NEWS | Anne Lim
Saturday, 7 November 2015
Forty per cent of people in England do not believe Jesus was a historical figure, according to a survey by the Church of England released earlier this week.
The study of more than 2500 British adults finds that while four in ten do not think Jesus was “real person who actually lived”, 22 per cent believe he was a “mythical or fictional character” while 18 per cent just don’t know.
Among the under-35s, the proportion viewing Jesus as a fictional character rises to 25 per cent.
Confusingly, though, 43 per cent of those asked say they believe in the resurrection, even though many believe the biblical story contains elements that should not be taken literally.
The survey commissioned by the Church of England and a coalition of Christian groups finds that 57 per cent of respondents classified themselves as Christian. However, fewer than 10 per cent read the Bible or prayed regularly or went to church at least once a month.
Meanwhile, a third of those surveyed said they didn’t know anyone who was a practising Christian.
The gloomy findings were sent to the almost 470 members of the Church of England’s General Synod, which is due to discuss them at its next meeting in London at the end of this month.
The Study, Talking Jesus, was commissioned jointly by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and Hope, an umbrella body that brings local churches together in an effort to stem to decline in attendances.
It was hoped that the study – the first of its kind – would be a catalyst for effective evangelism in the years to come.
However, another alarming finding suggests that Christians who talk to their friends and colleagues about their faith are three times as likely to put them off as to attract them.
Among non-believes who said a Christian had spoken to their about Jesus, only 19 per cent said it made them want to know more while 59 per cent said they did not.
While 23 per cent said it made them “more positive towards Jesus Christ”, 30 per cent said they felt more negative.
“This piece of research should provoke us to prayer as our hearts are heavy with the reality of how little our friends and neighbours understand about who Jesus is,” a statement from the commissioning coalition says.
“But there are glimmers of hope; we are excited about this unique opportunity to understand the landscape we are in. This is not a quick-fix strategy, but a long-term commitment to changing the story in our nation, so that people might meet Jesus, love him and follow him.”