Most people say they believe in God. Surveys conducted over the years reveal that the majority of people believe in the Supreme Being. Atheism and skepticism have risen in recent times, but those who believe still far outnumber those who do not.
Besides an increase in unbelief, another change has occurred. In the past when you said the word “God” people knew what you meant. Today “God” or “god” might mean anything. When people say they believe in God they can mean Allah of the Islamic religion. They can mean a Hindu god. They can have in mind nature or the conscience when they use the word “God.” When you ask people if they believe in God, you can’t assume that they are talking about the same God you are.
I was talking with a man recently who was very concerned about the dangers facing this country. Without denying that we face real threats, I tried to steer the conversation to religion. I told him that as a Christian I recognize these fears but I also believe in the goodness and providence of God. After a long pause he replied, “Well, I do believe there is something higher out there.” I tried to explain that God is a personal God who loves us and is just, but the discussion stalled. He was fine with the idea that there is “something higher out there,” but he wouldn’t say He is the God who not only loves us but will also judge us some day.
There was a time in America when you didn’t have to prove or explain to people who God is. You didn’t have to convince them that Jesus is Christ or the Bible is God’s Word. More people then had at least a basic understanding of these things. They heard them in the home. They learned them in Sunday school. There was general agreement on these points even though there were many differences of interpretation and doctrine. In those days there was a cultural foundation of belief in God, Christ, and the Bible. That foundation kept homes, communities, and the nation stable.
A growing number of people no longer have this basic religious foundation. In the book Gospel Resetcreation scientist Ken Ham relates his shock as an Australian who sees how America has changed. He is one of the founders of the Noah’s ark replica exhibit in northern Kentucky. His work is disproving evolution and defending God as the Creator. But now he is encountering the same problem about the meaning of the word “God.” In the past it was simple: disprove evolution and the only logical alternative is creation which implies God. Today he finds that many don’t even know which God he is discussing. Though he holds to many denominational beliefs, we can understand his frustration. There is not as much common ground as there once was, even in the Bible belt. Many people have grown up without the foundation that earlier generations were given. When Paul went into Jewish synagogues, he opened the Scriptures and taught (Acts 17:1-3). He didn’t have to prove to Jews that God exists or that the Scriptures are inspired. When he preached in places like Lystra or Athens, however, he had to start with God the Creator because the people were superstitious and idolatrous and knew little if anything about the Old Testament (Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31). We have to be ready to use either approach today.
I had a wake-up call recently as a visiting speaker at a congregation. The congregation is solid in Bible conviction. There was no problem there. But a visitor who attended that night was very upset with me. He was hurt because I said that Allah of Islam is not the God of the Bible! Why he was even there I don’t know. I have had numerous people over the years who came out after I preached and disagreed with something I taught. But this was the first time anyone in a church building ever told me I had the wrong concept of God!
Our children and grandchildren are being indoctrinated at school and online. They’re being told that belief in Jesus and the Bible is only one religious opinion and that they should accept other religions or no religion. They are even being taught there are many ideas of God and the old concept of the one true God is unloving, intolerant, and unacceptable in a changing world.
Now more than ever we need to go back to the basics. Stand up for God. Stand up for Jesus. Stand up for the Bible. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15).