by Grant Hawley
In the latest two issues of Pre-Trib Perspectives (April and May 2003), Dr. Tim LaHaye quotes a Gallup Poll finding that 46 percent of American adults have had a “born again experience with Jesus Christ.”1 Not only does he seem to agree with this estimate, he takes this one step further by saying “we should not be surprised if it is well over fifty percent.”2 But does this information accurately express the spiritual status of the United States?
If you are like me, you appreciate Dr. LaHaye’s ministry. But it is important for us to keep a realistic picture of our environment, lest we underestimate the wicked one and his grip on the minds of those around us.
The problem with these figures is that they do not take into account those who have trusted in a false gospel under the pretense of Christianity. I think most of us would agree that one of the biggest obstacles in evangelism is that many people think they are Christians but have trusted a false gospel. No one is harder to reach with the good news of eternal life than someone who doesn’t know they lack it.
According to the Barna Research Group, only five percent of Americans identify themselves as Evangelical.3 The term Evangelical is very broad and includes virtually any conservative protestant. The vast difference between the number of people who claim to be born again and those who identify themselves as evangelical is suspicious to say the least.
What about Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses? All of the people within these enormous cults would claim to have had a “born again experience with Jesus Christ,” yet almost none of them have trusted in Him alone for their eternal salvation.
And let’s be straightforward about it. What about those who have only believed the Lordship Salvation gospel and have thus trusted in Christ plus their repentance, good works, baptism, public confession, and/or who knows what else? How rare it is to run into someone who believes they are saved through faith alone in Christ alone! And this is the only true gospel, the only gospel that will save eternally (or any other way for that matter).
It is sad to say that Dr. LaHaye’s estimates are probably quite optimistic. In recognizing this we should be sobered. If there are so few of us who believe the true gospel, it is all the more important for us to be actively sharing the gospel with unbelievers and working to make sure Free Grace is taught in the pulpits of churches around the country and throughout the world. If we are burdened for the true gospel, we need to do all we can to promote it and protect its purity.
1. Nicholas D. Kristof, NYTimes.com March 2003.
2. Tim LaHaye, “U.N. Impotence in the Face of Terrorism,” Pre-Trib Perspectives (May 2003): 3.