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The Canary in the Biennial State of American Theology Survey

Supernatural in Origin, Eternal in duration, Infinite in scope, Personal in application, universal in interest. This is the Word of God.

When is Christianity necessary?

A couple invited their pastor for dinner. They enjoyed their fellowship, and the evening was lovely. As the wife was cleaning up after the pastor had left, she noticed his silver spoon was missing. About a year later, the couple again hosted the pastor for dinner. They enjoyed the meal, and the wife could no longer bear it, she had to ask “Pastor, did you steal my silver spoon last time we ate together?” To which the pastor replied, “No, I put it inside your Bible.”

That is the story that comes to mind every time I read this survey’s findings. Now, the State of American Theology Study is sponsored by Ligonier Ministries and conducted by LifeWay Research to measure the current theological awareness of adult Americans and to expand upon earlier findings. The sample size was 3,002 adults; including 630 professing evangelicals and was designed to allow for comparisons between groups within Christian churches and those outside the Christian faith. There were 35 Christian theology statements and the findings are a fascinating read especially when separated between the two groups.

Photo by pixabay from Pexels

Photo by pixabay from Pexels

Beliefs about God

I must admit that this confused me. While 7 in 10 Americans believe in one God in three persons, the majority reject that Jesus is God and even more believe the Holy Spirit is a force. This is a core foundation of Christianity and one would expect that this conviction should be uncompromised.

The Bible in Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:23, John 1:14, and many more verses prove that Jesus Christ was the visible manifestation of God to man. The Holy Spirit can be grieved Ephesians 4:30, lied to Acts 5:3 and he was there from creation and is essential to salvation Romans 8:15-17, John 14:26, and 16:13-14.

• 65% agree “God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake.”

• 72% agree “There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”

• 63% agree “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”

• 36% agree “God will always reward true faith with material blessings in this life.”

• 55% agree “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” This is lower than in 2018 (57%).

• 51% agree “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”

• 59% agree “The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.”

• 60% disagree “The Holy Spirit can tell me to do something which is forbidden in the Bible.”

Photo by nappy from Pexels

Photo by nappy from Pexels

Beliefs about the Bible

More Americans believe that the resurrection of Jesus as historically accurate. They also agree it is the highest authority for what they believe. However, when it comes to apply what the Bible teaches, they are split. The Bible specifically addresses this in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.”

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• 66% agree “Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred.”

• 48% agree “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”

• 48% agree “The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.” This is lower than the 2018 (50%) survey.

• 49% disagree “Modern science disproves the Bible.”

• 51% agree “The Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do.” This is lower than the 2018 (53%) survey.

• 40% agree “The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.”

• 62% agree “The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.”

Beliefs about Life

In the temptation of Christ in Mathew 4:1-8, to every temptation, His response always included, “It is written” and that was a template that Christians should follow for life. To their credit, Americans have a concept of sin, but they seem to have a different definition of which acts they consider sin. Is it God or society that determines what sin is? Americans are split on whether abortion and sex outside marriage is sinful.

• 65% agree “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.”

• 66% disagree “Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.”

• 25% agree that “God is unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions.”

• 51% agree “Sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.”

• 51% agree “Abortion is a sin.”

• 38% agree “Gender identity is a matter of choice.”

Photo by Abhishek Tanwar from Pexels

Photo by Abhishek Tanwar from Pexels

Christianity is being watered down

Canaries are the most famous example of a sentinel species, which are animals that serve as warnings of danger to humans and the environment. This survey serves as a useful indicator of the influence and impact Christians are having on the community around them and while the findings seem discouraging, it clearly shows that culture which is at odds with the Bible is increasing its control on Christian beliefs.

This sadly, agrees with what Jesus asked in Luke 18:8” Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” What is the solution? Christians need to accurately study the Bible for themselves and be what it says; the best witness to the world is a changed life.

I leave you with the two things I loved most about the survey that you should consider doing. One is that you can take the survey online and your results plotted on the charts to gauge where you stand on your beliefs. Also you can create your own free group survey for your own community as a means of fostering discussion and understanding.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Victor Orare

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