Tuesday 14 February 2012

The UK Christianity Crisis

What is the greatest threat to Christianity in the UK? Secularism? Growing atheism? Loss of Christian tradition? Less people identifying as Christians?

For me, it is none of these. To the contrary, I think the greatest threat to Christianity in the UK is the presence of a 'Christian' tradition. Let me explain what I mean.

Ipsos MORI have just released survey results, taken from those who say they were recorded as Christian in the 2011 census, or who would have put themselves down as Christian.

To begin with, there are a few problems with the study: the obvious one is that this is not actually a survey of people who identify as Christians. Rather, it is a survey of people who were recorded as Christian - a lot of the respondents said they would not have filled in "Christian" if they filled it in themselves. So the results are probably not as bad as they come across. But nevertheless, I think there is serious cause for concern here. Let me give a few examples of questions and responses:

Q19. Which of the following statements best describes YOUR personal view of God?

I believe in God and I believe that Christianity is just one way of knowing him 37%
I believe in God and I believe that Christianity is the only true way of knowing him 17%
I think of God as being the laws of nature and everything in the universe 13%
I don’t believe in God but think there may be some kind of supernatural intelligence out there 10%
I think of God as being whatever caused the universe 9%
I don’t believe in God 6%
None of these 1%
Don’t know 4%
Prefer not to say 2%

So, only 54% of people named as Christians believe in God in any non-pantheistic sense, and 10% of named Christians are explicitly pagan. Not a great start.

Q23. What is the first book of the NEW Testament?

Matthew 35%
Genesis 19%
Acts of the Apostles 3%
Psalms 3%
Don’t know 39%
Prefer not to say 1%

It would be easy to get into self-righteousness here: fair enough, not everyone is great at keeping up with their Bible reading, and some don't have great memories. And, of course, the order of New Testament books is not necessarily of enormous importance. But 35% correct is still pretty low, and the results leave the reader baffled as to why anyone would "prefer not to say"(???).

Q24. Which of the following BEST describes your belief about the resurrection?

Jesus came back to life spiritually but not physically after being dead 39%
Jesus came back to life physically after being dead 32%
I do not believe in the resurrection 18%
None of these 1%
Don’t know 7%
Prefer not to say 3%

I guess this is relatively more encouraging: 71% of people identified as Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected in at least some sense. Given that over 50% of the population were identified as Christians by the census, this gives a result of 30-40% of the UK population believing in Jesus' resurrection. I'm surprised that it's this high, personally, so this was an encouragement in at least some way. But, of course, the problem is that only 32% of Christians believe in the cornerstone of Christianity, of which Paul wrote: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins". So, swings and roundabouts.

Q25. Which of the following BEST describes your view about Jesus?

Jesus is the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind 44
Jesus was a man who gave us a role model for how to live 32
Jesus was just a man 13
I do not believe Jesus really existed 4
None of these 1
Don’t know 4
Prefer not to say 3

I suppose this is similar to the last one. Encouraged and puzzled by the result that around 20-25% of the UK population believe Jesus is the Son of God, but more than underwhelmed that only 44% of Christians believe this. Also, 4% of Christians don't believe that Jesus really existed? I'm surprised anyone of any persuasion would believe that - very depressing.

Views on social issues are interesting, at least - there seems to be a clear shift. Only 28% of Christians agreed that homosexual relations were wrong, and a huge 63% believed that a woman should be able to have an abortion if she wants one, provided it was within the legal time limit. Only 23% believed that sex is only acceptable within marriage.

The last set of questions were quite worrying. Here's a selection:

Q48. Overall, how important, if at all, is Christianity in your life?

Very important 21%
Fairly important 39%
Not very important 27%
Not at all important 11%
Don’t know 1%
Prefer not to say 1%

So 38% of Christians regarded Christianity as unimportant. Awkward. The next one's pretty scary:

Q49. When it comes to right and wrong, which of the following, if any, do you MOST
look to for guidance?

My own inner moral sense 54%
Parents, family or friends 25%
Religious teachings and beliefs 10%
Philosophy and reason 7%
None of the above 2%
Don’t know 1%
Prefer not to say 1%

I will leave the commentary on this one to the reader. The final question I'll give is the most concerning, I think:

Q51. Which is the ONE statement that BEST describes what being a Christian means
to you personally?

I try to be a good person 40%
It’s how I was brought up 24%
I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour 15%
I believe in the teachings of Jesus 7%
It’s a British tradition 4%
It gives me hope in an afterlife 3%
Something else 0%
Don’t know 2%
Prefer not to say 4%

This is where it is really problematic. Brothers and sisters, for whatever reason, we have failed to communicate the news, the gospel of Jesus, to our country. Millennia have gone by with humans striving to be good, trying to earn God's favour and trying to attain salvation by our own deeds. The attempt to be saved, to reach the highest good, by our own merit is a fundamental misunderstanding of grace, and is most often rooted in idolatry, where humans fail to see the absolutely gracious and merciful nature of God, and exchange it for something they feel they can reach themselves.

Christianity teaches us differently, that while we were yet enemies of God, He reached out to us and offered us his redemptive, saving arm, regardless of what we had done. That we have not communicated this to our countrypeople is a travesty, and ought to make us reconsider how we can reclaim the challenge and news of the gospel, and use this scandalous message to help open hearts to Jesus.


  1. the people of the UK do not want or need to hear the twisted words of your bronze age superstition that claims a moral high ground whilst it also condones rape, murder, slavery and genocide.

  2. Calum, are you sure you have failed to communicate "the news, the gospel of Jesus, to our country"? Maybe we've heard it and don't believe it? Could that be possible?

  3. derpy, thanks for your comment. The Bronze Age was long gone by the time of Jesus, and that is who we follow here at Apologetics UK. If I am correct, I do not recall him condoning any of those acts.

    Joe - it is possible, but it seems very unlikely based on conversations I have had, and based on these survey results. It seems to me that if people think that Christianity is primarily about being a good person, then they have not heard the good *news* - that people ought to be good sounds more like good *advice* to me.


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