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Two in five think Jesus is a mythical figure

Mon 21 Sep 2015
By Aaron James

A joint study from major Christian organisations has found while 57% of people in England call themselves Christians, two in five think Jesus wasn't a real person.

The research of 3,000 people, conducted by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and Hope, also found one in five people who aren't Christians would be happy to learn more about the faith after hearing other Christians talk to them about it.

Most people in the study knew at least one Christian, and were most likely to describe them as 'friendly', 'caring', 'good-humoured', 'generous' or 'helpful'.

Overall, 43% of respondents believed that Jesus rose again from the dead.

However there were less encouraging statistics for the Christian groups too.

More than a third of people (39%) thought Jesus was a mythical figure, rather than actually existing in history. This was particularly the case for under-35s, who were 25% more likely to think Jesus didn't actually exist than those aged 36 and above.

And while the study found 57% identified themselves as Christians, less than one in ten (9%) described themselves as "practising", defined in the study as regularly praying, reading the Bible and attending church at least monthly.

The study found the same proportion of practising Christians among under and over-35s, while also finding that under-35s were more open to Christianity and Jesus than their older contemporaries, signalling that as time goes on the number of practising Christians may well go up.

Dr Rachel Jordan, the national adviser for mission and evangelism, said Christians must not assume that people know Jesus was a real historical figure, and make it a priority to talk about him in a relevant, sensitive way.

Dr Jordan was also encouraged that younger generations were both as likely to be practising Christians as their older counterparts, but also that they were more open - and pointed to this as a good sign for the future.

She also said it was the job of Christians to explain to those who call themselves Christians but don't practice what it actually means to follow Jesus.

Speaking on Premier's News Hour, she said: "They think we're friendly, caring and good-humoured, and they like being around us, which is such great news as Christians to know. We're liked, in fact, we're loved...

"We think because people grow up in this country, they'd know that Jesus was a real person... so it's a challenge to make sure that news gets to people. I wonder if we've got complacent or assumed it was the school's job, and actually maybe there's something about us as the Church recognising that we have a clear responsibility... to make sure everybody... hears about Jesus Christ.

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speaking to Dr Rachel Jordan here:

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