The number of professing Christians is declining in America. And it’s not just because of the media, the public schools or even activism by atheists. It’s because Christians themselves are genuinely ignorant about the tenets of their faith, according to a new study.
Americans, who still overwhelmingly identify as Christian, hold contradictory, confused and even heretical beliefs when it comes to God, according to the “State of American Theology Study 2016.”
It found 64 percent agreed “strongly” or “somewhat” with the statement “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
Sixty percent of Americans agreed with the statement “heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones.”
And only 40 percent of those surveyed agreed “hell is an eternal place of judgment where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ.”
Less than half of those surveyed also believe abortion is a sin.
At the same time, 70 percent of Americans agreed the God of the Trinity is the one true God. A majority said God, who cannot make a mistake, is the author of Scripture. And yet fewer than half say the Bible is entirely accurate.
Evangelicals had strikingly different beliefs from many other Americans, as reflected in the survey. For example, 84 percent of evangelicals agreed those “who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ” are destined for hell, compared to only 30 percent of Americans in general.
However, even evangelicals’ responses showed apparent disagreement with fundamental tenets of the Christian faith.
For example, more than 70 percent of evangelicals agreed with the statement “Jesus is the first and greatest creature created by God,” actually surpassing the 48 percent of non-evangelicals who agreed with the statement. The belief Jesus Christ is a “created being” is the heresy known as “Arianism,” which posits Christ is distinct from God the Father and therefore subordinate.
Evangelicals were similarly confused about the status of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, with more than a quarter of evangelicals denying the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son.
Evangelicals also hold self-contradictory beliefs, according to the survey. Evangelicals overwhelmingly stated hell exists and is reserved for those who do not accept Christ as savior. Yet more evangelical Christians than Americans in general simultaneously stated all people will ultimately be reunited with loved ones in heaven.
These findings come at a time of decline for the Christian faith in the United States. The percentage of Americans identifying as Christians has continuously decreased since 2008, with the percentage of Christians declining with each progressively younger age group. Still, recent surveys indicate over 75 percent of Americans call themselves “Christian.”
The shocking findings are leading Christian leaders to sound the alarm. Several pastors and Bible teachers are arguing the church needs to stop compromising the Christian message and work to strengthen both faith and knowledge of doctrine among the faithful.
Jonathan Cahn, the world famous messianic rabbi and bestselling author of several books including his most recent, “The Book of Mysteries,” argues Christians need to reawaken to their responsibility to champion the faith and serve as examples.
“The people of God are called to be the light of the world,” he told WND. “That being the case, had the church been the light to America it was meant to be, we never could have seen such darkness overtake this nation. Thus, the church’s spiritual, theological, and moral confusion speaks volumes in explaining where the culture now stands. How can we be the light, if we’re not even sure what light is? How can we be the salt of the earth, if we have no idea what saltiness is? And how can we be the watchman if we have no trumpet to sound?”
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Karl Payne, pastor of Leadership Development and Discipleship Training at Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Washington, argues believers are struggling to cope in a nation that can no longer meaningfully be called Christian.
“The secularization of America is no longer just in the process, it is complete,” he said. “‘Tolerance’ has replaced truth and personal opinions are considered equally or more important than factual data. America was founded and grounded upon a Judeo-Christian religious and work ethic. This is a fact and its systematic deconstruction is shameful and dishonest. The rejection of many of our foundational suppositions, including our Judeo-Christian heritage, has left with many people swimming in a sea of moral and ethical relativism. Few are left to throw out lifelines.”
Payne, until recently the chaplain of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the author of “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization and Deliverance,” says Christians have suffered because of how the media and public education have impacted the way many people view the faith.
However, he also says far too many churches have gone along with the larger social trend.
“In many mainline churches it is often very difficult to see many fundamental differences in the thinking and lifestyle of their congregants and those who choose to avoid or ignore church attendance,” the pastor said. “Too many Christians have turned to a compromised standard of ‘go along, get along,’ with the goal to blend into society rather than help transform it.
“The church is called the pillar of truth in 1 Timothy 3:15, and Christians are identified as salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16. To the degree that individual Christians and their churches collectively hide their message in fear, rather than proclaim the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ as salt and light, we are going to be judged as very poor ambassadors. And we will be judged by God as such at the Bema Seat of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
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Mark Biltz, head of El Shaddai Ministries and author of “God’s Day Timer,” says Christians should not deceive themselves about their powerlessness in American society. And the fault lies within the church itself.
“Many Americans do not take the God of the Bible seriously,” said Biltz. “This is due to all the hypocrisy, fighting and immorality found within all the denominations of Christianity. The church is asleep and has lost any influence much like Lot in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah. Most churches do not challenge people to live according to biblical principles. Americans are happy to be spoon fed like babies believing whatever they are told by their religious leaders just as long as they don’t have to alter their lives.”
Biltz maintained Americans are fooling themselves if they believe all religions are fundamentally the same. He acknowledged there is a definite push by those in the media and in power to remove the faith from public life, something only directed against Christians.
“You don’t see a push to take Islam out of the public square or out of public schools,” observed Biltz. “There is only a push to take Christianity out of the public square to further dilute its influence.”
However, whatever the pressure from the outside, ultimately, Biltz said, “all” the responsibility for redeeming the culture lies with the church itself.
“Until we take responsibility we can never change the situation,” he said. “At the end of the Babylonian captivity Daniel repented for the sins of all the past kings, princes, and religious leaders who forsook God. The church needs to repent for the sins of the early church fathers, our past presidents, judges, senators, congressman and our religious leaders if we are to see revival.
“Going back to the story of Sodom, God was willing to pardon Sodom if 10 righteous could be found. Yet in the book of Jeremiah, chapter five, God was ready to pardon Jerusalem if he could find even one righteous. God’s problem has always been with His own people not the wicked.”
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Carl Gallups, pastor of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church and author of the new book “When The Lion Roars: Understanding the Implications of Ancient Prophecies for Our Time,” sees an End Times significance in the increasing apostasy within the church.
“Even many of America’s so-called ‘conservative evangelical’ pastors are not addressing the biblical answers to the key issues and concerns of our times,” he said. “Accordingly, an ever-increasing number of God’s people are spiritually perishing for lack of proper biblical instruction and understanding. Even among America’s most ‘conservative’ pulpits, the vast majority never address biblical issues such as important foundational doctrine, abortion, homosexuality, evolution, the place of Israel and the Middle East in prophecy, etc.”
Gallups said most Christians will accept God’s Word intellectually but resist it once it begins to encroach on how they want to live their lives. He argues the church must preach the message of Scripture without compromise or shying away from hard truths. The costs of not doing so, he claimed, can be seen in the degraded culture of today.
“America threw away its moral compass when it discarded God’s Word as the ultimate authority for life and human conduct,” he said. “The results are apparent and they are growing more devastating to our culture by the day.”
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