Survey warns about “widespread confusion” on basic theological issues among US evangelicals
The State of Theology survey released by LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries “reveals that many evangelicals express erroneous views that mirror the broader U.S. population”.
LifeWay Research · NASHVILLE · 11 SEPTEMBER 2020 · 11:06 CET
Ligonier Ministries, along with LifeWay Research, has released its biennial State of Theology survey, which aims to “take the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church for discipleship”.
The survey explores the religious and cultural beliefs of U.S. adults regarding the nature of God, authority of the Bible, salvation, or Christian political engagement, among many others.
They conducted the study every two years since 2014, and for this year edition they surveyed a representative sample of 3,002 US adults, from March 10 to 18, 2020.
Among those surveyed, 630 declared themselves professing evangelicals. According to the survey, although they “tend to express great concern for the gospel, trends in our findings reveal that many evangelicals also express erroneous views that mirror the broader U.S. population”.
God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit
When asked about the doctrine of God, evangelical respondents were nearly unanimous in affirming that God is a perfect being (97%); that God is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (96%); and that God cares about our day-to-day decisions (87%).
However, when it comes to whether God accepts worship from all religions, evangelicals are more divided, with 42% agreeing with it and 49% answering “no”.
Regarding Jesus, two-thirds of evangelicals (65%) affirmed the statement that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God”, while 30% do not believe that Jesus is God but instead think he is simply a “great teacher”, which is “very concerning” for the authors of the survey.
For the questions about the Holy Spirit, 46% of evangelicals pointed out that “the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being”, while 78% do not think the Spirit can instruct someone to do something that goes against Scripture.
94% evangelicals agreed that the Bible has authority
When it comes to the Bible, 98% of evangelicals believed that the biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are “completely accurate”, and 91% affirmed that the Bible is “100% accurate in all that it teaches”.
Although 94% agreed that the Bible has authority to instruct in us in what to do, 18% of evangelical respondents also believe the Bible “contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true”.
The doctrine of salvation
According to the survey, “only a minority of U.S. Evangelicals (38%) agree with the biblical doctrine that God chose the people he would save before he created the world, showing that the influence of Arminian theology remains strong in American evangelical churches”.
Furthermore, it “shows a decline in the number of professing evangelicals who have an accurate understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation, with only 57% affirming that the Holy Spirit gives a spiritual new birth or new life before a person has faith in Jesus Christ”.
Related to the doctrine of salvation, the survey revealed that “84% of evangelicals surveyed believed that God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ and 46% affirmed that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature”.
Evangelicals in politics
This is a presidential election year in the US, and “evangelicals express strong support for the freedom of Christians to join the debate”, the authors of the study underlined.
Only 16% of evangelicals said that “Christians should be silent on issues of politics”. This is down from 39 percent in 2016, ahead of Trump’s election.
“Widespread confusion about the Bible and the reality of who God is”
According to Chris Larson, president and CEO of Ligonier Ministries, “the 2020 State of Theology survey uncovers widespread confusion in the United States about the Bible's teaching and the reality of who God is”.
“Many have observed the drift among Americans toward relativism, and this survey helps to quantify how this nation is abandoning objective truth altogether”, he added.
Larson warned that “sadly, just when the church needs to be clear and bold about our triune God, the Scriptures, sin, and salvation, many evangelicals are evidently being influenced more by this cultural drift than by the Word of God”.
However, “Christians have an opportunity to bring light and comfort to our troubled times by pointing to Jesus Christ and the authority and sufficiency of the Bible”.
“These survey results reveal that there is much work to do. Let us pray for an awakening to our holy God and to what He has revealed about Himself and how we are to live in this world", he concluded.