Less than half of Americans, including just 63% of churchgoing Christians, believe Jesus existed before His virgin birth in Bethlehem, a new study from Lifeway research shows.
The study, conducted Sept. 3-14 through an online survey of a national pre-recruited panel of 1,005 Americans, shows that only 2 in 5 or 41% of American adults, in general, believe Jesus existed before His Bethlehem birth. Some 32% disagree with the idea that Christ existed before His Bethlehem birth, while 28% say they’re not sure.
Researchers also found that even among Christians who attend church four times a month or more, only 63% agree that Jesus existed before His Bethlehem birth even though many Scriptures from the Bible support that position.
“Prophecies such as those in Isaiah 9 reflect that the Messiah would be the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. While these titles reflect the Trinity, some Americans do not connect the Jesus born in Bethlehem with the Messiah who already existed as God now coming in the flesh,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
The religiously unaffiliated were the least likely among respondents in the survey to believe Jesus existed before Bethlehem, with fewer than 15% of them supporting the notion.
In John 6:62 for example, Jesus asks His many disciples at the time: “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”
The Scripture further highlights how difficult it was for many of them to embrace the idea of His divinity and pre-existence when it notes in John 6:66 that: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
In a 2016 presentation in New York City, the American Bible Society explained that despite the Bible being the most printed and sold book in the world over the last five decades, less than half of practicing Christians in the U.S. spend serious time engaging with their Bible and the rest of the country is even worse.
At the time, Samuel Harrell, director of Project Ignition at the American Bible Society, presented evidence gathered from a six-year assessment of the state of the Bible conducted by the Barna Group which showed that just 18% of the American population 18 years and older read the Bible. Among practicing Christians, only 37% were found to engage with their Bible.
A recent survey from Probe Ministries, a nonprofit that seeks to help the Church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview, also reflected unorthodox theology among born-again Christians when it found that nearly 70% of them disagree with the biblical position that Jesus is the only way to God.
Another study from Arizona Christian University published earlier this year, showed that among an estimated 176 million American adults who identify as Christian, just 6% or 15 million of them actually hold a biblical worldview.
The study showed that while a majority of Americans self-identified as Christians, including many who identify as evangelical, believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and is the Creator of the universe, more than half reject biblical teachings and principles, including the existence of the Holy Spirit.