American evangelicals are “deeply confused” about some core doctrines of the Christian faith—and the fourth-century heretic Arius would be pleased, according to a new survey.
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. The survey, also conducted in 2014 and 2016, offers a detailed look at the favorite heresies of evangelicals and of Americans at large.
Ligonier wanted to know what Americans “believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible.”
“Overall, US adults appear to have a superficial attachment to well-known Christian beliefs,” stated the ministry. “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,” stated Ligonier. For example:
- 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” [see below for LifeWay Research’s four-part definition], 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.”