Nearly one-third of American evangelicals surveyed in March rejected the deity of Christ, and nearly a quarter of evangelicals said “gender identity is a matter of choice.”
Survey responses of 3,002 people were released Sept. 8 and detailed in the LifeWay Research “2020 State of American Theology Study” sponsored by Orlando, Florida-based Ligonier Ministries.
“This survey shows that people inside the church need clear Bible teaching just as much as those outside the church,” said Chris Larson, CEO of Ligonier Ministries. “As trends in the data suggest, the necessity of this work has grown only more urgent since R.C. Sproul founded the ministry nearly 50 years ago. With Biblical illiteracy and doctrinal error on the rise, we remain committed to contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
For the survey, evangelicals were identified as those who “strongly agreed” in the importance of evangelism and that “the Bible is the highest authority for what I believe; Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin; Only those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.”
Since 2014, Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries have partnered every two years to conduct the survey to measure the theological awareness and doctrinal fidelity of adult Americans within and outside the church.
Among U.S. adult respondents to the mid-March survey, 52% overall agreed that “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God,” while 30% of evangelicals responded agreeably.
The 2020 survey results also revealed a decrease in evangelical support of the Biblical doctrine of justification. In the 2018 survey, 91% strongly agreed that “God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s works, but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.” This year, that portion dropped to 84%.
Trends among evangelicals surveyed over the past six years, however, did show some noticeable decreases in support of heretical positions.
For example, while 22% of evangelicals in the 2020 survey agreed that “gender identity is a matter of choice”—contradicting the Bible’s teaching in Genesis 1:27 that God creates male and female—those findings were down 10% from the 2016 survey results.
And the belief that “most people are good by nature” declined among evangelicals from 54% in 2016 to 46% in 2020.
Also, evangelical support that “modern science disproves the Bible” decreased from 25% in 2018 to 17% in 2020.
When accounting for survey responses of Americans in general, the “2020 State of American Theology Study” conducted by LifeWay Research, also found that:
- 54% agree “Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; not objective truth.”
- 51% agree “The Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do.”
- 51% agree “Sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.”
- 51% agree “Abortion is a sin.”
- 25% agree “God is unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions.”
- 38% agree “Gender identity is a matter of choice.”
- 40% agree “The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.”
- 48% agree “The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.”
- 65% agree “God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake.”
- 52% agree “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”
- 55% agree “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.”
- 64% agree “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
- 56% agree “Hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever.”
- 60% agree “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.”
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