Dr. R.C. Sproul founded Ligonier Ministries to help people know who God is—to teach the holiness, sovereignty, and glory of God. The results of our latest State of Theology survey show that this outreach is perhaps needed more than ever.
Ligonier Ministries carries out the biennial State of Theology survey with LifeWay Research to explore what Americans believe about God, the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ. This survey of U.S. adults includes hundreds of evangelicals, allowing a detailed exploration of their beliefs on a range of theological topics. All the results are posted online at thestateoftheology.com.
You would rightly be alarmed if a fellow church member told you he believes that God changes His plans in response to events on earth, that humans are essentially good, or that Jesus was a great teacher but not God. Yet many evangelicals gave such responses to the State of Theology survey. The results are concerning on a number of levels, though this is perhaps not unexpected at a time when many evangelical churches focus on satisfying the felt needs of people in the congregation rather than teaching the unchanging truth of God’s Word.
three new questions
Three new questions were featured in the latest survey. Each one revealed alarming answers.
God learns and adapts to different circumstances. The living God, as revealed to us in Scripture, knows all things and is unchanging (Ps. 147:5; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 11:33–34; James 1:17). Therefore, He does not learn new information or adapt to different events in heaven or on earth. Yet 51 percent of American adults agreed with the statement “God learns and adapts to different circumstances,” and 48 percent of evangelicals agreed.
Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God. All mankind fell in Adam, and so all his descendants are born sinners (Rom. 5:12). However sweet a baby may look, he or she is born with a sin nature (Ps. 51:5). In Christian theology, this is the doctrine of original sin. But it is widely rejected in the United States today, with 71 percent of adults agreeing that “Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God,” and 65 percent of evangelicals in agreement.
Every Christian has an obligation to join a local church. It is assumed in the New Testament that followers of Jesus Christ will gather together in local congregations. Christians join together in local churches to worship God, to receive the means of grace, and for fellowship with one another. Yet people today in the West too often regard this as a lifestyle choice, with only 36 percent of American adults agreeing that “Every Christian has an obligation to join a local church.” In contrast, 68 percent of evangelicals agreed with the statement. The fact that this percentage was not higher may have been influenced by a variety of factors, including restrictions on church attendance during the coronavirus pandemic and the widespread online viewing of church services.
u.s. population trends
The State of Theology survey has been conducted since 2014, and now some important trends are emerging.
The clearest and most consistent trend since 2014 has been an erosion in Americans’ confidence that the Bible is literally true. Ever since Satan tempted Eve in the garden of Eden, he has sought to undermine faith in God’s Word. Theological liberalism follows this strategy and continually casts doubt on the Bible: Does God mean what He says? The Bible answers emphatically yes, bearing clear testimony to its truthfulness and accuracy (Pss. 12:6; 119:160; 2 Tim. 3:16).