The Sad State of American Evangelicalism

It may be no surprise to Christians who are well-informed and careful observers of the spiritual landscape of America, but still the results of the surveys of evangelicals referenced in this post are both shocking and depressing. They reveal a fractured evangelical body in America, one that is rife with all manner of heresies and false teachings. This stems from theological ignorance and failure to preach the full counsel of God. The evangelical church in America is eroding before our eyes.

Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University survey

Referring to a recent survey conducted earlier this year by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. The data from this latest report came from a nationwide study of about 1,000 Christian pastors across several segments of churches and/or denominational families and was conducted between February and March of 2022.

Franklin Graham said, “I don’t know which 1,000 pastors this group surveyed, but the results are concerning. 39% of evangelical pastors surveyed recently said there is no absolute moral truth and that “each individual must determine their own truth.” What a lie. They also said that, shockingly, 30% of evangelical pastors do not believe that their salvation is based on having confessed their sins and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. Researchers also found that one-third or more of the senior pastors they surveyed said they believe that people can merit salvation based solely on their good works. These are all lies, and this kind of false teaching is what is leading people and churches astray. The Bible is God’s Word, from cover to cover. It is the absolute truth—we should live by it, and we can die by it. On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand.”

The American Worldview Inventory 2022 examined more than three dozen beliefs held by pastors. Researchers found that in addition to believing that people can merit salvation based solely on their good works, one-third or more of senior pastors surveyed also believe the Holy Spirit is not a person but rather “a symbol of God’s power.” Others said that moral truth is subjective; sexual relations between two unmarried people who love each other is “morally acceptable” and biblical teaching on abortion is “ambiguous.” Over a third of senior pastors believe ‘good people’ can earn their way to Heaven.

At least a third of those surveyed also said they believe “socialism is preferable to capitalism and that allowing property ownership facilitates economic injustice,” which researchers say could point to the “increase of cultural and political influence into the church.”

After data reported earlier this year found just 37% of Christian pastors have a biblical worldview, the latest CRC report analyzed that research across all major U.S. denominations, and found that a “loss of biblical belief is prevalent among pastors in all denominational groupings.”

The current report focuses on roughly half of those beliefs, revealing that a shockingly large percentage reject biblical teaching on some of the most basic Christian beliefs.

Among Evangelical pastors, for example, around 43% said they do not believe that the personal accumulation of wealth is provided by God for the individual to manage those resources for God’s purposes.

Another 39% of Evangelical pastors surveyed said there is no absolute moral truth and that “each individual must determine their own truth.” Roughly the same percentage (38%) didn’t answer in the affirmative when asked if “human life is sacred,” while 37% said having faith, in general, is more important than in what — or more specifically, Whom — one has faith.

Perhaps most startlingly, three in 10 Evangelical pastors (30%) didn’t answer in the affirmative if their salvation is based on having confessed their sins and accepting Jesus Christ as their savior.

George Barna, CRC’s director of research, said the results could be linked to another trend he observed in the data.

“While studying the spiritual behavioral patterns of pastors, it became evident that a large share of them do not have a regular spiritual routine,” Barna said. “There was a correlation between possessing biblical beliefs and a consistent regimen of Bible reading, prayer, worship, and confession.

“In some of the denominational groupings, a majority of pastors do not engage in those foundational spiritual practices on a regular basis,” he added. “Yet, among the pastors who have the most consistently biblical beliefs, there is also a daily routine that incorporates all of those disciplines.”

https://www.christianpost.com/news/third-of-evangelical-pastors-say-people-can-get-heaven-just-by-being-good.html

Remember, this survey was of evangelical pastors, not just regular churchgoers. They should be theologically informed after completing seminary education, but apparently, most of these seminaries have gone woke and been taken over by liberal forces. The theologically conservative majority that evangelicals once held for so long in this great country is no more.

2022 Ligonier Ministries’ State of Theology survey

Sadly, the results of this survey are more of the same, with even more evidence of heretical beliefs.

In John 14:6, Jesus declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Tragically, the 2022 Ligonier Ministries’ State of Theology survey, a biennial survey conducted by LifeWay Research that takes “the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and to equip the church with better insights for discipleship”, reveals that the majority of American evangelicals seem to reject this teaching from Christ.

This survey reveals the theological beliefs of Americans about God, sin, salvation, heaven and hell, the church, and the Bible. And the results show many evangelicals hold unorthodox and heretical beliefs. The full report.

The Bible reveals that God is pleased only by the worship of those who approach Him through Jesus Christ, since He alone is the “one mediator between God and man” (1 Tim. 2:5). It is startling enough that 56 percent of U.S. evangelicals believe God accepts the worship of all religions. Yet more concerning is the fact that this percentage has increased by a soaring 14 percent in only the last two years.

While the results include all Americans and are even broken down by a range of categories (age, religious affiliation, sex, income, education level, and so on), the most interesting findings are those for evangelicals. The survey categorized people as having evangelical beliefs if they strongly agreed with the following 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.

A significant number of evangelicals surveyed (i.e., those identified as having evangelical beliefs) have a profound misunderstanding about the nature and character of God.

  • Almost three out of four (73 percent) agree with the claim that Jesus is the “first and greatest being created by God.”
  • More than half (58 percent) believe that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
  • More than half (56 percent) agree that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.
  • More than half (55 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.
  • More than half (55 percent) agree that “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.”
  • More than half (53 percent) disagree with the claim that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.
  • More than one in four (46 percent) disagree that every Christian has an obligation to join a local church.
  • Almost half (44 percent) say that Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.
  • Almost one-third (29 percent) agreed with the statement that God learns and adapts to different circumstances, while only 43 percent disagreed.

What It Means: As this and other surveys have shown, the label “evangelical” can often tell us more about a person’s sociological and political convictions than what he believes about the Christian faith.

Indeed, we often use political views as a proxy for religious views—especially when we connect it to geography. If you know that a person is a conservative Republican from Louisiana you might assume she rejects the claim that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” Similarly, if you know he’s a liberal Democrat from New York City you’re more likely to presume he’d agree with the statement that “gender identity is a matter of choice.”

The result is that we often dismiss people as having unbiblical theological views because of their politics or we assume they’re orthodox because they vote the “right way” (i.e., the way you vote). But that’s not always the case. Unorthodox views are shared by a broad range of people who hold “evangelical belief.”

A better approach is for church leaders to simply ask those in their congregation what they believe about these theological statements. Fortunately, Ligonier has made it possible to easily create a group survey for free in less than a minute.

Once you have the answer, you can steer them in the direction of orthodox belief. Since a key criterion of being an evangelical, as the survey notes, is claiming “the Bible is the highest authority for what I believe,” we should be able to use simple statements based on the Bible to persuade them of the proper biblical response to the questions. Some people, of course, may require more convincing. But for many evangelicals, simply clarifying the issue will be sufficient.

To aid in this process, I’ve provided an example of how you might provide a biblically based response for each of the true/false statements on the survey.

God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake.

True. Scripture says God is omniscient, meaning he knows all things and he’s immutable, meaning he cannot and does not change (Isa. 46:10; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; 1 John. 3:20).

There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

True. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory (Matt. 3:16–17, 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2).

God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

False. Jesus said he alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” and “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

God learns and adapts to different circumstances.

False. Scripture says God is immutable, meaning that he cannot and does not change (James 1:17; 1 John 3:20).

Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred.

True. Scripture says Jesus physically rose from the dead (Mark 16:6).

Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.

False. Scripture says Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) because he is exalted to the highest place, but as God he was not created but always existed (John 1:1).

Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.

False. Scripture says that Jesus is God (John 1:1; 8:58; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:1–4).

God created male and female.

True. Scripture says God created humans as male and female (Gen. 1:27).

The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.

False. Scripture makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is a personal being who can be sinned against (Isa. 63:10), lied to (Acts 5:3), and grieved (Eph. 4:30). Scripture also says we are to obey and honor him (Acts 10:19–21; Ps. 51:11).

The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual new birth or new life before a person has faith in Jesus Christ.

True. Scripture says it’s the Spirit who gives life (John 3:8, 6:63).

The Holy Spirit can tell me to do something which is forbidden in the Bible.

False. Scripture says the Holy Spirit is God and that God himself tempts no one to sin (James 1:13).

Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.

False. Scripture tells us no human is good by nature (Ps. 14:3).

Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.

True. Scripture tells us that “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” (Heb. 2:2).

God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

True. Scripture tells us a person is righteous not because of his own work but because he believes in Jesus who justifies the ungodly, and his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom 4:1–5).

Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God.

False. Scripture says that every human inherits a sin nature from the time of his or her conception (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12).

The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.

False. Scripture is God’s Word and God’s Word is true (2 Tim. 3:16; John 17:17).

The Bible is 100 percent accurate in all that it teaches.

True. Scripture is God’s Word and God’s Word is true (2 Tim. 3:16; John 17:17).

Modern science disproves the Bible.

False. Scripture is God’s Word and God’s Word is true (2 Tim. 3:16; John 17:17).

God chose the people he would save before he created the world.

True. God chose whom he would save even before he created the world (Rom. 9:23; Eph. 1:4; Titus 1:2).

Hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever.

True. Jesus made it clear that hell is a real place where punishment would be as everlasting as life in heaven (Matt. 25:46).

There will be a time when Jesus Christ returns to judge all the people who have lived.

True. Jesus said everyone who has died will be raised from the dead and judged (John 5:26–29).

Worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.

False. Scripture presumes all disciples of Jesus will join a local body of believers (1 Cor. 5:12–13; 11:18; 1 Pet. 5:1–5).

Christians should be silent on issues of politics.

False. Being silent on issues of politics may cause us to disobey certain requirements of Scripture. For example, Christians are commanded to speak up and judge fairly and to defend the rights of the poor and needy (Prov. 31:9). We’re also called, as we have the opportunity, to do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10).

Every Christian has an obligation to join a local church.

True. Scripture presumes all disciples of Jesus will join a local body of believers (1 Cor 5:12–13; 11:18; 1 Pet. 5:1–5).

Sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.

True. Scripture says God instituted marriage to be a covenant relationship between one biological man and one biological woman, and this relationship is the only appropriate place for sexual activity (Heb. 13:4).

Abortion is a sin.

True. Scripture teaches the personhood of those in the womb (Ps. 139:13, 16; Luke 1:41, 44) and that God prohibits the taking of innocent life (Ex. 20:13).

Gender identity is a matter of choice.

False. Scripture says God created humans as male and female (Gen 1:27).

The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.

False. Scripture consistently declares homosexual activity is sinful (Rom. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).

God is unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions.

False. Scripture commands that we “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Col. 1:10).

The Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do.

True. As Paul tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.

False. As Scripture makes clear, many religious beliefs held by followers of Christ are based on objective truth. For example, as Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Cor. 15:17).

The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.

True. As Paul tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

True. Scripture tells us God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.

True. Scripture says that by a single offering—the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross—he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14)

Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

True. Jesus said he was the only way to heaven and that whoever puts their faith in him shall have eternal life (John 14:6; John 11:25).

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/state-theology-2022/

Closing Thoughts

So by analyzing all this data from the various surveys, a clear picture emerges, an evangelical church in America on life support. Heresy and apostasy seem to be the norm now. Those holding to orthodox theology are becoming smaller and smaller every year. Evangelicals have turned have allowed popular culture and theological liberalism to dictate the church. Pastors are not being trained properly in seminaries, and a huge number of evangelicals who attend university quickly shed their conservative values and adopt liberal positions at these bastions of liberalism.

The result is a deeply compromised, lukewarm, weak, and pathetic evangelical church that only brainwashes more Christians every year into bad theology.

Readers of my blog may recall my post on the scandal of the evangelical mind. This fear seems to be validated in these survey results.

The days of conservative theology dominating public life, the popular culture, seminaries, universities, and most churches are long gone. We must be realistic. We now live, in America, in a post-Christian society. Conservative evangelicals will see their numbers and influence continue to plummet. But God always has a righteous remnant of those who are faithful to the Word of God.

Evangelicals must realize that well-formed and effective apologetics are more vital than ever before in this nation. Churches must invest in orthodox seminaries, parents must send their children to conservative schools teaching sound theology, and pastors must stand boldly on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, and be true witnesses for Christ to the darkness of this world.

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