Today, 4 out of every 5 people claim they believe in God, but the stat may not be as comforting as it appears. Pew Research Center dug a little deeper into that question, and found some surprising results.
For starters, a staggering number of Christians don’t believe God – who created the universe by speaking it into existence – isn’t all-knowing. Only 74% of Christians affirmed this view, according to the poll. Things get dicier from there.
When pressed further, many of those who said they believe in “God” actually subscribe to the “God of their own” making, an idea that many pastors and theologians warn of. Just because someone believes in God, they argue, does not mean they understand who God is or what they actually believe in.
Although people frequently mention God in regards to prayer, life events, or tragedy, the question remains, who is this God that people are talking about?
The Pew study demonstrated how people view God differently, and how they believe he plays into the day-to-day of their lives.
An overwhelming 80% of adults in the United States believe in a higher power, but 56% stated that they “believe in God as described in the Bible,” while 23% “believe in some other higher power/spiritual force.”
Out of the 19% that said they don’t believe in a God, 9% said they do believe in a higher power/ spiritual force, which loops them into the same category as the 23% that polled saying they believe in a God.
When broken down, 56% percent of U.S. adults believe in the God described in the Bible, while 33% believe in a higher power or spiritual force of sorts. A small amount of Americans (10%) do not believe in any form of higher power or spirutal force.
But what does it mean when one believes in the “God as described in the Bible?”
56% of Americans state they believe in the God that is described in the Bible, but when broken down, even that means different things to different people.
The Pew study found that 80% of American Christians claim to believe in a biblical God, while only 33% of American Jews claim to believe in a Biblical God.
Instead, American Jews believe that God is a higher power / spiritual force.
Interestingly, only 74% of Christians describe their God as all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving all people regardless of their faults, despite the Bible teaching this explicitly.
Pew went further into the study and determined that nearly all evangelicals and protestants that attend historically black churches believe in the biblical God. Those attending historically black churches believed in the biblical God more than any other religious affiliation.
The Pew study also determined that 9 out of 10 Christians who align with the evangelical or protestant belief system affirm Gods love, omniscience, and omnipresence, while only 6 out of 10 Catholics and mainline Protestants do.
Again, those that attend historically black Protestant churches believe God to be more involved in the world than evangelicals.
“Usually African-American Christians think about God’s attributes in highly relational terms,” Thabiti Anyabwile said, who is an author and the pastor of Anacostia River Church.
Anyabwile accredited theProtestant churches strong view of God to the struggles suffered during the slavery era, arguing that they needed to have a strong faith in his power as they endured difficult trials of oppression.
“His sovereignty becomes, ‘He will do it.’ His power become, ‘He is able.’ And all of that gets expressed as deep dependence upon God who is believed to be both necessary and personally at work in our struggles and hopes. When all you have is God, his character ceases to be academic and your dependence on him becomes existential.”Anyabwile explained.
It may or may not come as a surprise to you, but women outpaced men on just about all measures of faith. One of the Pew researchers wrote, “Among demographic groups, more women than men see God at work in all or most of what happens in their lives.”
The study revealed that 61% of women said they believe in the biblical God described, while 50% of men said they did. It also revealed that more than 8 out of every 10 females in America communicate with God, and 75% said that He is present in all aspects of their life, both big and small.
Author of Is the Bible Good for Women? Wendy Alsup, wrote, “In my experience, women tend toward vulnerability and openness in their love of God and confidence in his love for them… Women may reject the church, but they will keep their belief about God’s love rather than rejecting both together.”
Pew also found that women see God more loving than men. 82% of women agreed that God “loves all people, despite their faults,” compared to 72% of men.
The study also stated that 76% of women believe that God “knows everything that goes on in the world,” while 65% of men hold that to be true.
Jen Wilkin, the author of the book None Like Him, argues that women naturally strive to understand more about God. She points out that many Christian books for females focus more on self-discovery than the actual gospel.
“They train women to ask, ‘Who am I’ of the Bible without first asking, ‘Who is I AM?’ The result is a preponderance of Christian women who believe the Bible is a book about God, but who have been conditioned to read it as a book about themselves,” she said. “As a result, they lack a well-developed vocabulary and understanding about who God is. They view his wrath as being antithetical to his love, his justice as being antithetical to mercy and grace, and so on.”