01: There appears to be a growing disbelief in the Devil, according to a recent poll by the Barna Research Group.
The survey shows that nearly two out of three adults — 62 percent — agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” While this response has remained consistent throughout the decade, the number of evangelicals and particularly Catholics who hold this view is very high.
Fifty two percent of born again Christians deny Satan’s existence (52 percent) and nearly three- quarters of Catholics say the devil is non-existent (72 percent). Women are more likely than men to reject Satan’s existence (64 percent vs. 59 percent), reports a Barna news release (April 29).
Barna finds another “stunning” finding in the high rate of Americans (61 percent) who agreed that “the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s presence or power, but is not a living entity.” Traditional Christian theology teaches that the Holy Spirit is a member of the Trinity. Barna adds that “Amazingly, a majority of all born-again Christians also reject the existence of the Holy Spirit.”
(Barna Research Group, 2487 Ivory Way, Oxnard, CA 93030-6290)
02: The Assemblies of God continues to grow at a steady and impressive rate, most recently among Hispanics, according to denominational statistics.
Denominational figures report a record number of ministers and congregations in the church, showing a net increase of 562 over 1995 and the largest annual gain since 1984. There was a net growth of 61 congregations since 1995, making for a total of 11,884. During 1996, the Assemblies opened 244 churches and closed 183 in the U.S, reports Baptists Today (May 8).
The highest number of new congregations were Hispanic churches in the West and South.
(Baptists Today, 403 West Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite 119, Decatur, GA 30030)
03: A recent survey finds many similarities between “orthodox Catholics” and evangelicals and, less unexpectedly, strong divisions in American Catholic ranks.
Sociologists James Davison Hunter and Carl Bowman surveyed 2,047 Americans for a report called “State of Disunion,” and found that most Catholics expressed “a great deal of confidence” in the church and a strong allegiance to their parishes. In dividing Catholic respondents into “orthodox” and “progressive” camps (according to whether they labeled themselves as such, as well as by whether they had liberal or conservative views of the Bible, and if they regularly prayed), the researchers found that orthodox Catholics were similar to evangelicals in church attendance (65 percent said they attend weekly), reports the Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor (May 18).
Orthodox Catholics — who made up 12 percent of the Catholic sample — were close to evangelicals on the importance of their religious beliefs. But on the death penalty, orthodox Catholics were less likely to favor the measure than progressive Catholics (63 percent compared to 70 percent). Only 37 percent of orthodox Catholics, however, and 39 percent of the progressives felt that marriage between two persons of the same sex was wrong for all and should be illegal. Evangelicals disagreed at the higher rate of 60 percent.
(Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750)
04: The requirement of celibacy in becoming a Roman Catholic priest is not the major obstacle to young people entering the priesthood, reports a recent study.
A lack of encouragement by church personnel and other clergy plays a larger factor in preventing interested young men from becoming priests, according to a report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a Catholic think tank at Georgetown University.
“Those relatively uninterested in vocations are the most likely to think that celibacy presents the biggest obstacle. However, those who have seriously considered a vocation are more likely to cite reasons (other than celibacy), such as fear of parental reaction . . . or of peer reactions,” according to the CARA report.
But the desire to have children does appear to be a significant obstacle. Seventy seven percent of those who say they seriously considered the priesthood or sisterhood said they hesitated because “I want to have children.” The CARA survey is the first nationwide study on attitudes toward vocations by Catholic teens in two decades, reports the Long Island Catholic. (May 28).
05: More than two-thirds of evangelical clergy say their families experience some tension about not having enough money, according to a survey conducted by Leadership magazine.
The poll of 594 subscribers, found that half of all ministers were worried enough about their finances to consider leaving the ministry for better-paying jobs in the past year. The Washington Times (May 3) reports that overall, pastors reported receiving a median base salary of $25,000 per year.
Adding housing allowances, the median compensation was around $33,000, which is well below the median salaries of professionals in other fields.