What Makes a Christian?

According to one recent study, a lot of Christians can still be found in Western Europe—they just don’t go to church or hold some of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, such as a belief in the God of the Bible.

Sound strange?

Surveying fifteen European nations from Austria to the United Kingdom, the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., found median percentages of at least 71 percent and as many as 91 percent said they either considered themselves Christian, were raised as Christians, or were baptized into church membership.

But that same survey revealed a median response of only 22 percent when asked if a person attended church services at least once a month or more often. That means more than three-quarters of those saying they’re Christians have given up on one of the key elements of faith: regular participation in congregational worship.

Many of the non-practicing Europeans say they believe in a “spiritual force,” as opposed to believing in the God of the Bible. One academic told The Atlantic magazine this may signal a new evolution of belief.

“I hypothesize that being ‘spiritual’ may be a transitional position between being Christian and being non-religious,” Linda Woodhead, a professor of politics, philosophy, and religion at Britain’s Lancaster University, said. “Spirituality provides an opportunity for people to maintain what they like about Christianity without the bits they don’t like,” she added.

According to the Pew Center research, most European non-believers see no need for any spiritual belief: “Majorities [of non-believers] agree with the statements, ‘There are no spiritual forces in the universe, only the laws of nature’ and ‘Science makes religion unnecessary in my life.’ ”

And across Europe, non-practicing Christians say they’re more comfortable with legalized abortion and same-sex marriage than their churchgoing counterparts, and large numbers of church-attending Christians hold similar views. Instead of a “straightforward secularization,” many in Europe are taking a pick-and-choose approach to spiritual beliefs and practices, Woodhead said.

“We’re seeing something more complex that we haven’t fully got our heads around,” she told The Atlantic. “In Europe, it’s about people disaffiliating from the institution of the Church and the old authority figures … and moving toward a much more independent-minded, varied set of beliefs.”

While being “independent-minded” might seem like a good move in a postmodern age, such an approach is in opposition to the Almighty’s declaration in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I do not change” (NKJV). If God’s Word is unchanging, then what sort of presumption is it to view spiritual practice the way diners approach an array of dishes at an all-you-can-eat buffet?

In other words, if the Bible’s teachings are variable and can be selected at whim, “Is There Anything Left You Can Trust?” Well, as you might guess, we believe that there is. Click here for a free Bible Study lesson will help you determine what’s true—and why it’s vital to cling to the truth!


—Written by Mark A. Kellner

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