Just how wide is the Christian Bell Curve?
September 26, 2009, 09:53
Filed under: Uncategorized
Does x mark the spot?

Does x mark the spot?

Most of us are familiar with  the bell curve. [ I believe it is named after our friend and willohroots blog poster The Eclectic Christian,  but I am not serious about that.]  The curve is a way of showing graphically that the largest number of a given group is in the middle but out on the ends there are extremes, but in lesser number.  With my Psych background, I am most familiar with IQ plotted in this manner.  Intelligence Quota,  or as measured, how successful one is at taking an IQ test,  can be shown in a population as most in the middle being an average, and some with genius on the right side, and a roughly corresponding number of the  less intelligent on the left.

Let us say a bell shaped curve was drawn not to show intelligence in the population, but to show Christian beliefs.  Say we got some data from the Barna group.   Barna is the Christian Gallop.   Here is an example of a recent poll.


  • One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.
  • Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. That proportion includes the four-fifths of born again adults (79%) who concur.
  • Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force. Even a minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective.
  • Similarly, only one-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born again Christians (47%) strongly reject the notion of earning salvation through their deeds.
  • A minority of American adults (40%) are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Slightly less than two-thirds of the born again segment (62%) strongly believes that He was sinless.
  • Seven out of ten adults (70%) say that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who still rules it today. That includes the 93% of born again adults who hold that conviction.

I am not about to address the findings of that survey,  that is a different post,  today I am asking, because I wish I knew, How far out from center can you get and still be a Christian?

Are the 7% of born again Christians who believe in a God who is not all powerful, all knowing , are they really Christian?                                                      Are the 38% who believed Jesus was a sinner really ‘saved’?                                   The 53 % who work to earn salvation?

Let us look at this behaviorally.  How far out can you get not only in your beliefs but in your practices. This one is chewing me up today.  Are the men crawling around on all fours barking, claiming the Holy Spirit is involved in this asinine behavior Christians?  Are the people who pantomime drinking and then fall around as drunk Christians?  Are people who ‘Toke on the Ghost   and then act stoned Christians?  I really don’t know, but it sure makes me wonder.  A perfectly nice fellow here in town, invited me to his church, where , he explained, you can plunge your head into a basin of holy water and come up speaking in the tongues of angels.  I missed that in my bible, and have no desire to do such a thing.  Where do each of us fall on the graph?

Lets look at people who hold up signs that say “God hates America”  are they too far out on one side or the other to be called Christian?  What about women preachers who marry Gay ,Lesbian, Transsexual, Trans gender Couples? Are they on opposite sides of the bell?  How far out are they?

What would be measured?  Adherence to  doctrine?   Toleration for others? number of baptisms?  Love?

They way the bell curve is viewed by many in the Christian blogosphere, is the X marks the spot.  X of course, is where they are at.  They define themselves as the pivot of the Faith. To the left,  not saved, to the right, in danger of Hellfire.  It is obvious to them that they are right, Saved, justified, logical, and to be emulated.  Maybe they are right.  They can’t all be right as they are certain that the other guys are all wrong, so who is in the center of the curve? Does being in the center of the curve make you correct, or just popular?

I have no metrics to plot my faith, no measuring stick other than Scripture, which is the same gauge that the others, some of whom I consider real wackos,  say they use.  I am no longer sure the group called Christian would plot out in a bell shape.  There are times I feel far out numbered by the kooks, hard-hearts, blasphemers, apostates and swindlers.  If  I am the x on the graph, these guys are so far out in left and right extremes that I can’t see them.

I do not think X marks the spot, I think the spot is marked with a cross.


10 Comments so far
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In terms of behaviour I think there is a lot of gray area.
In terms of who is saved or not it is absolutley black and white.
We are saved and santified by the Blood of Christ through Grace and no other way.
Everything else is just window dressing or worse.

Comment by Rob Lofland

Rob, I hope and pray the hip is healing well. All I have to cling to is God’s grace. It seems to be quite enough!

Comment by willohroots

The measuring stick of the “bell curve” is Scripture alone. One of our most important foundational beliefs is that Scripture itself is the infallible & inerrant rule of faith. Therefore, when thinking through the question “how wide is the bell curve”, our answers must be found from what is revealed in Scripture alone. The battle for the bible is fought in every age, and where you come down on this question, will to a great extent, determine where you draw your line.

Comment by Ike

Ike, I echo you beliefs, but i struggle when people who seem to love God through Jesus just as much as i do come up with some different practices. Infant baptism? Speaking in tongues? A condemning spirit?
I know what i have gleaned on these issues from scripture, but what do I do with them?
Do I fellowship with those who say clergy should not marry? Are people who meet on Saturday my brothers and sisters, even though they think I am apostate?
There are so many questions, Ike. and what about people who to me seem as crazy as a latrine rat? People who claim angels kicked them in the stomach, or who have been ‘taken up’ or get ‘slain in the spirit’?
There has to be some point where it is so far from the teachings of the Lord that it just isn’t real any more.
I could name names. Pat Robertson, is a great example, or Harold Camping, both proven to be false prophets, are they still Christian? Or are they something else?

Comment by willohroots

“i struggle when people who seem to love God through Jesus just as much as i do come up with some different practices… There has to be some point where it is so far from the teachings of the Lord that it just isn’t real any more.”

Early on I learned that the world is inconsistent. I was on the east African coast, talking to a dirt-poor local sailor and father of ten. He was a Muslim. I’d asked him if he’d ever been to Mecca and he said he had. I was puzzled by this because I knew he didn’t have a passport, and the Saudi consulate told me that a passport and visa were required for entry into their country.

What I came to learn was that this guy was totally under the radar. Laws that applied to me existed on a plane that he simply didn’t occupy. His language, social circles, and poverty placed him in a world that had a landscape very different from mine. He could go to Mecca anytime he wanted, he didn’t need a passport.

I think this parallels what you are wrestling with. You and I are saved by grace through faith. Also, you and I need the proper stamps in our passports if we are to enter Saudi Arabia. Will these unusual “Christians” you meet be saved? May as well ask whether my sailor friend has overstayed his visa; it’s not a meaningful question. Those people don’t live in the same world that we do.

Fortunately, you and I do not need to judge who is saved and who isn’t. We don’t even need to judge who is a Christian and who isn’t, except insofar as we’d like to have a clear definition for the word “Christian.” Whatever definition we settle on, we will have to work with people whether they meet that definition or not. And whether they meet the definition or not, they will be imperfect, incomplete people, people whom we should be helping to get closer to God.

So, in answer to this question:

“Do I fellowship with those who say clergy should not marry?”

I would say yes, and I would say you can fellowship with all those others as well. That doesn’t mean you have to do as they do (you certainly wouldn’t want to try sneaking into Arabia without a passport, even if your friend helps), and that doesn’t mean their practices aren’t sometimes detrimental to themselves. But there is more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy, and we have to take people as they come.

Comment by Alamanach

Thank you for opining. This is one of those struggles that do not consume me, but pop up once in a while as a burr under the saddle or a buzzing in the ear. Being able to hear your opinion, your perspective is a balm for my rash of irritation. Thanks again for ministering to me. God bless you and all the respondents.

Comment by willohroots

The Lord will decide. It’s all about whom He chooses. He chose many before there were any Bibles floating around.

He chose many who were never baptized.

He has chosen many who were only baptized.

Many who were heretics.

All of whom, He knew their hearts.

But, good doctrine is important and we try and stay faithful to the Word.

After that, it’s up to Him.

Comment by theoldadam

The one quote that came to me on this is:

“In necessary things (essentials), unity; in doubtful things (non-essentials), liberty; in all things, charity (love).”

Some of the things you pointed out are certainly essentials. As such, we Christians must be united in these. Otherwise, it’s of the devil, the father of lies and disunity. That’s his plan: to thwart the work of God.

As Ike correctly pointed out, the Word is our guide and our plumb-line. It has to be. What else is there? (It’s a loaded question…I have friends who I know will have an answer to that.)

Comment by Joe Chavez

You guys really help keep me on track. thanks. I needed that.

Comment by willohroots

Tough one, Will. I believe you’re right about the Cross being the “X” that marks the spot. How far can you go from there, before it’s too far? Maybe it’s until you can no longer see the Cross.

Maybe we need those (possibly us?), out there on the curve to reach those, who are too far away.

If it’s what God wants, even a latrine rat can be used to serve His purpose.

Comment by Shawn W

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