6-Week Series: Against All Odds

Sermon Illustrations

“The Commercial Appeal,” Memphis, TN Tues., Sept. 12, 2006. Study asks: In what God do we trust? Baylor University in Waco, Texas researchers found we may be "one nation, under God," but Americans actually worship at least four versions of the Lord (according to the Baylor Religion Survey released Monday).

The study asked 1,721 Americans more than two dozen questions about God’s character and behavior. They perceived of God in one of four ways:

Authoritarian God: God is highly involved in their personal lives and in world affairs.

They give the Deity credit for their decision-making, and they feel God is angry and is punishing the wicked.

Benevolent God: God is mostly a force for positive influence in the world.

These believers also think God is very active in their daily life, just not as wrathful.

Critical God: God is not meddling in world affairs but is nonetheless looking on in disapproval.

These people tend to believe that divine justice is not of this world.

Distant God: Distant God is not active in humanity’s affairs, and is not especially angry, either.

Believers consider God more of a cosmic force setting laws of nature into motion.

Which of the God models you follow is an accurate predictor of several things, including race, political stances, even where you live, said Paul Froese, a Baylor sociologist who worked on the project.

For example, Women tend toward the Authoritarian and Benevolent versions, while men tend toward the less engaged and are more likely to be atheistic.

More than half the black respondents said they believe in the Authoritarian God. None said they were atheist.

Lower-income and less-educated people were more likely to worship the Authoritarian or Benevolent God, while those with college degrees or earning more than $100,000 were more likely to believe in the Distant God or be atheists.

Geography also seemed to correlate:

Easterners disproportionately seem to believe in a Critical God.

Southerners tend toward the Authoritarian God.

Midwesterners worship the Benevolent God.

West Coast residents contemplate the Distant God.

Other findings: Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants (Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ) are more apt to see God as distant.

Evangelical and black Protestants lean toward the Authoritarian God.

You can get an idea by those divisions about which people are more intent about running their own lives, versus those who are giving some thought to what God expects from them.