Friday, October 31, 2014

“New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies”

“Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines.”

(Click to enlarge)
Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.

A survey released today [October 28, 2014] by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.

Evangelicals did score high on several points. Nearly all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (96%), and that salvation is found through Jesus alone (92%). Strong majorities said that God is sovereign over all people (89%) and that the Bible is the Word of God (88%).

And in some cases the problem seems to be uncertainty rather than heresy. For example, only 6 percent of evangelicals think the Book of Mormon is a revelation from God, but an additional 18 percent aren’t sure and think it might be.

Almost all evangelicals say they believe in the Trinity (96%) and that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (88%).

But nearly a quarter (22%) said God the Father is more divine than Jesus, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Further, 16 percent say Jesus was the first creature created by God, while 11 percent were unsure.
But if evangelicals sometime misunderstand doctrines about Jesus, the third member of the Trinity has it much worse. More than half (51%) said the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being. Seven percent weren’t sure, while only 42 percent affirmed that the Spirit is a person.

And 9 percent said the Holy Spirit is less divine than God the Father and Jesus. The same percentage answered “not sure.”
Human nature and salvation were other areas of confusion for respondents. Two out of three (68%) said that a person obtains peace with God by seeking God first, and then God responds with grace. A similar percentage (67%) said people have the ability to turn to God on the own initiative. Yet half (54%) also think salvation begins with God acting first. So which is it?
Ligonier’s Nichols said that while the survey results are disappointing, they’re not unique to our time or culture, or irreversible. “The church in every age has faced theological confusion and heresy. In this survey we see a wake-up call to the church. We cannot assume the next generation—or even this present one—will catch an orthodox theology merely by being in the church,” he said.

John Stackhouse, professor of theology and culture at Regent College in Vancouver, agrees. “We continue to hold adult Christian education in low regard,” he said. “A sermon on Sunday morning and a conversational Bible study during the week won’t get the job done of informing and transforming people’s minds along the lines of orthodox Christian belief.”
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  1. If most of them believe in the Trinity, then how can half of them deny the Trinitarian deity of the Holy Spirit?
  2. If most of them believe in the Trinity, then how can almost a quarter of them believe that their Second Person, Jesus Christ, was created by the Father?
I personally am familiar with Trinitarians denying, willfully even, the Hypostatic Union and the duality of Christ. While some of the ones questioned lacked proper Trinitarian training, some doubtlessly have these “unorthodox” positions due to their own thinking abilities.

Additionally, while Trinitarians can bemoan their dismal deficit of “adult Christian education,” they have been forced to admit that, on the contrary, Jehovah’s Witnesses “pose a significant challenge” because “they have been trained better than any Christian [Trinitarian] denomination,” as American Christian fundamentalist Ron Rhodes said. The late Evangelical minister Walter Martin candidly agreed. He lamented that “Jehovah’s Witnesses can make a doctrinal pretzel out of the average Christian [Trinitarian] in 20 seconds.”[1] Lastly, another Trinitarian leader complained that “Christians [Trinitarians] tend to be inept at responding to antitrinitarian thought and argumentation of Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormons.”[2]

Thus, it seems unlikely that this “significant level of theological confusion” will ever reverse. Frankly, Trinitarianism is not something that Jesus Christ believed in, as it clearly is not a Bible teaching. Indeed, Jesus would doubtlessly be offended by it. Therefore it only makes sense that they are having such a terrible time teaching their flocks and maintaining their orthodoxy.

[1] Witnesses keeping the faith

[2] Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors, page 205. By Paul Copan and William Lane Craig.

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