July 15, 1997
Children in a grade school crowded around their new school mascot, a furry little hamster. One asked the teacher if it was a boy or a girl. The teacher didn’t know. The children hotly debated the question until finally, one little fellow thought he had the solution. He said, “I know. Let’s vote on it.”
This amusing story is harmless because the children will soon learn that taking a poll does not change a hamster’s gender. However, what happens when we make vital decisions based on opinion polls rather than on established facts?
One example might be the trial of a person for a murder he did not commit. A decision must be made whether or not the suspect committed the crime even though innocence is already a fact. But if innocence cannot be defended with solid evidence, the suspect’s fate is left in to the opinion of a judge or jury.
All too often, spiritual matters are likewise tried in the courts of popular opinion. Consider statements like: “The Bible? Nobody believes that anymore.” Or “Christianity is just old-fashioned and not very popular.” Or “None of my friends believe in God so why should I?”
In polling Americans to find out their beliefs, results consistently show that about 85% of Americans and Canadians consider themselves to be Christian. The biblical definition of a Christian is someone who knows God, trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, and believes the Word of God. That is, Christians put their faith in what God says rather than in the opinions of people.
Being a Christian is a fact-issue. A person either believes God or they don’t. Yet another poll reveals that some of those 85% may have the wrong opinion of themselves. This poll asked questions about spiritual matters to those who claim to know God. Some were: Can a person who does good earn a place in Heaven? Is Hell an actual place or a state of separation from God? Is Satan a living being or a symbol of evil? Was Jesus actually resurrected from the dead?
In this poll, 57% said they think people who do good can earn a place in Heaven. In contrast, Scriptures say the opposite: “For it is by grace you are saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2).
Of course God wants everyone to do good, but the Bible makes it clear that not one person’s life measures up to God’s standard for heaven. If we want to have eternal life, He offers only one way to get it—through faith in Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father but by me.”
Those who entrust their eternal destiny to Christ are given His life and a new nature, out of which comes the ability to do the kind of good deeds that please God. Apart from Christ, whatever we call good cannot earn us a place in Heaven.
Another question in the poll asked people if they believe Jesus rose from the dead (as if such a monumental event could be decided by opinion). Despite evidence from Scripture, the testimonies of key witnesses, and other historical records, 45% of people interviewed believe that Jesus was not resurrected.
What if that had been a 100% decision against it? Or for that matter, a 100% vote for it? Would either one determine whether it happened or not?
Public opinion is not always reliable because many people do not always make decisions based on facts or a thorough examination of the evidence. In this case, everyone needs to examine the record and claims of Christ as they would a case in a courtroom. This is a vital issue that concerns eternal destiny and should not be left to public opinion but given serious investigation.