Baptists Take Heat On Estimate BIRMINGHAM, Ala., September 17 (AP) -- God only knows who g

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Baptists Take Heat On Estimate BIRMINGHAM, Ala., September 17 (AP) -- God only knows who gets to heaven, but the Southern Baptists estimate 46.1 percent of people in Alabama risk going to hell. Since the figure from church research on potentially doomed souls was made public, it is Baptists who are feeling the fire, however. The Southern Baptist Convention's county-by-county breakdown of who's bound for heaven and who isn't -- unless they are born again and accept Jesus Christ as their savior -- hit The Birmingham News on Sept. 5. It's been the buzz in some Alabama pews ever since. Under the headline: "Baptists count the lost," the front page story included a detailed map and box listing the 1.86 million "unsaved" by county in precise percentages. The Baptists said the numbers were only a guide on where to establish new churches and find more followers. But some of the faithful, Baptists as well as others, are incensed. "It is the pinnacle of presumptuousness to construct a formula for quantifying the unsaved," Jack Denver of Homewood, a self-described "practicing Christian" wrote in a letter that was among about a dozen the newspaper published from irate readers. The Southern Baptists have done such demographic research for years, said Martin King, a spokesman for the denomination's Atlanta-based Home Mission Board, which compiled the study and has national figures he would not disclose. King added that the Baptists don't claim to be passing judgment. "We don't know who's lost and who's saved," King said. "All we know is that as we understand the doctrine of salvation, a lot of people are lost." But being lost means going to hell, King said, and he understands why others are upset with the list. "People take offense when we say, according to Scripture, if you have not accepted Jesus as your personal lord and savior, you are not going to heaven," he said. "They don't like hearing that they're not going to heaven." Still, some are asking whether America's largest Protestant denomination with close to 15 million followers is trying to play God instead of preaching the Gospel. It seemed especially insulting in this Bible Belt state where religion may be the only thing more sacred than college football. As elsewhere in the South, the common salutation on meeting someone for the first time is "What church do you go to?"


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