Monthly Archives: December 2009

Can the worst of people be changed – without God?

Ribbon Salvation Button

By Spencer D Gear

In my work with abused children and abusers, I often hear statements like, “There is no hope for the paedophile. Once a molester, always a molester.” As I see it, rebellious behaviour is in plague proportions in the cities in which I work as a youth and family counsellor.. Parents say things to me like, “She’s been a difficult child from birth, a rebel all her life. She’s heading for the clink. She’s out of control. You fix her.”

Can a leopard change its spots? Definitely not! But there is Someone who can change paedophiles into people with true love. Prostitutes are being remade. The dishonest can become people of integrity. Rebels can be turned into law-abiding citizens and cons into upright, Christian citizens. But self-effort won’t do it.

I am reminded of an event in the life of Dr Harry Ironside[1], an evangelist and Bible teacher of renown in the USA in the early part of the 20th century. He was walking past a Salvation Army open-air meeting in San Francisco when he was recognised by the Salvos. They invited him to share how Christ had changed him.

As Dr. Ironside finished his testimony, a known lecturer on socialism provoked the doctor with this challenge: “Sir, I challenge you to debate with me the question ‘Agnosticism vs. Christianity’ in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at four o’clock. I will pay all expenses.”

Dr. Ironside agreed, but on two conditions. First, the agnostic must promise to bring with him one man who was once a no-hoper. The exact nature of what wrecked his life did not matter. He could find a drunkard, criminal, sex pervert, or any other such person. That person had been changed into an upstanding citizen by becoming an agnostic. Righteousness and goodness came flooding into his life through pursuing the ideals of “I don’t know if there is a God.”

Second, Dr. Ironside asked the agnostic to promise also to bring with him one woman who was once an outcast, slave to evil passions and a victim of corrupt living. She was ruined and wretched but had been turned around. She had attended a meeting where the agnostic was proclaiming the benefits of agnosticism and was ridiculing the message of the Bible.

As she listened to him, new hope was born in her life. She concluded that the agnostic message could deliver her from her ways and she has now become an intelligent agnostic who no longer lives in her depraved lifestyle. She now lives a clean, virtuous and happy life — all because she is an agnostic.

Dr Ironside offered the challenge: “If you will promise to bring these two people with you as examples of what agnosticism can do, I will promise to meet you at the Hall of Science at 4 o’clock next Sunday. I will bring with me at the very least 100 men and women who for years lived in just

such sinful degradation as I have tried to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the gospel which you ridicule. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and as present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.”

Dr. Ironside turned to the Salvation Army officer in the open-air meeting, a woman, and asked, “Captain, have you any who could go with me to such a meeting?” The Captain offered at least 40 such people from just one Salvation Army Corps and said she would bring a brass band to lead the procession.

Dr. Ironside said that he would have no difficulty picking up the 100 radically changed people from the Salvos, other missions, gospel halls and evangelical churches. He said that the Salvation Army band would play “Onward Christian Soldiers” as they led the procession to the debate.

The enthusiastic agnostic who wanted to big-note himself at the open-air meeting and brashly challenged Dr. Ironside to the debate, smiled wryly, waved his hand and left the meeting, as if to say, “Nothing doing!” He edged his way through the crowd as these bystanders clapped enthusiastically for Ironside and the other Christians.

The power of the living Christ is changing lives today, even the lives of the most wicked. He has done it throughout history. John Newton, the British slave trader, became a preacher of the gospel. Chuck Colson, former President Richard Nixon’s hatchet man, was sent to jail for his part in the Watergate scandal in the USA. He met the risen Christ and has been engaged in an active prison and public ministry since then.

I wish you could have met my Bundaberg, Qld. (Australia) friend, the late George Clarke. He’s in heaven now. This gangster was changed into a child of God and an honourable family man. Talk to his family members and they’ll verify that Jesus Christ does change lives.

The worst of people can be changed. Many people can confirm that. The apostle Paul, the persecutor of the early Christian church, was threatening to murder believers. Then the turning point came. He tells how it can happen for anybody: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”


[1] Details of Dr. Harry Ironside’s challenge to the agnostic can be found at, “A Challenge By An Agnostic To Debate Dr. Harry Ironside:Agnosticism vs. Christianity,” available at: [Accessed 25 December 2009].


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

Why I Am Not An Atheist!

Atom of Atheism Vector Graphics


by Spencer D Gear


A.W. Tozer wrote that “what we believe about God is the most important thing about us.”[1] Philosopher, Mortimer Adler, agreed: “More consequences for thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.”[2]

I am not an atheist or an agnostic for at least two reasons:

First, take a look at the world around us! There is such incredible order and design in the universe. If we were nearer to the sun we would fry, but we’d freeze to death if we were further away.

When I examine how human life is sustained, I am amazed. Plants produce oxygen which human beings need. We produce carbon dioxide which plants need.

What about human reproduction? How are fingers, legs, hair, skin, blood and brains formed?

Atheism leaves me cold amongst such grandeur in our world.

Second, when I look at human beings, I see two opposites. There are incredible beauty and good will among us.

Australians give multiple millions of dollars every year to help the starving and oppressed. Others have left lucrative trades and professions to go to war-torn and destitute countries. What about the hospitals that have been built and staffed? Welfare agencies, both government and private, that make life easier for the hurting?

But there is another side: frustration, apathy, violence, nastiness, ugliness. And yet in the midst of this mess, people have a cry for meaning and purpose, for love, freedom, forgiveness, hope, even a cry for God.

I notice society is on the skids. I have met people sucked into the sexual freedom philosophy whose lives are in ruins. In over 25 years of counselling, I have never yet met a person who jumped into bed with as many people as he/she wanted and ended up saying this is the great life with no negative consequences.

George Bernard Shaw, atheist, writer and the brains behind My Fair Lady wrote,

“The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. I believed it once. In its name I helped destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.”[3]

Atheism is powerless. When did you last hear somebody proclaim, “I have become an atheist and it has revolutionised my life. I was an alcoholic who abused my wife and now I have become the ideal man.” Atheism doesn’t have that power.

God does! There are hundreds in this city who can declare, “If anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

With confidence, God can say: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 53:1).


[1] In Paul Little, Know What You Believe.  Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1970, p. 25.

[2] Mortimer Adler, Great Books of the Western World, ed. Robert Maynard Hutching, vol. 2.  Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952, p. 561.  Quoted in Paul Little, Know Why You Believe.  Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1987, p. 21.

[3] G. B. Shaw, Too True to be Good.  Constable & Co.  Quoted in Stephen Gaukroger, It Makes Sense. London: Scripture Union, 1989, p. 9.


Copyright (c) 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 October 2015.


The real message behind September 11 disaster? [1]

Has the disaster that struck the USA on September 11 really brought us to our senses? Are we Aussies any different following this shock? Could this really happen here?

As I reflect on these events that shocked the world, I am alarmed by what I see in Australia. I spoke with a man the other day and asked if Sept. 11 has had any impact on him. His immediate response was, “All I’ve noticed are the insurance prices.”

I have not heard words like, “This could be the judgment of God on the USA. We deserve it just as much.”

At a presentation on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, in the middle of the year 2001, researcher George Barna said that, “Twenty-five years from now, historians are likely to say the year 2001 was right around the time when the era of moral and spiritual anarchy began.”[2] Barna’s comments were prophetic. His view was that within the next few years moral chaos would be inflicted on American culture.

Then came September 11.

Why limit the moral chaos to USA culture? We have it here with shocking levels of sexual abuse, out-of-control youth and children, abusive parents, and the killing of about 80,000 unborn children every year.

Now the talk of embryonic stem cell research where the embryo is spoken of as just matter. Queensland Senator, Ron Boswell, told the Australian Senate on August 28 about the “false claims made by Alan Trounson. I would like to put on the record Professor Trounson’s response. His associate, Martin Pera, told ABC Radio (Aug. 28, 2002) that this is merely a simple mistake and Alan corrected [it] quite quickly. This is very serious, because a second case of misrepresenting embryo research has come to light today. It is not a case of a simple mistake at all but one that has been repeated. First, the video was proven to be false and now a paper offered as proof that embryo cells work on motor neurone disease has turned out to be wrong as well.”

What has this to do with Sept. 11?

Jeremiah the prophet warned the nation of Judah, “Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:7)

Jeremiah continued to warn: “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. (Jer. 10:10)

What has this to do with September 11?

What brings on God’s wrath? If you read the books of Jeremiah (chs. 4, 8 & 10), Hosea and Romans (chs. 1 & 2) in the Bible, these are the kinds of activities that provoke the Lord God to wrath against humanity: the evil you have done, idolatry, no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land, sin that “breaks all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed”, “all the godlessness and wickedness of men”; and because of “your stubbornness and unrepentant heart.”

I have heard little of this kind of assessment over the last 12 months. Those who proclaim peace when there is no peace are false prophets who will be brought down with the other sinful people when judgment comes. See Jeremiah 6:13-15. There is a clear link between sin and judgment.

David Chilton explained how this applies to contemporary American culture. He wrote:

A few years ago when I worked with the Institute for Christian Economics, a reporter for a national Christian magazine called. He was polling economists and economic writers around the country, asking us a single question: “If you could change one government policy in order to pull us out of our economic problems, what would that change be?”

“That’s easy,” I said. “Stop killing the babies.”

The journalist’s instincts were keen and he said: “Uh…what?”

“Stop killing babies,” I repeated. “You know, abortion? In case you’ve missed the story, over 4,000 unborn babies are slaughtered in this country [USA] every day. They’re poisoned, chopped in pieces, suctioned, or simply delivered and left to die. Sometimes the doctor strangles or smothers them.”

“Uh, yeah, I know that.” He sounded nervous. “But I think you misunderstood the question. I was asking what economic policy you would recommend to alleviate the country’s problems.”

“Yes, I know that. But you misunderstood my answer. I said that if I could change only one thing to solve our economic problems, I would stop abortion. That’s not the only thing wrong, of course. Many other things should be stopped, such as the government’s manipulation of money and credit. Confiscatory taxation should be stopped. Protectionism should be abolished. Fractional reserve banking should be outlawed. We could talk about a lot of things. But you asked for one thing. Life isn’t that simple, but I was willing to play along. So I said baby-killing.”

“Wait a minute,” he said, exasperated. “What has abortion got to do with our economic problems?”

“Maybe that’s the real problem,” I replied. “Here you are, a writer for a respected Christian publication, and you don’t get the connection between (a) the legalized murder of one and a half million people every year, and (b) the fact that God is selling us into economic bondage to other nations. It’s called Divine Judgment.

“And it won’t stop with mere economic judgment. Murder is a capital crime.”

The reporter suddenly discovered he had other calls to make.[3]

There is something fundamentally important here. God’s law is eternal. His justice works throughout history to fulfil His purposes. Nobody can escape the consequences of God’s absolute and universal law. When a nation breaks His laws, it suffers the consequences.

Australian culture is under a similar sentence of judgment. We have failed to outlaw the abominations that are plagues in our culture. Think about our acceptance of relativism. We create our own values. You believe what is right for you and I believe what is right for me – even if they are contradictory.

Consider the real consequences! If a person chooses what is right for him or her, why should we complain if that choice is the terrorism of September 11, rape, stealing, lying and murder? This relativism, as Frank Sinatra would sing it, “I did it my way,” is leading our nation to anarchy. After all, there is widespread endorsement of this view of ethics today in Australia, “I create my own values.”

September 11 has more in common with Bundaberg, Australia, than you could imagine. The Old Testament prophet, Obadiah, gave a warning that is very contemporary, “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (Obadiah 15).

Nations have been warned before by prominent figures:

“The strength or weakness of a society depends more on the level of its spiritual life than on its level of industrialization. Neither a market economy nor even general abundance constitutes the crowning achievement of human life. If a nation’s spiritual energies have been exhausted, it will not be saved from collapse by the most perfect government structure or by industrial development: a tree with a rotten core cannot stand.”[4].

“When there is no God, everything is permitted. Crime becomes inevitable.”[5].

We must be serious about the implications of September 11. So far, it hasn’t changed us much at all. Will it take a similar tragedy at Parliament House (when parliament is sitting), Canberra, or a packed-out Sydney Opera House to move us?

We live in a universe with moral laws. Those laws are demonstrate the character of God Himself. When we break those laws, we have moral guilt before the Great Judge. The most loving thing we can do is to warn of judgment when God’s laws are flaunted as they are in Australia.

We urgently need another John Bunyan who will show us what happens when we turn to Vanity Fair.

To God be the Glory!

[1] I, Spencer Gear, delivered this at a meeting of the Bundaberg Ministers’ Association [Qld., Australia]. Spencer may be contacted at PO Box 3107, Hervey Bay 4655, Australia.

[2] In Charles Colson, “Christians’ Rotting Values: Conforming to the Culture” BreakPoint with Charles Colson; Commentary #010719 – 19 July 2001.

[3] David Chilton 1987, Power in the Blood: A Christian Response to AIDS. Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987, pp. 41-42.

[4] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, In a National Review article (Sept. 23, 1991, p.24), quoted in: [Accessed 25 December 2009].

[5] Fyodor Dostoyevski, quoted in Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, The God of Stones & Spiders. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1990, p. viii.

Does God create evil?


By Spencer D Gear [1]

At an outreach men’s breakfast, I spoke on the topic, “Can you believe in God after September 11 and the tsunami? Which ‘monster’ created evil?” At question time, a thoughtful Christian asked: “How does your view of the creation of evil line up with God who said in Isaiah, ‘I created evil.'” My response was inadequate, so I have investigated further. The following is my understanding of this verse from Isaiah.

Isaiah 45:7 in the KJV states, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

In the NIV it reads: “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”

In the ESV, the translation is: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

The NASB translation is: “The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”

Here is the contrast:

  • “I make peace, and I create evil” (KJV);
  • “I bring prosperity and create disaster” (NIV);
  • “I make well-being and create calamity” (ESV);
  • “Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does these” (NASB).

Does God, the Lord, create moral evil, i.e. does God create sin, or does he create calamity or disaster? There is quite a difference in the meaning. If God creates all the evil in the world, from the beginning of time until the end of this world, what kind of a God is he? If he creates calamities or disasters what kind of God is he?

Related image


The word translated “evil” or “disaster/calamity” is the Hebrew, ra. It is true that the word can be used to refer to natural disasters or calamities. It is a very common word for evil as a general description in the OT. The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in Gen. 2:9 uses this word, as is the evil of the people that brought the judgment of Noah’s flood (Gen. 6:5). The evil of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen. 13:13 uses this word (Grudem 1994, p. 326 n7).

Ps. 34:14 reads, “Turn away from evil and do good.” There’s that word, ra, again. We read of it again in Isa. 59:7, speaking of those whose “feet run to evil.” You can read it also in other passages in Isaiah (see Isa. 47:10, 11; 56:2; 57:1; 59:15; 65:12; 66:4)

There are many other OT passages that use ra to refer to moral evil (i.e. sin) and to disaster/calamity. How do we know how to translate? The context will tell us. Does God create evil/sin, or does God create disaster?

As Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest put it: “Isaiah does not teach the blasphemous idea that the Lord creates sin!” (Lewis & Demarest 1987:312). If we look to the context of Isa. 45:7, this is what we find:

  •  Isa.45:11, “Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” He is the God of holiness. So, God could not be the creator of sin. Sin is incompatible with God’s holiness.
  •  Isaiah predicted that sudden disaster would come to Babylon: “But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing” Isa 47:11 (ESV).

You can read a similar emphasis in Amos 3:6, which the KJV translates as: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD has not done it?” The NIV translates as: “When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?”

It is only when there is judgment for sin that the prophets write as in Isa 45:7, “I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things” (NIV). “Like a just judge, God decrees punishment for sin but he does not decree acts of sin” (Lewis & Demarest 1987:312).

Remember Jonah who was thrown overboard by men on that ship travelling to Tarshish? “Then they [the men on the boat] took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm” (Jonah 1:15, NIV).

However, five verses later, in Jonah 2:3, Jonah is praying to God, “You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me” (NIV).

How is it that the men on the boat threw Jonah overboard and that God hurled Jonah into the deep? The Bible can affirm that men did it and that it was God in action. God brought about his plan by using the men on the boat. In a way that we don’t quite understand, “God caused [the men] to make a willing choice to do what they did” (Grudem 1994:326).

Alec Motyer observes concerning Isa. 45:7,

Prosperitydisaster: the older, literal rendering ‘peace … evil’ caused unnecessary difficulties. Can the Lord ‘create evil’? Out of about 640 occurrences of the word ra’, which range in meaning from a ‘nasty’ taste to a full moral evil, there are about 275 cases where it refers to trouble or calamity. Each case must be judged by its context and NIV has done so correctly here. Cyrus was ‘bad news’ to the kings he conquered and the cities he overthrew. But Isaiah’s (and the Bible’s) view of divine providence is rigorous – and for that reason full of comfort. Sinful minds want the comfort of a sovereign God but jib at saying with Job (2:10), ‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble (ra)?’ (Motyer 1999:287).

How does this relate to Isa. 45:7? God used people in Jonah’s day to perform an evil action. In Isaiah’s day, God brought disaster on Babylon through the use of human means.

God does not create all of the sinful evil in the world, but God does bring disaster or calamity as his judgment. It was God who created “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9) but it was not God who created evil.


Wayne Grudem 1994, Systematic Theology, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest 1987, Integrative Theology, vol. 1, Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Alec Motyer 1999, Isaiah (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.


[1] Spencer Gear is a retired counsellor, counselling manager, active Christian apologist and ordained Christian minister who obtained his PhD in New Testament in 2015. He may be contacted through the Contact Form on this website.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 December 2016.

What gets your attention?

Image result for clipart Attention

(image courtesy Kathleen Halme)

By Spencer D Gear

For some, it may be the death of a relative, but for others it may be something stated or given by another. When I was told in 1973 that my 57-year-old Christian father had died from a heart attack, it sure got my attention about life-after-death and the need to be in close relationship with my parents and my heavenly Father.

Today two things gained my attention and they came from different and unusual sources. This is what struck me:

1. There is no difference in behaviour between Christians and unbelievers.

In 2004, the George Barna Research Group in the USA, a cultural analysis company, conducted research that indicated

that people’s faith does not make as much of as difference as might be expected – especially among non-evangelical born again Christians. Based on a national survey that related people’s faith and 19 lifestyle activities that might be expected to be affected by faith views, the report concludes that two groups – Christian evangelicals and those without a faith preference (i.e., atheists and agnostics) are those that stand out from the crowd.[1]

Who are these “non-evangelical born again Christians” who don’t act much differently to non-believers. Barna describes this type of Christian this way:

Non-evangelical born again adults have accepted Christ as their saviour but do not necessarily accept the Bible as completely accurate in its teachings, accept a personal responsibility to share their faith with others, cite their faith as very important in their life, believe that Jesus Christ was holy, believe that God is the Creator who continues to rule the universe today, or believe that Satan is not symbolic but truly exists. This segment constitutes about one-third of the national adult population [in the USA].[2]

In fact, Barna goes so far as to say that non-evangelical born again people are “more similar to notional Christians (i.e., people who consider themselves Christian but have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior) and to adherents of other faiths (such as Islam, Buddhism and Scientology) than to evangelical Christians.”[3]

Therefore, the group of “Christians” whose behaviour varies little from non-Christians and those of other religions, are those who have “accepted Christ as their savior” but who reject major biblical doctrines such as:

  • the authority and infallibility of Scripture,
  • the need for them to engage in evangelism;
  • acknowledging faith as important in their lives;
  • the attributes of Jesus such as His holiness;
  • the character of God as creator and ruler of the universe; and
  • the literal existence of Satan.

These are fundamentals of biblical faith, but these born again, non-evangelicals cannot accept them. Does this then mean that this group is not genuinely Christian? What is it that makes the difference in behaviour between Christians and unbelievers?

George Barna found that that this radically different behaviour belonged to a group of only 7% of the adult USA population that he described as

the group whose faith is most clearly evident in their behavioral choices. The survey divided the population into five faith segments (evangelicals, non-evangelical born again Christians, notional Christians, adherents of non-Christian faiths, and atheists/agnostics). Evangelicals emerged as the group most likely to do each of the following:

  • discuss spiritual matters with other people
  • volunteer at a church or non-profit organization
  • discuss political matters with other people
  • discuss moral issues and conditions with others
  • stop watching a television program because of its values or viewpoints
  • go out of their way to encourage or compliment someone.[4]

The conclusion Barna reached from this survey was

that many Christians are hard-pressed to convert their beliefs into action. “The ultimate aim of belief in Jesus is not simply to possess divergent theological ideas but to become a transformed person. These statistics highlight the fact that millions of people who rely on Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny have problems translating their religious beliefs into action beyond Sunday mornings.”[5]

The George Barna Research Group describes “born again” Christians in the USA this way (The Barna Group 2008):


In Barna Research Group studies, born again Christians are not defined on the basis of characterizing themselves as “born again” but based upon their answers to two questions. The first is “have you ever made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today?” If the respondent says “yes,” then they are asked a follow-up question about life after death. One of the seven perspectives a respondent may choose is “when I die, I will go to Heaven because I have confessed my sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.” Individuals who answer “yes” to the first question and select this statement as their belief about their own salvation are then categorized as “born again.”


  • Compared to 72% of all adults, 92% of born again Christians believe “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” (2007)
  • Three-quarters of born again Christians (74%) believe they “personally have a responsibility to tell other people their religious beliefs” compared to 52% of all adults. (2007)
  • Nearly all born again Christians (99%) say their religious faith is very important in their life, compared to 87% of all adults. (2007)
  • Half of born again Christians (46%) agree that Satan is “not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” (2007)
  • 37% of born agains believe that if a person is good enough they can earn a place in Heaven. (2007)
  • 26% of born agains agree that “while he lived on earth, Jesus committed sins, like other people,” compared to 41% of all adults. (2007)
  • Born again Christians are more likely than non-born again individuals to accept moral absolutes. Specifically, 36% of born agains said they believe in moral absolutes, compared to just 16% among non-born agains. (2006)

How Many

  • Looking across the past decade we find the following percentages of born again Christians: 2007 – 42% 2006 – 45% 2005- 40% 2004-38% 2002-40% 2001- 41% 2000- 41% 1999- 40% 1998- 39% 1997- 43% 1996-39% 1995-35% 1994- 36% 1993-36% 1992- 40% 1991- 35%

There are approximately 101 million born again Christians in the USA. (2006)

The Barna Update (21 July 2008) briefly defines this differentiation among Christians:

“Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”

“Evangelicals” meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

Non-evangelical born again Christians meet the born again criteria described above, but not the evangelical criteria.

Notional Christians are those who consider themselves to be Christian but do not meet the not born again criteria.

2. “Be holy as I am holy”

There is a book that is making the rounds of our house to different rooms as my wife, Desley, reads it. I’m speaking of C. H. Spurgeon’s, Twelve Sermons on Holiness.[6] This sounds like a forbidden subject in many Christian circles in the 21st century. A hundred years ago it was being addressed openly by prominent preachers. I’m also thinking of J. C. Ryle’s, A Call to Holiness.[7]


The Barna Group 2008, “Born again Christians,” available from: [cited 1 February 2009].

The Barna Group, The Barna Update, 21 July 2008, “Survey reveals the life Christians desire,” available from: [cited 1 February 2009].


[1] The Barna Group, 24 May 2004, “Faith Has a Limited Effect On Most People’s Behavior,” available from: [cited 5 February 2009].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Reiner Publications, Swengel, Pa, n.d.

[7] Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, 1976.