New Survey Proves People (Christians) Have No Clue What They’re Talking About
When more than half of people surveyed believe that “God accepts the worship of Christians, Jews, and Muslims,” it’s time to admit that theology has been ignored and needs reinstated to prominence in our churches.
It’s no secret that American Christians are uneducated. For years many voices have sounded the alarm that the shallow talks given each Sunday in American churches are harmful. That reality is more evident now than ever before.
Recently, LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries surveyed 3000 adults concerning the state of theology in America. The results are a glaring red flag that proves how uninformed and uneducated Americans are concerning theological issues. The researchers only identified about 20% of those they surveyed as evangelicals; many other respondents identified themselves as evangelical. That in itself is a problem.
(See the chart below to view the top 12 questions and answers from the survey.)
Among the problems discovered by the survey is that nearly 3 out of 4 people believe that they must contribute to their own salvation and that Jesus is the “first and greatest being created by God.”
The belief in a works based salvation or works based righteousness is a heresy dating back to the early church. But it has resurfaced in recent years with the spread of the prosperity gospel. The idea that if you work hard enough, and have enough faith, you will be saved and blessed by god is nothing more than a scheme of man to deceive people. The true Gospel makes plain that our righteousness is worthless (Isa. 64:6), and that salvation is by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Any work we try to bring into our salvation only serves to further condemn ourselves and increase God’s wrath against us. Our only hope of salvation is to fall at the foot of the cross and depend solely on the grace of God by faith in the finished work of Jesus. His substitutionary atonement for us paid the price for our sins and satisfied the wrath of God to make a way for us to be restored to a right relationship with God.
The confusion over the basic tenets of the Gospel are revealed in the survey by the statistics that “four out of five evangelicals by belief (86%)…agreed that ‘a person obtains peace with God by first taking the initiative to seek God and then God responds with grace,’ and ‘three out of four evangelicals by belief (74%)…believe that ‘an individual must contribute his or her own effort for personal salvation.’”
Clearly there is much confusion on grace and salvation. The thought that people have anything to do with their own salvation is a biblical heresy that has persisted for centuries. People have always wanted to believe that they have a hand in their own salvation, and much of 20th century church culture has cultivated that belief. The old “repeat this prayer after me” and familiar altar calls of many churches have given many people a false assurance of their salvation.
Equally disturbing from the survey is the fact that “nearly two-thirds (65%) of evangelical respondents said that ‘God knows everything that occurs in the world but does not determine all that happens.’”
This shows the clear lack of understanding many Christians have regarding the sovereignty of God. While I’m sure most Christians would quickly admit that God is sovereign, deeper digging might reveal a lack of understanding of exactly what that means. We cannot admit that God is sovereign and then declare that He “does not determine all that happens” in the world. Those two statements are contradictory.
Clearly there is a deep need for theological training in our churches. Years of fluffy sermons and cherry picking from the Bible have left people with an incomplete and inadequate knowledge of their own beliefs. Some would say that people don’t want to hear about doctrine because “doctrine divides.” I agree. Our doctrine as Christians sets us apart as distinct from all other world religions. Knowing the details of that doctrine is of great importance if we ever hope to grow as believers and share the truth with others.
Commenting on the survey, one researcher said:
“The survey underscores our desperate need for sound doctrinal teaching in the local church. I fear that we’re spending too much time in cults of personality around charismatic superstar pastors, who often focus more on their personal theological idiosyncrasies and pet ideas than on basic Christian orthodoxy…People are hungry for orthodoxy. Church leaders need to feed them.”
Indeed, churches need to feed their sheep. Not the fast-food, sugary-sweet, junk food that many have served up each week. We need the nutritious, deep, rich food that will feed our souls and grow us. Rather than prioritizing potluck dinners and concerts, let’s get back to prioritizing what the church was intended to be and created for: spiritual nourishment and growth through expositional preaching of God’s Word.