Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Trust Statistics

It's amazing how the moment you attach numbers to an opinion, it can quickly seem like fact. A recent study finds that 74% of all people find a great amount of confidence in a statement that is verified with statistical data. (Ok, made that up. But made you look.) Anyway, statistics have become all the rage when trying to trace Christian patterns.

For instance, 27% of born again Christians have been divorced, in comparison to 24% of those who are not born again.

"What does this mean," we may ask? "Are Christians less committed than pagans and our marriages [or lack of] ruining any possible testimony for the Lord.

John MacArthur says, "Not so fast."

In an article, MacArthur reminds us that we need to take a second look at this statistic. One question we should be asking, "What do they mean by 'born again'?"

Apparently, the person who receives the phone call gets to decide if they are born again. To be classified as born again, the person called simply needs to claim (1) to have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to him today and (2) that he will go to heaven because he has confessed his sins and accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior.

But such pollster strategies (I'm not suggesting a better way. I don't know that conversion can be confirmed over a cold call.) create a perfect "Lord, Lord situation." Sadly, this can allow for a situation where a person claims to know Christ, but Christ would not claim to know him/her.

For instance, using these same criteria to poll only the "born again", another study found:

15% deny the resurrection of Christ
28% believe that Jesus committed sins during His life on earth
34% believe that if a person is good enough he can earn a place in heaven
26% believe that it doesn’t matter what faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons
45% believe that Satan is a symbol of evil rather than an actual being

As I've stated before, such critical analysis of statistics should also cause us to reconsider the whole "All young people (and most boomers) are bailing on the church at an alarming rate" poll results as well.

So next time you see a stat, let it be a chance to remind you that you do not want the "Gentiles to blaspheme His name" because of your actions, but to rest in the fact that God sanctifies those whom He justifies. No need to panic...unless He is not in charge.

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