By Bob Unruh
Evangelicals apparently need a few lessons in the basics of Christianity, according to a new survey. The State of Theology survey by Ligonier Ministries indicates 53 percent of evangelical Christians believe everyone sins a little, but “most people are good by nature.”
“This idea flatly contradicts the Bible,” Ligonier said, “which teaches the radical corruption of every human being and declares that no one does good by nature (Rom. 3:10-12). This is why we need the gospel in the first place – because none of us is good.”
The survey takes the “theological temperature of the United States” every two years “to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with better insights for discipleship.”
The latest survey also indicates evangelicals lack understanding of Christianity’s claim of exclusivity. It found 51 percent believe God accepts “the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam,” while 42 percent disagree.
“The Bible is clear that the gospel is the only way of salvation, and God will not accept the worship of other faiths. It is only through Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit that we are able to worship the Father in spirit and truth, (John 4:24),” Ligonier said.
On the question of justification by works or faith, the respondents did better. Ninety-one percent said faith alone.
“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,” the report said.
Evangelical theology, affirming the divinity of Jesus, holds that God is one God in three divine persons.
The survey also examined the beliefs of Americans overall. It found a majority of American adults agree with well-known doctrines of the Christian faith, but they hold those teachings loosely.
“Americans,” the report said, “do not seem to grasp the reality of God’s holiness.” For example, 69 percent disagree that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. “If God is not holy, then sin is not a big deal. It is because of our understanding of God’s holiness that we understand how significant sin is,” the report said.
“Moreover, a majority of Americans downplay the importance of the church’s gathering together to worship God. This shows a characteristic American emphasis on individuality, an individuality that runs counter to the Bible’s teaching.”
The survey found 58 percent of adults agree that worshiping alone or with one’s family is “a valid replacement” for regular church attendance. As many as 60 percent of adults agree that religious belief is a matter of personal opinion, not objective truth.
“If Christianity and its doctrines, such as the holiness of God and the resurrection of Christ, are merely matters of personal opinion, then we are truly lost. This statistic is a reminder that Christians must contend for the ‘true truth’ of Christianity when engaging with the culture,” the report said.
On new social movements, the survey found 44 percent agree that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today. And it indicates the nation’s sexual ethic “continues to move away from a Christian ethic to a secular and relativistic one.” Fifty-two percent said abortion is a sin.
Ligonier said there were alarming responses to questions about whether only those who trust in Jesus will receive eternal salvation, whether the Bible contains “myths,” whether sex outside of marriage is a sin and regarding gender identity.
The survey indicates “deep confusion about the Bible’s teaching, not only among Americans as a whole, but also among evangelicals.”
“There is something very wrong when a majority of Americans can give the correct answers to basic Bible questions and at the same time say that their beliefs are purely a matter of personal opinion.”
What’s needed? “Sound biblical teaching and the bold preaching of the gospel,” the Ligonier said.
“Millions of people do not understand the holiness of God, the reality of sin, and the one way of salvation in Jesus Christ.”
Read the full results of the survey here thestateoftheology.com