Earlier this month the Gospel Herald reported that according to a BBC poll, 25 % of Christians in Great Britain say “Jesus’ resurrection was not real.” It turns out that according to the survey results one in four of those who considered themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not truly believe the resurrection of Jesus really happened as the gospels report it. Hard to believe?
A total of 2,010 adults were interviewed for the study. Some who were questioned were not Christians, so their answers and skepticism are understandable. About a half of respondents were not Christians, but 50% considered themselves Christians. A majority, about 57 % of the respondents described themselves as “active Christians”, meaning they attend worship service at least once a month and believe in what the Bible says in a literal sense. However, among all the broader self-identified Christian group who answered the survey (active and non-active) only 31 % take the message of the Bible word for word.
Roughly 40% percent of these Brittish Christians said they believe the story of Jesus rising from the dead, but not exactly how the Bible puts it. The majority of Christians questioned affirmed that they embrace the idea of “life after death,” which in the survey included the concepts of heaven, hell, and even reincarnation. Interestingly, about 9 % of non-religious respondents claimed they actually believe in Christ’s resurrection, while 1 % of these said they believed the gospel story of Jesus’ resurrection literally. So the survey concluded that about a quarter of Britain’s Christians do not really believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
What happened? It’s hard to say, exactly. But it would not be a stretch to suggest that this a result of not reading the Bible. How can those who never read the Bible have any sort of high regard for it? And for those who are reading the gospels, perhaps they are not understanding them in proper context. These ancient documents are permeated with Semitic thought patterns and relate their stories through middle eastern literary techniques. No wonder westerners have always struggled to understand the Bible. For centuries many wanted to accept all information in the Bible literally and that wholesale approach caused them trouble. Now many desire to see the Bible’s message non-literally and that causes problems of its own as the survey clearly shows.
The answer is a responsible study and teaching of the Bible, in its native linguistic and cultural context. Understanding the authors and their world should precede the interpretations of their words. Some traditional ideas of what the Bible passages mean have to be re-considered and Bible has to be re-read in a new light. It may painful and uncomfortable for those who are entrenched in the status quo to move away from things as they are. But it would be even more painful if the trend the BBC survey showed continues.