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The State of Theology


Last month, the State of Theology report was published. It is a survey conducted by Lifeway Research and supported by Ligonier Ministries. The study aims to assess markers of current theological understanding among a nationwide sample of Americans. According to the researchers, the survey is designed with a sizeable sample identifying the beliefs of evangelicals and compared with the American population in general. The survey designers say the sample has small weights to ensure that it matches the population in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, income, area, and religion, and quotas were put in place to guarantee that it was demographically balanced.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

Colossians 2:7-9 NLT

The survey has been taken every two years since 2014, so longitudinal data is available. It is interesting to see how the responses are changing from one survey to the next.

a quote by Jen Wilkin indicating that we have opinions about theology without actually reading the Bible
Knowing Faith Bonus Episode 10/07/22

What Evangelicals Report

But most interesting are the percentages of people who align themselves with evangelical thought but respond with answers opposing clear Biblical teaching. These percentages represent people who agree with basic evangelical tenets but …

  • 70% agree: Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.
  • 61% agree: Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God. 
  • 51% agree: The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.
  • 43% agree: God learns and adapts to different circumstances.
  • 39% agree: Worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.
  • 38% agree: Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.
  • 36% agree: Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.
  • 25% agree: The Holy Spirit can tell me to do something which is forbidden in the Bible.

How do you interpret these results as a leader in the church? What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Where to find the data

*If you want to examine the data yourself, here is the link to The State of Theology. At that site, you can filter the results for various constraints and look at the trends over the past eight years.

**Lifeway Research has also published a document describing its methodology and the results.

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