Only 46 percent of self-identified Christians in Britain believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, according to a BBC poll released on Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week. Those who do believe in Jesus’s death and Resurrection were less likely to find a wide array of sins “unforgivable.”
“A new poll for the BBC finds that fewer than half of Christians in the UK think Jesus actually died and rose again for the forgiveness of their sins,” the BBC reported Sunday. “Just 46 percent of people who identified as Christians said they believe this key tenet of the Christian faith.”
According to Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Those who do not believe in Jesus’s death and Resurrection do not believe the gospel and are not truly Christians.
The poll, conducted by ComRes Global, focused on the issue of forgiveness. It found that “active Christians” are more likely than self-identified Christians and non-Christians to be willing to forgive various sins, including murder, child abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, and stealing. This does not mean they find these sins easy to forgive, but rather that they do not consider these sins as “unforgivable” as non-Christians do.
Such a trend would make sense, given the Christian conviction that every person is a sinner and that people only get to heaven by accepting Jesus and being forgiven for their sins.
As for the events of Holy Week, the poll asked, “To what extent, if at all, do you agree or disagree that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected at Easter so that you can be forgiven for your sins?”
While only 23 percent of self-identified Christians said they “strongly agree” and another 23 percent said they “tend to agree,” that does not mean most Christians said they do not believe Jesus actually died and rose again. About a quarter (26 percent) said they “neither agree nor disagree,” and 11 percent said they “don’t know.” A further 9 percent said they “tend to disagree,” and another 9 percent said they “strongly disagree,” for a total of 18 percent who disagree.
Faith in the events of Holy Week increased with church attendance. Among those who reported having attended a religious service ever, 48 percent said they agree that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. One in five said they disagree (20 percent), and another 20 percent said they neither agree nor disagree. Twelve percent said they don’t know.
Two-thirds of those who attend religious services at least monthly (67 percent) said they agree that Jesus died and rose again for their sins, with nearly half (47 percent) saying they “strongly agree.” Only 13 percent said they disagree, while another 12 percent said they neither agree nor disagree, and another 7 percent said they don’t know.
“Active Christians” were the most likely to believe in the events of Holy Week. Sixty-one percent said they “strongly agree” that Jesus died and rose again, while 20 percent merely agreed, for a total of 81 percent. Only 4 percent said they disagree, and another 13 percent said they neither agree nor disagree.
It is lamentable that fewer than half of self-identified Christians in Britain confirm that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Any self-identified Christian who does not believe these things needs to read the New Testament and books like Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus.
There is excellent reason to believe Jesus Christ did physically die on the cross and rise from the dead, and His Resurrection is arguably the single most important event in history, even from a secular standpoint. Christians should know this history and own it, preaching the good news to those around them (Matthew 28:18-20).
Yet even the BBC poll is not as pessimistic as it at first appears. Too many self-identified Christians pleaded ignorance or refused to take a stand on the events of Holy Week, but most Christians do not disagree that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. In fact, even in increasingly secular Britain, Christians are more likely to believe in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus if they go to church, and are even more likely to believe if they are practicing the faith.
Perhaps the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris will encourage Christians in Britain, America, and across the world to appreciate the churches that they have, and to visit them more often. This Friday, Western Christians remember the death of Jesus, and on Sunday they will celebrate His Resurrection. This Holy Week is as good a time as any to brush up on the ways we know Jesus died and rose again, and to return to the ancient faith that built such grand cathedrals.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.