Study: 80% of Americans Believe in God—But What Do They Mean by “God”?

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According to a new study of 4,700 American adults, the Pew Research Center found that 80% of Americans believe in God. But what (or who) do they mean by “God”? Well, for years now I’ve been telling people that when you say “God” to this secularized culture, you can’t just assume they understand that you mean the God of the Bible. Today, you actually have to define what you mean by the word “God.” And this new research bears this out.

While 80% of Americans say they believe in God, when they were asked further questions, 23% said they believe in “some other higher power/spiritual force,” rather than the God described in the Bible. And of the 19% who said they don’t believe in God, 9% believe in “some other higher power/spiritual force.” This means that to 33%—one-third—of Americans, “God” doesn’t mean what you might automatically think it means. And this study reported that it didn’t even include enough Muslims, Hindus, and others who might believe in a god but not the God of the Bible to classify their beliefs separately.

It’s an Acts 17 World

As I’ve said many times before, in the past here in America it was an “Acts 2 culture.” I mean that, in past generations, our culture had a basic understanding of God and Jesus and were familiar with the Bible. When someone was witnessing, they could start from a common foundation of shared understandings and perhaps even some shared beliefs (e.g., God exists, the Bible is true, the Bible is our moral authority, and so on). This is similar to when the Apostle Peter preached to the Jews in Acts chapter 2. He built off their shared understandings and beliefs and presented Jesus as the Christ crucified and raised again. But this “Acts 2 culture” isn’t the culture of today!

Today we live in what I call an “Acts 17 culture.” When the Apostle Paul preached to the Greeks in Acts 17, he had to start at the very beginning: creation. They didn’t understand that when Paul said “God,” he meant the Creator God of the Bible. They didn’t understand that they were sinners in rebellion against God (Genesis 3) or why Jesus would have to come and die. Paul had to start from the very beginning. And it’s the same today.

The way we share the gospel in a secularized culture today must change. We can’t assume we have shared understandings and beliefs—even when we use the word “God”! We must start from the beginning, with creation; show God as the Creator; his Word as truth; and that we are in rebellion against him, in desperate need of a Savior, the Lord Jesus.

It’s not that the gospel has changed, of course. It’s just that our culture has changed, so the way we present the gospel must likewise change. You can learn more about sharing the gospel in our modern, secular culture in my brand-new book Gospel Reset, available from our online store.

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed on Answers News today with regular cohosts Bodie Hodge and Dr. Georgia Purdom and “regular guest” Avery Foley. Answers News is our twice-weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum and broadcast on my Facebook page. We also discussed the following topics:

  • Can evolution explain sexism?
  • Is Christianity anti-science?
  • A fungus has repurposed a bacterial gene to detect gravity in crystals.
  • And more!

Be sure to join us each Monday and Thursday at 2 p.m. (EDT) on my Facebook page for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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