Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey
Here are some interesting extracts from an article in October’s Christianity Today about what we believe.
For the third time, Ligonier Ministries has examined the State of Theology in the United States, conducted by LifeWay Research and based on interviews with 3,000 Americans.
Superficial (and Wrong) Beliefs
Overall, US adults appear to have a superficial attachment to well-known Christian beliefs. For example, a majority agreed that Jesus died on the cross for sin and that he rose from the dead.
However, they rejected the Bible’s teaching on (1) the gravity of man’s sin, (2) the importance of the church’s gathering together for worship, and (3) the Holy Spirit.
- More than two-thirds (69%) of Americans disagree that the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation—and 58 percent strongly disagree. Ligonier finds this “alarming.”
- A majority of US adults (58%) said that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Only 30 percent disagree.
- A majority of US adults (59%) say that the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being.
Ligonier cites relativism for such a “casual outlook.” In the survey, 6 in 10 Americans agree that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion [and] not about objective truth”—and 1 in 3 evangelicals (32%) say the same.
When it comes to Americans with “evangelical beliefs, the survey found that a majority say:
- Most people are basically good (52%)
- God accepts the worship of all religions (51%)
- Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father (78%)
“However, all these beliefs are contrary to the historic Christian faith,” stated Ligonier, citing Romans 3:10 on sin, John 14:6 on God, and John 1:1 on Jesus.
For example, while an overwhelming 97 percent of evangelicals do believe that “there is one true God in three persons,” 3 out of 4 of them attempt to give Jesus first-place honors even though that belief “has been rejected by the church down through the centuries.”
Confusion about Jesus
Strangely, while most evangelicals strongly believe in justification by faith alone, they are confused about the person of Jesus Christ. On one hand, virtually all evangelicals express support for Trinitarian doctrine. Yet at the same time, most agree that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God, which was a view espoused by the ancient heretic Arius.
Arius was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381. Yet the number of American evangelicals who agree with his view has increased from 2016, when 71 percent agreed and 23 percent disagreed, to today when 78 percent agree and 18 percent disagree.
“These results show the pressing need for Christians to be taught Christology, especially as the outcome has gotten worse since 2016,” stated Ligonier. “There is a general lack of teaching today on the person of Christ, a doctrine for which the early church fought so hard.”
On social issues, the 2018 edition is the first of Ligonier’s three surveys to find that more Americans agree than disagree that “the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today” (44% vs. 41%).
On abortion, it found that a “slim majority” of Americans believe that the procedure is a sin (52% vs. 38%), including 57 percent of those ages 18 to 34.
It’s never been popular to talk about mankind’s sinfulness or the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. But at a time when a darkened world needs the light of the gospel, it’s disheartening to see many within the evangelical church confused about what the Bible teaches.
“These results are a serious cause for concern,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer and president of Reformation Bible College. “… The evangelical world is in great danger of slipping into irrelevance when it casually forgets the Bible’s doctrine.”
Ligonier’s complete findings can be found at thestateoftheology.com.