“Salvation” series (post #1)
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, N.K.J.V.)
There’s an old negro spiritual that contains the famous line: “Everybody talkin’ ’bout heaven ain’t agoin’ there.” Incorrect grammar and spelling aside, that line gets it dead right. That’s why I want to use this post to begin a new series on the subject of “Salvation.” And I’m calling this first post from the series “The Gate Into Heaven Is Still Narrow.”
According to Pew Research, in 2015 there were 2.3 billion Christians in the world. That number accounted for 31.2% of the world’s total population. By way of contrast, 24.1% of the world were Muslims and 15.1% were Hindus. So, despite the fact that in many places Islam is growing faster than Christianity, Christianity remains what it has been for centuries now: the largest religion in the world.
One hundred years ago Europe was home to the world’s highest percentage of Christians. Now, however, that title is worn by the Americas as 804 million Christians (37% of all Christians) live somewhere in North America or South America. In the United States alone there are 247 million Christians, and there are similarly high numbers in Brazil (176 million) and Mexico (108 million).
Europe still comes in second in terms of Christian population at 566 million, but Sub-Saharan Africa is closing ground fast by seeing the largest explosion in Christianity in recent years. In 1910, 9 million Christians lived in that part of the world. Now there are 516 million living there. The other regions named by the Pew Research group are Asia-Pacific (285 million Christians) and Middle East-North Africa (13 million).
Okay, all these statistics are interesting, but how do we reconcile Christianity being the largest religion in the world to Christ’s words about the gate that leads to life being narrow and there being few who find it? That’s a good question. Let me try to answer it.
For one thing, even if 31.2% of the world’s population are Christians, that means that 68.8% aren’t. Putting it another way, there are more than two lost people to every one Christian. That means the vast percentage of the world’s population are lost. They are walking the broad way that leads to the wide gate that opens into destruction. Proportionately speaking, that would have to make the gate that opens into life narrow by comparison.
For another thing, though, we simply must take into account the Catholicism factor. You see, the world’s Catholics all get classified under the general heading of “Christian” even though Catholicism isn’t the same as biblical Christianity. It is, instead, a bizarre mix of biblical Christianity and Roman paganism that was begun when Rome’s emperor Constantine set himself to the task of “Christianizing” his empire.
Constantine knew that him forcing his citizens to completely do away with their pagan practices would result in chaos and uprising, and so he skillfully enacted a shrewd plan by which he and his bishops, over the course of many years, took those practices and figuratively baptized them into Christianity. This baptizing extended to Rome’s pagan worship services as well as its pagan holiday celebrations. I won’t take the time here to say any more about all that, but under this site’s category labeled “Catholicism” you’ll find several posts where I delve into the subject much more extensively. Read those if you like. For the purposes of this post, suffice is to say that any study that regards Catholics as Christians skews that study to a point of making its numbers useless.
Do I believe that all Catholics are lost? No, I don’t. But I do believe the majority of them are, including the majority of their priests. At the bottom line, Catholicism is a man-made, works-based religion that elevates Peter to the status of the first Pope, Mary to the status of perpetual virginity, and the Catholic church to the status of the “true” church. Not one of those doctrines holds up in the light of scripture, and that casts serious doubt on anyone who supposedly becomes a Christian via that religious system.
Based upon all this, let’s dismiss out of hand the nonsense that 31.2% of the world’s population are authentic Christians. How can that be when a recent report done by the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project showed that no less than 50% of the world’s professing “Christians” are Catholic? For example, of Brazil’s 169 million “Christians,” 123 million of them (over 88%) are Catholics. Likewise, of Mexico’s “Christians,” over 82% are Catholic. All told, 65% of all the “Christians” who live in the Americas are Catholic, and that means that the Americas aren’t home to anywhere close to 804 million spiritually saved people who are bound for heaven.
And so how many genuine Christians are there around the world? Only God knows that answer. Without doubt, though, it is a relatively small number when compared to the world’s population of 7.6 billion. Again, even if we gave every Catholic automatic credit for being a true Christian — and we shouldn’t — the world’s Christian population would still only sit at 31.2% of the total population. Doing a bit of math then, if 31.2% claim to be Christians, but 50% of those are Catholic, we can reasonably assume that the true percentage of Christians around the world is no higher than 15%. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s much lower than that. I say that because it’s not like every person in all the other subcategories of Christianity — Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. — is truly saved, either.
But, of course, the real question comes down to you, doesn’t it? Are you a genuine Christian? Well, that’s the question that I want to help you answer over the course of this series. I don’t mind admitting that this series is going to focus on doctrine, doctrine drawn directly from the Bible’s teachings. We have to make it a doctrinal series because, when it comes to the all important subject of salvation, only the Bible’s teaching will do. So, I hope that you’ll click your way into each of these upcoming posts, and even more than that I hope that you are right now on your way to heaven.