November 13, 2016
Is American Christianity evolving into a faith with more 'believing unbelievers' and 'unbelieving believers' than simply true believers? These oxymoron references perhaps best describe both the confusion and apostasy related to the doctrines and practices embraced by many professing Christians in America today.
In a recent article written by G. Shane Morris, he decries the apparent lack of understanding of Bible theology by Americans in general. "In knowing both the content of the Bible and the doctrinal foundations of Christianity, we Americans aren't just at the bottom of our class. We are, as Ross Douthat argues in his book, 'Bad Religion', a "nation of heretics", Morris stated. A harsh-sounding statement - but the statistics paint the sorry picture. A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as "Christian", startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions.
Morris notes that these are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself. "The really sad part? Even when we're denying the Deity of Christ, we can't keep our story straight. Americans talking about theology sound about as competent as country singers rapping", he observed, citing several highlights from the survey!
Seven out of ten respondents in LifeWay's survey affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity--that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons but one God, and six in ten agreed that Jesus is both human and divine. Their orthodoxy - and consistency - ended there.
The rest of the survey unearthed some beliefs that are shocking to note:
1. More than half went on to indicate that Jesus is "the first and greatest being created by God", a heresy known as Arianism, which the Council of Nicaea condemned in 325 A.D. Jesus is NOT a created being, or else he would not be true God (which He is). His human body was created through the union of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit, but He is without beginning or end (John 1:1-2).
2. 70% of participants - who ranged across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds - agreed there's only one true God. Yet sixty-four percent also thought this God accepts the worship of all religions, including those that believe in many gods. Here I might add, that if God accepts ALL religions, then there was no reason for Jesus to die, and I am quite certain He wouldn't have done it if there was any other way.
3. Two-thirds admitted that everyone sins a little bit, but still insisted that most people are good by nature, which directly contradicts scripture ("All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" and "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9).
4. Over half said it's fair for God to exercise His wrath against sin, but seemed to waffle about which sins deserved wrath (not theirs of course!). 74% said the "smallest sins" don't warrant eternal damnation, in contrast to Jesus' half-brother, who when writing at the Holy Spirit's inspiration taught that even one infraction of God's law is enough to sink someone (James 2:10).
5. A full 60% agreed that "everyone eventually goes to Heaven", but half of those surveyed also checked the box saying that "only those who believe in Jesus will be saved". Again, you can't believe both.
Granted, the average professing Christian may just be wearing a popular tag that makes them feel better about their spiritual side. Evangelicals (sometimes called fundamentalists), however, are known to be more accurate in their interpretations of scripture and more serious in the actual practice of their faith. And Morris noted, that everyone therefore expected them to perform better than most Americans. No one expected them to perform worse. Here are some of the bizarre and contradictory beliefs that many evangelicals hold to:
1. Seven in ten evangelicals - more than the population at large - said that Jesus was the first being God created.
2. 56% agreed that "the Holy Spirit is a divine force but not a personal being." This directly contradicts Scripture (for more info and verses to support this visit: http://www.bible.ca/trinity/trinity-holy-spirit-personality-deity.htm ).
3. A huge increase in evangelicals (28%, up by 9%) indicated that the Third Person of the Trinity is not equal with God the Father or Jesus. Again - a direct contradiction of orthodox Christianity (see no. 2).
4. By definition, evangelicals in this survey believed that "only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation". Yet nearly half agreed that "God accepts the worship of all religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam". I repeat - you can't have it both ways!
5. Two-thirds of evangelicals - more than Americans in general - said Heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. Many of these folks evidently see no contradiction between their casual universalism and the evangelical creed that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. And while this is a nice thought at funerals, it simply does not match up with Scripture!
5. Two out of five evangelicals say "worshipping alone or with family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church". They must have cut Hebrews 10:25 out of their Bibles!
Morris further noted that former Newsday religion reporter Kenneth Briggs recently told Religion News Service that the faith he finds in "mega-type churches" is a "Bible-less," "alternative version of Christianity." Scripture, he says, has become "a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched."
The Bible remains phenomenally popular, of course. Practically everyone has one in his or her home, and many families own four or five. But Briggs characterizes our love for the Bible as love for an "artifact," a "keepsake," or a lucky "rabbit's foot." This talisman of faith mainly stays on the shelf or mantle next to the urn filled with grandpa's ashes.
Briggs says it was in a prison, not a church, where he encountered the most vibrant and intimate familiarity with God's Word.
Most everywhere else, his observations confirmed a recent Barna survey, conducted for the American Bible Society, which found that less than half the country can name the first five books of the Old Testament (can you without looking?) and that a similar number think John the Baptist was one of Jesus' twelve disciples.
Why does it matter that we've become a nation of doctrinal dunces? What harm is there in flunking Christianity 101? Morris stated that, for Christians, the answer is obvious. If we really believe what we profess - that the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important fact of history and eternity - then we'd better know what we believe!
"The results of this survey ought to embarrass all of us. But they should also serve as a kick in the pants to re-familiarize ourselves with our own religion. There's no excuse to be a nation of heretics", Morris concluded.
David Fiorazo summed it up in a recent publication of westernjournalism.com:
"Many American citizens claim to love God and believe we live in a Christian nation, but most of us would admit our actions don't always match our words, and our culture generally reflects darkness rather than the light of Christ.
People have more than one Bible in their comfortable homes, but prefer not to study God's Word because it would interfere with how they want to live. Many profess to be saved, and yet these same folks often say there are many ways to Heaven, the meaning of sin has changed, or Jesus is not God...."
Fiorazo concludes that what people seem to be following is humanism, moral relativism, New Age, Universalism or a religion of works, none of which can be seriously defended with Scripture.
And the worst part of Fiorazo's chilling conclusion is his final statement that, "There are countless souls sitting in our churches who are not saved and don't really believe the doctrine of the church they attend.
My brothers and sisters, I sincerely pray that not one of you sitting here today falls into that category. I hope that every last person here has repented of their sins, accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and that your faith is in His atoning death and resurrection alone for your salvation.
And so I ask that before we sing our closing hymn, you would all turn in your Hymnals to #880, and affirm your faith together with me through the reciting of the Nicene Creed.
(Adapted from a recent article in Prophecy News Watch)