VENTURA, Calif. (Christian Examiner) -- What Americans believe about Jesus is the focus of a recent Barna study released April 1 that breaks down the public's perception of Jesus into categories focused on Christ's humanity, deity, sinful nature and Jesus as savior.
The survey also questioned Americans' willingness to make a commitment to Jesus and unsurprisingly revealed that Millennials continue to be less connected to Christ than previous generations.
Overall, more than nine out of 10 adults (92 percent) say Jesus was real person -- even an overwhleming number of Millennials (87 percent) agree Jesus walked the earth.
But not quite six in 10 adults (56 percent) believe Jesus is God, and Millennials were the only age cohort which had less than half its group (48 percent) say Christ is divine.
Still, these findings "demonstrate the strong degree to which Jesus remains embedded in the minds of Americans," said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group.
But he acknowledged such connections are being tested with upcoming generations.
"Many of the institutional, cultural and familial tendons that connect young adults to life in Christ are stretching," Kinnaman said. "Much has been made about whether Millennials will get more serious about church and faith as they age, but the fact is younger Americans are not as connected as older generations are to Christ. Jesus is a friend of sinners, but many Millennials are 'unfriending' him at a time when their lives are being shaped and their trajectories set toward the future."
This "unfriending" phenomenon was evident in replies to whether the survey taker had made a spiritual commitment to Jesus: While 62 percent of all adults said they had made a personal commitment to Christ "that is still important in my life today," only 46 percent of Millennials said they had done so.
About two-thirds of the "committed" believe they will go to Heaven because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their Savior. Some among the self-identified Christians said they believed they will go to Heaven "because they have tried to obey the Ten Commandments (5 percent), as a result of being basically a good person (8 percent), or on the grounds that God loves all people and will not let them perish (7 percent). But, 1 in 7 admitted "they don't know what will happen after they die," according to Barna. Only 2 percent of this group say they will not go to Heaven.
Interestingly, all generations seemed to agree (or rather, disagree to the same degree) about Christ and His sinlessness.
When asked to agree or disagree with the statement that "Jesus Christ was human and committed sins, like other people," 46 percent of all survey takers disagreed, including 41 percent of Millennials. Gen-Xers had the most who differed with the statement at 48 percent, then Boomers (46 percent) and Elders (45 percent).
Kinnanan said the findings were encouraging on the one hand but underwhelming on the other.
"This study also shows the extent of Christian commitment in the nation—more than 150 million Americans say they have professed faith in Christ. This impressive number begs the question of how well this commitment is expressed," he said. "As much of our previous research shows, Americans' dedication to Jesus is, in most cases, a mile wide and an inch deep."