is love, caring for creation and for every human being as God's beloved child.
…Son… God is as he has revealed himself to be in the historical person of Jesus Christ. Jesus' life, death and resurrection holds the key to knowing and loving God, and to making sense of life, before and after death.
…and Holy Spirit… God is alive, loving and active today, inspiring faith, justice and truth, sustaining the life of the world, giving spiritual gifts to the church and bearing his spiritual fruit in the world - changed lives and a transformed society.

richard

richard bentall said...

Chris - facts and figures for those who like them

Christianity is the largest religion in the world, any increase in the world population will give Christianity a greater absolute number of new members.

The U.S. Center for World Mission claimed a growth rate of 2.3% for the period 1970 to 1996, (slightly higher than the world population growth rate at the time). This increased the percentage of Christians from 33.7% to 33.9%.
The World Christian Encyclopaedia estimates that Christianity receives 2,500,000 converts a year. As christianity is NUMBER ONE - there is a process that goes on. In Matthew 28 it says "go into all the earth and make disciples". Making Disciples means that it doesn't happen over night.

Richard

Matthew said...

The Evengelical Alliance claims to represent 1.2 million of what we are calling "true Christians" which is 2%. So presumably the total % for the UK is somewhere between 2-6%. I expect most of these people would agree that if you want to see anything like a "christian country" you need to look outside of europe.

An interesting, scholarly, book on the subject is The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins link

Matthew said...

I just successfully embedded a link for the first time every!

Andy of Canada said...

Well said, well said!

"...so when babies die they go to hell?...." people don't really know if babies go to heaven or hell when they die as infants. (the only way one would know for sure is if they died, went to heaven and asked God) though there is a time when a human actually makes concious decisions to do right or wrong things. God is a Just God, but also a mercyfull one. If a babie dies before he can conciously make the decision to follow christ, would it be Just of God to send the child to Hell?

and also... telling someon that you have become a christian doesn't make you a christian any more then reading the bible makes you a christian (is there a bible verse on that one?)

Chris HH said...

Andy, you are right, simply saying "I'm a Christian" does not make you one. Jesus makes that clear in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 7

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

What I was trying to convey, without using jargon, is that, although insufficient on its own, a confession of faith is necessary for salvation:

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~ Romans 10:9

Simply making a decision in your head, and not telling anyone is not enough.

Matthew said...

To slightly change the question... to what extent does Britain have a christian foundation to its society? Many of our laws and inherent societal ethos is a product of a time when there was a much greater influence from christians than there is today. What remnants of this do we see (I guess my use of the term remnant suggests I don't see that much!)

Steven Carr said...

'I expect most of these people would agree that if you want to see anything like a "christian country" you need to look outside of europe.'

Where should I look? America?

Steven Carr said...

'God is a loving Dad and his will is not that any little ones should perish. '

CARR
How can babies go to Heaven when they have not made a conscious decision to follow Christ?

1 Samuel 15:3
Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'

How many Amalekite babies went to Heaven?

Matthew said...

Steven - I hope that comment was tongue in cheek, but no America is not where I would look.

This Book by Loren Cunningham has been recommended to me though I have not read it. I believe he sites Korea (as per Chris's comment) as an example of a country now strongly influenced by christianity.

Matthew said...

for "sites" please read "cites" - ooops!

Mark H said...

@Steven

You're probably aware that Christian opinion is itself somewhat divided over the question of infant mortality. The thing is that the Bible does not make an obvious statement on the issue. So I believe that we must wrestle with what the Bible reveals to us about the heart of God.

Personally, I am thankful that you have the bit between your teeth on this subject as you have provoked me to look deeper for a more factual answer to the question for the sake of those who have not yet experienced God's heart for themselves. I ask you to be patient and let this subject rest for now. I will collaborate with Chris to post something in the near future when we have had time to put together a more considered, reasoned response. We will attempt to answer the question, or at least to explore it in depth, and we will welcome further dialogue at that time.

@Chris

Can you add to your list of articles, something about how we should interpret the Old Testament in light of the New? Specifically, how do we reconcile the violent accounts from the Old Testament with the loving Father who is revealed in the New Testament?

@All

I just felt to throw something out there. It's not in direct response to any question that has been raised. I just felt it might be appropriate and helpful to our conversations.

As a Dad myself, I am but a poor reflection of the paternal heart of God.

My own heart is that my children should never be on the receiving end of any punishment. But at times, the depth of my love for them compels me to find ways to correct behaviour that I can see leads to destruction. At those times, the only thing that would grieve my heart more than punishing them would be to leave them to a path that I can see would ultimately hurt them far more.

I think that the BRAVEST and most DIFFICULT act of LOVE in any relationship is to bring CORRECTION. I have sometimes been invited to help people with problems that I can see might not have occurred if there had been appropriate loving correction at an earlier time. These cases break my heart. A lack of correction shows a lack of concern for someone else's future. A lack of correction is self-seeking. A lack of correction shows a lack of LOVE.

(Of course, there is the opposite too - NEVER correct in anger.)

Love is not a mere emotion. It is a life philosophy in which we decide, and will, to put the needs of others before our own. Myself, I tend to shrink away from bringing correction, because it causes me emotional discomfort and potential conflict. If I give in to that then I am putting my own short-term emotional needs above the long-term needs of someone else. That is not LOVE. I'm grateful to my Heavenly Dad that He's not like that. He's not like that with me personally, and He's not like that with us collectively as the human race. For He IS love.

Let's be careful not to misconstrue love. Let's be especially careful not to misconstrue God's love.

Lee said...

There's a sermon out there, by Ray Comfort, which exposes some shocking statistics regarding true conversions in the US (statistically), and I would imagine that although the 'aesthetics' of Christianity may appear different between the US and the UK, the underlying workings would indeed be quite similar.

I'd recommend you listen to two audio messages (free, of course).

The first is 'Hell's Best Kept Secret'. The other is 'True and False Conversion'.

You can also download a video of 'Hell's Best Kept Secret', free of charge.

Tell me what you think.

Holiday At The Sea said...

chris
i just stumbled onto your blog. i am really enjoying reading your posts.
i think that you will enjoy the post that i posted yesterday. it fits right in with your post here.

mike

Chris HH said...

Thanks, Mike.
Yes, that fits right in. I'll add a direct link to that book review, as Matthew has already made reference to it above:
The Next Christendom, Philip Jenkins

Ricky Carvel said...

A few thoughts on the various divergent tangents from this post:

Re: Christian Country

No. The UK is not a Christian country anymore. It might have been once, but (by observation) is not anymore. Thankfully we're not a country dominated by any false religion either.

Re: Babies and hell

This is a tricky debate to which we will never have the answer (in this life). However, the bible speaks of blessings and curses which extend not only to the blessed/cursed but also to their children, children's children and so on. Thus the child of a believer who dies before they have the opportunity to accept or reject Christ is sanctified by default. Of course we get to a tricky point if it is the child of unbelieving parents but believing grandparents, but I think that until such times as a child has rejected Christ, that they are probably right with God - yes, they may be inherently sinners, but Christ died to save sinners, didn't he?

Re: True Christians

The skeptic Michael Shermer did an interesting study of believers a few years ago. In general he found that the vast majority of believers (of any belief structure) consider themselves to be 'true' believers and that the majority of so-called believers are actually 'false'. Most folk believe that they believe the truth for good reasons, but that everyone else only nominally believes it because that was the way they were raised.

I am very uncomfortable by saying that only 2 to 6% of folk in the UK are 'true Christians'. Sure there will be those who say 'Lord, Lord...' who are actually false Christians, but I suspect that more folk have a true faith than we think.

There are certain brands of 'evangelical' Christianity that like to make the gospel as narrow as possible, but I really think they aught to be more careful - the church in all her diversity is the bride of Christ.

I read an interesting book by Tom Wright (conservative evangelical) and Marcus Borg (far out liberal) called 'The Meaning of Jesus' - they took chapter about on various issues regarding Jesus and Christianity, and the amazing thing was just how much agreement there was between the two camps.

To all the evangelicals reading this, please go and speak to some liberals - you may be surprised to discover that they actually are a fellow brother in Christ! Same for the liberals here.

Please remember that God is the judge, not us.

Mark H said...

Thanks for the reality check Ricky :-)

I think we're all just commenting on the statistics, but you're correct, it's a fine line easily crossed into judgement. I've just now re-read Romans 14 and re-submitted myself to it :-)

Steven Carr said...

The growth in China is remarkable.

Apparently the Three Grade Servant Church in China has between 500,000 and 1,000,000 members!