|For a full graphic showing more survey results, click here.|
The Theological Awareness Benchmark Survey of 3,000 adults was conducted earlier this year by LifeWay Research on behalf of Ligonier Ministries. Questions focused on seven key doctrinal areas and included a number of specific areas where Americans differ from historic and orthodox views.
The survey results show why a theological school like Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, with its unswerving commitment to historic, confessional orthodoxy and Biblical authority, is vital to revival in the church and the nation.
"While the majority of Americans believe God is perfect, the answers reveal that Americans want God on their own terms," the survey summary says. "Some results reflect healthy thinking, but many of the results show the lack of orthodox thinking about God. This is especially true of questions related to the Trinity. 1-in-5 Americans deny that Jesus is the God-man. One third of Americans think the Father is more divine than the Son. The member of the Trinity that is the least understood in the United States is the Holy Spirit. Nearly two thirds (63%) think the Holy Spirit is a force and not a person."
The majority of Americans believe humans are essentially good, even though most sin from time to time.
"One of the most troubling findings in the survey is the lack of understanding Americans have regarding sin and the total depravity of human beings," the summary says. "Only 16% agree with the doctrine that says 'People do not have the ability to turn to God on their own initiative.' Instead of acknowledging depravity, the majority of Americans believe the good in people can outweigh the bad:
- 67% agree (even 44% of evangelicals): “Everyone sins at least a little, but most people are by nature good.”
- 4-in-10 agree: “God loves me because of the good I do or have done.”
Less than half of Americans agree with orthodox doctrines related to the Bible, the survey shows.
"While more than 4-in-10 agree the Bible is accurate and the written word of God, a similar number believe the Bible is not true literally and is open to each person’s own interpretation. What the Bible has to say on ethical issues is blatantly rejected by 42% of those surveyed. As with the views of God, Americans, whether evangelical or not, want salvation and the Bible on their own terms."
Many Americans appear to place confidence in their own efforts for salvation rather than God’s grace.
"This is seen among 71% of Americans who agree 'an individual must contribute his/her own effort for personal salvation.' Similarly, 64% of Americans agree 'a person obtains peace with God by first taking the initiative to seek God and then God responds with grace,'” the summary says. A majority (54%) of self-identified evangelical Protestants agree with the first statement. Sixty-eight per cent of evangelicals agree with the second statement.
Ligonier founder Dr. R.C. Sproul says the survey shows "our culture is anti-theological — we are in a new dark age. These results show that we have a true mission for the church, to help the church think through and proclaim these doctrines."