Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
"Christians" and Christians
Very recently I came by two different sets of statistics related to the visible decline of Christianity in the West, one was a local newspaper article and one was by the BBC.
The BBC article reported that for the first time less than half of the population of England/Wales identified as Christian down to 46.2% in the 2021 Census from 59.3% in the 2011 Census (Britain does their censuses every decade). What is more, those who claim no religion are approaching those who claim to be Christian at 37.2%. However, a more accurate indicator as to the state of Christianity is not the census but those who attend a church service semi-regularly at 1.5%. As not everyone who goes to church is a Christian (i.e. they may be a “seeker” or nominal, as shall be seen), an generous estimate as to the number of Christians in the UK could be as liberal as 1% (670,000). 46.2% vs. 1% is a BIG difference!
In Canada there is a similar trend. Our recent census figures show 53.3% identify as Christian compared to 67.3% in 2001. The more accurate gauge as to the true number of Christians is church attendance. The following chart shows the decline of those who attend weekly service:
Today, partly because all religions are included in studies and partly because the measurement moved from weekly to monthly (itself telling) it can be difficult to truly gauge numbers. One study put monthly religious attendance at 23% (including all religions). Stats Canada (2019) noted 31% of professing Christians were in church monthly (2.283 million or 6% of the population). We might halve that to get a rough weekly figure of 1.14 million or 3% of the population. So liberally in 2019 (pre-pandemic), 3% of the population may have been Christian vs. 63.2% in the census. That is a BIG difference!
That means 3 out of 100 people you meet in Canada may be Christian!
What the media, ever the naturalist, fails to distinguish is between true Christians as God sees them and visible Christians as the world sees (2 Ti 2:19). The world likes terms like practicing vs. non-practicing Christian, etc. Muslims think of the entire West as Christian, either because of its past or its censuses. Rather the Bible speaks of Christians and non-Christians.
Just because I call myself a cat doesn’t make me one. Just because I sit in a garage doesn’t make me an automobile. So too, just because I call myself a Christian or go to Church doesn’t make me one.
We must not think naturistically like the world but see spiritually as the Bible teaches. We need to have discernment. The Bible has not left us blind to discern the marks of a genuine believer.
Jesus said we would “know them by their fruits” and that not everyone who said “Lord, Lord,” would enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 7). Likewise in 2 Cor 13:5 Paul urges the Corinthians to “test yourselves” and the possibility of failing “to meet the test.” Not all “Christians” are Christians. Similarly, Revelation speaks of “synagogues of Satan,” Jewish gatherings that visibly should have embraced their Messiah and been friendly but had rejected Him and so spiritually were not friendly. Indeed like many things in life we need this distinction to see the difference between real Christians and true Churches and nominal Christians and false Churches.
The Bible is filled with “tests of assurance,” marks that we are to use to evaluate (not be judgemental) as to whether someone is a Christian. You might read 1 John, which is filled with them, but the following may suffice. We know a Christian by three basic marks: by their lips (Ro 10:9–10), by their lives (Gal 5:22–23); by their baptized into the visible Church (Acts 2:38, 41).
Let’s wisely evaluate both our own lives and those who claim to be “Christian.”
 This group is commonly known as “the dones;” those who are still spiritual but not religious. They constitute an interesting demographic for evangelism.
 See Edwards Religious Affections if you’d like to do much deeper on this subject. Edwards was caught up in the 1st Great Awakening. He thought optimistically of all those who’d professed to be “converted.” In his book he looks at the Biblical marks of genuine conversion.
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