Cafeteria Christians

A Christian Science Monitor article titled Most US Christians define own theology used a term that I had not heard in a while - I used in to title this post. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

In the Barna survey, 71 percent of American adults say they are more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a defined set of teachings from a particular church. Even among born-again Christians, 61 percent pick and choose from the beliefs of different denominations. For people under the age of 25, the number rises to 82 percent.

Many "cafeteria Christians" go beyond the teachings of Christian denominations to embrace parts of other world religions.
Christians expressed a variety of unorthodox beliefs in the poll. Nearly half of those interviewed do not believe in the existence of Satan, one-third believe Jesus sinned while on earth, and two-fifths say they don't have a responsibility to share their faith with others.
I remember years ago.when I first heard the phrase "Cafeteria Christians", it referred to folks that visited different churches and really were not "committed" to one church. This article has a different definition.. one in which (so-called) orthodoxy is defined by the individual rather than the group (i.e. denomination or church). That gives me pause.. hmmm.. and cause to think.

In BlogWorld this phenomenon of Cafeteria Christians seem more of the norm than not because very few people speak for a group.. almost all bloggers speak for themselves and many embrace a distinct and almost personal theology. Many who refer to the "Institutional Church" give the impression that they hold to traditional orthodox Christian theology but reject traditional church structures and hierarchies. It can be confusing and difficult to sort out some times.

Personally, it has been a long time since I have embraced the theology in total of a church that I have attended. Even on our church staff pastors did not agree in every theological aspect. When we studied the bible together each week we all seemed to learn from each other. Yet, unlike those surveyed, we all seemed to share a common ground on things like the existence of Satan, the sinless life of Christ and our need to share the good news with others.

What do you think about this idea of being a Cafeteria Christian? Is it a good thing or not? As my fellow blogger Preacherman says - share your thoughts..


  1. I believe that the fundamentals of our faith, anchored in God's original purpose for creation, is found in community. Jesus underscored that purpose when He created the 'Great Commandment' out of two critical OT commandments; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength - and the second is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself." Pretty hard to be a disciple and live outside of an organic community of believers. Those who are trying to pursue a virtual cyber-community of faith are attempting to counterfiet the Kingdom and will never achieve what God intended His church to be. The church certainly needs to redefine itself in the 21st century, but I think this is the wrong direction.

  2. This reminds me of the song by Depeche Mode - "Personal Jesus".

    It can be a good thing provided people are actually coming to their theological conclusions through the study of God's word.

    Unfortunately most people's theological opinions are not that well informed.

  3. Hey Bob - you really touched on a piece of it when you stated it can be difficult sorting out what these 'findings' really mean, as it involves info taken from a number of areas that involve odd cultures & dynamics.

    Heck - every Christian has their own theology, in many respects; & I trust you know my meaning. We all will have slight (or large) takes on this or that aspect of faith. It's the buffet approach to scripture that is the sticky part. No embrace of biblical authenticity prohibits any shared foundation after that. - td

  4. I hear you Tim.. but even some think that you need to study the KJV only to be orthodox. I am more of a trust the scriptures kind of guy than a KJV only or literalist kind of guy.

  5. Hmmm. Not sure where I sit on this. As a member, once, of a consistory, members called anyone who didn't agree completely with the whole product the church was delivering "cafeteria Christian."
    I think Tim is right about everyon having their own theology. . .and many of the different theologic beliefs actually come from interpreting the Word in a different way. Didn't the Catholics prevent the Book from being printed and then getting in the hands of the people in order to prevent that?
    It's bound to happen.
    Agree on Jesus.

  6. I'm surprised you've never heard the term before - we've been identifying "cafeteria Catholics" for years and years. The ones who choose which pieces of the faith once delivered by the Apostles through the Church via the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, as in "well, the going to heaven part sounds good, but I don't plan to save sex for marriage." Or "they can make do with a dollar in the collection plate because I worked hard for my money."

    I was one for a long time. My relationship with Jesus was pretty crummy. It feels much better to not be, can't place a value on recognizing the Way, the Truth and the Life, and it's intellectually very exciting - I never stop learning!

  7. Thought of you TZ when I saw this article titled Did 'cafeteria Catholicism' get a boost from Pope?


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