A biennial survey of evangelical beliefs on core tenets of the Christian faith continues to reveal startling problems with the theology of the average professing Christian.
While theologians will quibble from Genesis to Revelation on every side issue imaginable, Ligonier Ministries’ “State of Theology” Survey addresses the most basic points upon which all Bible believers should agree.
The survey, conducted every two years by LifeWay, offers respondents such simple statements with which to agree or disagree as “God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake” or “The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.”
The data, however, has shown that even the most foundational teachings of Scripture are murky at best and wrong at worst to many, many self-identifying Christians.
Perhaps the most startling statistic is the sheer volume of evangelicals—and Americans in general—who believe that Jesus was “good teacher, but he was not God.”
According to a Christian Headlines report ahead of the September 8 release of this year’s survey results, 52 percent of Americans affirm Jesus’ great teaching, but not His deity.
More shocking than that is that 30 percent of professing evangelicals agreed with the statement, versus 66 percent who disagreed and affirmed Jesus’ deity.
In order to identify evangelical respondents, LifeWay selected those who strongly agreed with 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.”
“The confusion illustrated in these results suggests a dire need for Christians to be taught Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ,” Ligonier said in a news release, according to Christian Headlines.
Though Jesus’ deity has been hotly debated quite literally since His earthly ministry, this particular belief has been foundational in separating orthodox Christianity from quasi-Christian cults for two thousand years.
Christian Headlines’ Michael Foust notes that Scripture itself leaves no room for contradiction in its teaching on the matter, pointing to passages such as John 1:1, John 8:58, Romans 9:5, and Hebrews 1:1-4.
For their part, Ligonier Ministries has not left those with a faulty understanding of Jesus’ deity without resources to resolve their error. To help Christians work out this crucial doctrine, the ministry has published its “Statement on Christology,” which expounds upon the Christian teachings of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
“Statistics like these from the State of Theology survey can give us quite a shock, but they also shed light on the concerns that many American Christians and churches have expressed for decades,” said Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries.
“As the culture around us increasingly abandons its moral compass, professing evangelicals are sadly drifting away from God’s absolute standard in Scripture,” Nichols went on. “It’s clear that the church does not have the luxury of idly standing by. This is a time for Christians to study Scripture diligently, engage confidently with people in our culture, and witness fearlessly to the identity and saving work of Jesus Christ in the gospel.”
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