For the past several years, Ligonier Ministries has conducted the biennial State of Theology survey to assess society’s theological understanding in order to help the church gain a better grasp of what the general population and evangelicals believe about fundamental Christian truths. The results are always sad, but they are never surprising. While we certainly cannot judge people’s hearts, we can judge what they claim to believe based on the answers they give. And what people claim to believe sheds light not only on the state of their theology but also on the state of their souls.
The church needs to wake up. The handwriting is on the wall, and it tells us that the evangelical church is in serious trouble—that her theology has been weighed in the balances and is found wanting. This shouldn’t surprise us, because mainstream evangelical leaders have been paving this path to ruin for a long time. When they began to feel pressure to conform to the culture, many began to water down the teaching of Scripture and cover up those Christian truths that our culture despises. Naturally, as the evangelical church continued down the path of least resistance, a path that seeks peace with the increasingly secularized culture, many leaders further began to accommodate to culture by attempting to attract the culture and win the culture. But when the culture wouldn’t let itself be won, many leaders chose to compromise rather than to stand for the truth. As a result, most of the old, countercultural, evangelical churches have become the new, culturally compromised, mainline churches. They have left many professing Christians with a lowest-common-denominator faith that is almost entirely ignorant of basic Christian theology.
Ultimately, our concern is not only that people do not know theology, but that they do not know God. Ignorance of core Christian teaching reflects ignorance of our triune God and ignorance of what can save the souls of sinners whose most desperate need is to know the only true God of Scripture, not of our imaginations.
Dr. Burk Parsons is editor of Tabletalk magazine and senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin and author of Why Do We Have Creeds? He is on X at @BurkParsons.