I read a distressing article this week. It was a report on a recent Ligonier Ministries 2020 State of Theology survey which revealed, “More than half of American adults, including 30% of evangelicals, say Jesus isn’t God but most agree He was a great teacher…” It was conducted “March 10 to 18 among 3,002 U.S. adults including 630 professing evangelicals.”
I wasn’t shocked that 52% of American adults “believe that Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more.” Although the United States is a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles and has a strong Judeo-Christian heritage over its 240+ year history, we are a firmly post-Christian nation. How do we know that? Because while many people of this nation profess faith in God and His Word, we have allowed legalized abortion resulting in the death of over 63 million babies through abortion (Roe v Wade, 1973) and legalized same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). These are two of the three sins that God says, “defile the land” (Leviticus 18:24-29) along with serving other gods.
But can anyone honestly look at the current state of our society – what we produce and what we allow – and say we are a godly nation without laughing?
However, what shocked and saddened me was that 30% of the evangelicals polled disagreed with the critical, foundational biblical truth that Jesus was not just human but also God.
Evangelicals? They’re supposed to be the out-loud, Bible-centered professing Christians! 30% of evangelicals deny Jesus’ divinity?
What the Heaven?
So, what is an evangelical Christian? According to Ligonier Ministries, they are a person who claims to born-again (spiritually transformed by God’s power) and actively following Jesus’ teachings and example. They embrace four key statements as true:
1. The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
2. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
3. Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
4. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation.
To be a true evangelical Christian, the Bible must be central to them. Why? It is God’s primary, reliable revelation of Himself to humanity. Because the Bible comes from God, it is regarded as foundational spiritual truth. Therefore, the Bible is an evangelical Christian’s baseline rule for faith and practice.
The Bible clearly reveals that Jesus is both God (John 1:1; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:1–4) and human (John 1:14). Don’t take my word for it. Jesus Himself said, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Yes, He said He is God and man in one being.
There’s no wiggle room here.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
And yet, 30% of those who claim to acknowledge the Bible as God’s “highest authority” and His final truth deny the baseline truth that Jesus was, and is, God.
To deny this fundamental truth brings down their “evangelical” house of cards.
If Jesus was not God, even though the Bible says so, then the Bible has no authority at all and is a lie by falsely claiming Jesus was God. Or the so-called 30% evangelical does not really believe the revelation through the Bible as God’s highest authority. And their first pillar falls.
If Jesus was not God, then He can't be the sinless sacrifice that qualifies His death as the “only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.” By not believing Jesus is God, the 30% evangelical has nullified their only basis for salvation. And the second pillar falls.
If Jesus was not God, then their basis for trust “in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior (to) receive God's free gift of eternal salvation” is also nullified since His death cannot affect salvation. By not believing Jesus is God, the 30% evangelical has nullified their only means of salvation. And the third pillar falls.
If Jesus was not God, then it’s useless “for (them) personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.” Why should they encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior since their lack of belief in Jesus as God completely erodes the entire truth, basis, and means of salvation? By not believing Jesus is God, the 30% evangelical has nullified any reason to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus for salvation. The fourth pillar falls and brings down the entire structure around them.
For an evangelical to deny Jesus’ status as God as well as being human is to belie the label they bear and the Name they claim but take in vain.
Denying Jesus’ divinity is a pagan view of Jesus. What? No!
So, please explain to me how an evangelical Christian who affirms the Bible as their “highest authority” and the truth about the Jesus it presents, and yet embrace a pagan theology that refutes everything they stand for?
Can you say contradiction? How about oxymoron? There is no middle ground here.
Think about this you 30% evangelical. To claim Jesus was just a man puts you in the same lost, unsaved category as the religious leaders who rejected Jesus to their eternal loss.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Jesus also said the reason the religious leaders of His day didn’t understand what He was revealing was they weren’t His sheep and didn’t “hear” His voice, “But you don’t believe because you are not of my sheep” (John 10:26). And then He hits them with the truth they can (or won’t) hear, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:29).
If you deny what Jesus said about His own divinity, it means you don’t hear Jesus’ voice.
If you deny what Jesus said about His own divinity, it means you don’t know Jesus.
If you deny what Jesus said about His own divinity, it means you aren’t His sheep.
To claim Jesus was just a man and not God is to refute the core of the scripture, the core of God’s plan, and the core of salvation.
To deny it means you better check whether you really know God or not … or whether He knows you or not (Matthew 7:23).
Denying Jesus’ claim that He is God can mean two things. First, you’re ignorant of spiritual truth. There’s no harm admitting that. Just pick up a Bible, sit down with mature, biblically literate Christians, and start learning. You’ll be amazed at what’s in that remarkable book.
Or second, you know what the truth is and you’re brazenly rejecting it. That makes you a hypocrite or greatly deceived.
If you want to continue in your unbelief despite all of God’s revealed truth and efforts, then do Jesus a favor – drop the label “Evangelical.” In fact, just drop the name Christian as well. You’re taking it vainly, “Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7 Christian Standard Bible).
Seriously. Stop misrepresenting Jesus.
If you believe Jesus was just a man, then admit it. “You. Are. Lost.”
But here’s your Good News! God is looking for people just like you. The Bible is true. Jesus is God. His death is the only thing that can remove your sin and reconnect you to His (and our) Heavenly Father and His family. He is our only Savior who offers us the free gift of salvation.
Embrace THAT and you’ll really be a Christian. And an evangelical one at that.
Okay, I have one more thing to say, Christian leader to Christian leaders.
Teach your people! No, not “5 Steps Toward A More Fulfilling Christian Sex Life” or “How To Achieve God’s Prosperity While You Sleep.” That’s the Christian version of click-bait to ramp-up website visits or butts in pews.
Get serious, Pastors and Teachers and Disciplers! It’s your responsibility to build a foundation of biblical truth under those you lead, the core biblical truths that matter for eternity. Then, you can build up the genuine Christian in their most holy faith.
And Christian disciples? Your job is to learn. So, crack the Book and get crackin’.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts