Confusion Reigns, Even Among Evangelicals
“The 2018 State of Theology survey reveals deep confusion about the Bible’s teaching, not only among Americans as a whole, but also among evangelicals,” Ligonier reports. “When it comes to U.S. adults overall, a clear majority agree with well-known doctrines of the Christian faith. But beneath the surface, they hold these truths loosely.”
Among evangelical adults, 52 percent agree with the statement “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” Although 91 percent of evangelicals agree that people are justified by faith alone, they’re confused about the person of Jesus Christ, Ligonier notes. Most evangelical Christians surveyed (97 percent) say they believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, yet more than three-quarters (78 percent) agree with the statement “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.”
In the early Christian church, Arius preached that heresy, and its resurgence shows “the pressing need for Christians to be taught Christology,” Ligonier states. “There is a general lack of teaching today on the person of Christ, a doctrine for which the early church fought so hard.” Two church councils in the 4th century condemned Arius’ teachings.
Chris Larson, president and CEO of Ligonier Ministries, says, “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.”
For the State of Theology survey, evangelicals are defined as people who strongly agree with these four statements: The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
Other Findings With Major Implications for the Church
The 2018 State of Theology survey reveals “a superficial attachment” among American adults “to well-known Christian beliefs,” Ligonier says. Although 66 percent agree that Jesus physically rose from the dead, 69 percent disagree that “even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.”
Views about the Holy Spirit also are alarming, with 59 percent of people agreeing that “the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.”
The survey also delved into attitudes toward worship. More than half (58 percent) of American adults agree that “worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.”
Pastors and church leaders should heed these responses, which, according to Ligonier, “show the urgent need for sound biblical teaching and the bold preaching of the gospel.” The ministry adds, “There is much work to be done, but it is our hope that these findings will serve the church in its efforts to reach more people with the faithful proclamation of the truth of God’s Word.”
Ligonier Ministries was founded in 1971 by theologian R.C. Sproul, who died in December 2017.