According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ confidence in organized religion and other institutions is down. Only 46 percent said they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in church or organized religion. That’s just a single point away from being the lowest in Gallup’s history since 1973.
I don’t know about you but this neither alarms nor offends me. Frankly I am surprised that confidence in organized religion is as high as it is.
Understand that we are talking about confidence in the “Church” (not God) which includes the good (churches which actually believe the Bible) the bad (churches which pay lip service to the Bible) and the ugly (churches where the Bible is seldom used).
When you consider certain denominations, like American Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, American Baptists and United Churches of Christ, have been in decades long battles within their own ranks vying for some semblance of fidelity to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3); and when you consider that the Roman Catholic Church has paid out millions of dollars for legal fees and fines for its scandals among it’s priesthood; and when you consider that even so-called Bible believing churches have had their share of the Ted Haggards, the Jim and Tammies, Robert Tiltons, Jim Swaggarts, Truman Dollars and on and on, one has to wonder why there is any confidence in the “Church” at all.
So again, I am not surprised, but I am challenged as a follower of Christ to lead a life recognizable as one following the Jesus of the Scriptures–not the popular caricatures of an ill-informed culture.
So there’s no denying that the “Church” is messed-up which is a given seeing it is comprised of messed-up people, but that is nothing new. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth revealing how sorely derelict that infant church was, and a sweep of church history shows not much has changed over the centuries.
What has changed is the recognition of theological authority which trumps individualized spirituality. In Seattle, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, longtime Episcopal priest, recently professed that she is also a faithful Muslim. “At the most basic level,” Redding stated, “I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”
In other words, she has unilaterally decided she can be both–end of discussion.
In Paul’s epistles though, he explains that a truthful faith is grounded in certain faith absolutes which themselves are grounded, not in popular whim, but in the very character of God; a character which God himself revealed to mankind in his inspired, infallible, inerrant, authoritative words as recorded in the Bible. In short, real faith is not whatever anyone creatively imagines.
But today the Bible is so poorly understood, that it is routinely prostituted to accommodate and justify personal agendas. The result is that the so-called Christian faith has little, if any consistency from church to church. Is it any wonder people lack confidence? I don’t blame them, do you?