Beliefs About Jesus, the Bible, Heaven & Hell
Hundreds of millions of people believe Jesus is the Son of God; then again, hundreds of millions do not. Sadly, many people are unsure about what they believe nor do they take the time to look into it.
A Gallup poll found that 84% of respondents in the United States have a belief that Jesus is the Son of God. What is shocking is that most of those who believe Jesus to be the Son of God, don’t completely buy into the truth of the very source that proclaims it – the Bible!
A Baylor University study of those who considered themselves to be either mainstream Protestants or Catholics, presumably a pool of Christian believers, found that an astoundingly less than 12% believe the Bible to be literally true. Still somehow these respondents still believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
If the Bible is the only source that claims Jesus to be the Son of God, but these respondents do not wholly believe its truths, with what certainty is this conclusion drawn? A lot of uncertainty is evident.
From the opposite side of the spectrum, the same uncertainty exists. Pollster George Barna once found that half of all people claiming to be Atheists or Agnostics believe that “every person has a soul; that heaven and hell exist; and that there is life after death.”
Of those who said that they believe in a Heaven and Hell, a scant 14% said that it is only a symbolic place. A conundrum for the remaining 86% of Atheists and Agnostics: how is it possible to believe in Heaven and Hell, but not believe that there is a God who determines where a soul will spend eternity in either place – if it is not God, who or what makes this determination?
Consistently with the theme of uncertainty, the Baylor study found that 99% of those with no religious affiliation do not believe the Bible to be literal although 17% believe the Bible to be more than just legendary tales. It poses yet another mystery of how people do not completely buy into the Bible, but still believe it to hold certain truths.
Neither believers nor detractors have an absolute single piece of evidence that proves that Jesus is or is not the Son of God. Still, there can be no in-between… he either is or he was not. If Jesus was the Son of God 2000 years ago, he still is now.
Much goes into the final decision made by a judge or jury after weighing all the many pieces of evidence. In a circumstantial case, one without any direct evidence or proof, the jury must use logic to link a series of indirect evidence in order to draw a single conclusion. Among factors they consider is if there is an alternative explanation, the probability it was someone else, just a coincidence, etc.
Human nature is to casually make decisions without having all or even none of the facts. People quickly assess which traffic route is faster without checking a traffic report; take a chance on speeding with no idea of radar locations; selecting a product based on habit or advertising; ordering a menu item that looks most appealing while having not tasted it; watching a movie based on the trailer, but not checking reviews; making outdoor plans without looking at a weather forecast; etc.
Evaluating the odds of whether or not Jesus is the Son of God for most people is a casual process, too. It is often a decision made based only on tradition, assumptions, experiences, or bits and pieces of things seen or heard – a conclusion drawn without at least making a modest effort to look into it in more detail.
For many people, taking the risk is not worth the effort to avert the potential outcome. Eternity at the end of a person’s life is a risk of finality, the ultimate risk, but still most people don’t take the time to weigh the information or even make a decision at all.
Professor Peter W. Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy and later Professor Emeritus at Pasadena City College during the 1950s published a book entitled Science Speaks. The professor calculated the probability of only 8 out of the some 48 Messiah prophecies covering predictions from his birth to his death that could be fulfilled by any one person. Conservatively, the result was 1 chance in 1017 (1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000).
By comparison, the uniqueness odds of a DNA code matching to a single individual is 1 in 1015 even though there are not that many humans who have ever lived on this planet throughout the ages. In-spite-of the incredible improbability that one person could ever fulfill even a fourth of all the messianic prophecies attributed to the circumstances of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, these astounding odds alone will sway very few people to conclude that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Doctrine of Chances, a U.S. Federal legal concept, says the probability that recurrence of events with the same or similar circumstances pointing to a specific individual is not merely an accident. The greater the number of similar occurrences pointing to that central figure, the stronger the probability that they occurred by design, not by chance.
What is the improbability of mere chance that the confluence of events and circumstances at a single point in history surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth coincided with the Hebrew legacy of the many messianic prophecies, events, and circumstances over the previous 2000 years? Was it all nothing more than a big coincidence…or was it by divine design?
Updated September 1, 2023.
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 Gallup, George H. Jr. “Who Is Jesus?” Gallup. 2002. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/7471/who-jesus.aspx> >
 American Piety in the 21st Century: New Insights to the Depth and Complexity of Religion in the US. Baylor University. 2006. “Table 2: Religious Beliefs and Practices by Religious Tradition.” p 14. <http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/33304.pdf>
 “Most in U.S. believe they are heaven-bound, study says.” Austin American Statesman. 2003. Newspaper edition.
 Stoner, Peter W. and Newman, Robert C. Science Speaks. Chicago: Moody Bible Institute. 1958. Online Edition 2005. Chapter 3, #8. <http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net/>
 Trautman, Dave, “Probabilities Associated with DNA Profiling.” The Citadel Mathematics and Computer Science publication website. <http://www.mathcs.citadel.edu/trautmand/stuff/dnapapers/little.htm>. “DNA Fingerprint.” World of Forensic Science. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3448300188.html>