WINDSOR, ONTARIO – Apparently, American evangelicals’ grasp on theology is slipping. More than 50% of us affirmed heretical views of God in the 2022 State of Theology survey, released by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research.
Overall, adults in the U.S. are moving away from orthodox understandings of God and his Word year after year. More than half of the country (53%) now believes Scripture “is not literally true,” up from 41 percent when the biannual survey began in 2014. Canada attracts even higher percentages.
Researchers call the rejection of the divine authorship of the Bible the “clearest and most consistent trend” over the eight years of data. Researchers wrote, “This view makes it easy for individuals to accept biblical teaching that they resonate with while simultaneously rejecting any biblical teaching that is out of step with their own personal views or broader cultural values.”
Paul warned Timothy about this very moment. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4 ESV). Evidently, the time has arrived.
Here are five of the most common mistaken beliefs held by evangelicals: (Source: Stefani McDade, “Top 5 Heresies Among American Evangelicals,” CT magazine online, 9-19-22)
1. Jesus isn’t the only way to God.
Fifty-six percent of evangelical respondents affirmed that “God accepts the worship of all religions.” This answer indicates a bent toward universalism—believing there are ways to bypass Jesus in our approach to and acceptance by God.
2. Jesus was created by God.
Seventy-three percent agreed with the statement that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” This is a form of Arianism, a popular heresy that arose in the early fourth century.
3. Jesus is not God.
Forty-three percent affirmed that “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”
4. The Holy Spirit is not a personal being.
Sixty percent of the evangelical survey respondents believe that “The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.”
5. Humans aren’t sinful by nature.
Fifty-seven percent also agreed to the statement that “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” So, we do not have sinful natures? This denies the doctrine of original sin.
In case you are wondering, the Bible’s perspective is much different, and our churches in Michigan need to pay attention.
1. Jesus is the only way to God.
The Bible insists that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and in following this teaching we follow the lead our Lord and his apostles (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only Savior of sinners (John 14:6). He alone is qualified to save, and he is the only redeemer God has sent.
2. Jesus was not created by God.
John 1:1 says, clearly, “In the beginning was the Word.” Before there was any matter, before anything had been made, Jesus was. “In the beginning was the Word.” So, there at the beginning, when those things were brought into being, he was there already. That’s the point of “in the beginning.” Jesus was there as the Son of God in the beginning.
3. Jesus is God.
The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; 1 Jn. 2:2). “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2).
4. The Holy Spirit is a personal being.
There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. For more help on the doctrine of the Trinity you can read “The Trinity” on The Gospel Coalition website (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-trinity)
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:4).
5. Humans are sinful by nature.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sin was first present in the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which has corrupted all people except for Christ, and which leads to death, both bodily and spiritually (Rom. 3:23).
Sin is the failure to keep God’s law and to uphold his righteousness, thus failing to glorify the Lord fully. While there are many different manifestations that sin can take, they are all rooted in the initial disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden. All those who have been born afterwards, other than Jesus Christ, have been born into sin and cannot escape the guilt and punishment that sin incurs apart from the freedom found in Christ.
We accept the divine authorship of the Bible! Let’s walk in its truth and preach and teach the Scriptures as if our very life depends on it, because it does. We cannot push back the darkness of our day if we are not settled in our evangelical convictions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Garth Leno is the Pastor/Planter Care Specialist with the BSCM. He serves in a similar role with the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and he is the founding pastor of The Gathering Church in Windsor, Ontario, a church he planted with his wife, Patty, and a few of their friends.