3 for Thursday: 3 Takeaways from a Recent Poll on Evangelical Beliefs

Survey-featA recent poll from Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries attempts to get at the differences in theological knowledge among evangelicals and to compare this to important councils of early Christianity.

There are some very interesting results from this poll, three of which I have below. I do want to note (for evangelicals reading about this poll) that this study is done for Ligonier, whose educational materials are notoriously unhappy with mainstream evangelicals, so some interpretations of the data should be understood through that lens.

Realizing that even posting this could generate certain comments from theologians, I should also add that I find this stuff to be interesting, but not because I’m a advocate for theology or concerned with policing evangelical doctrine. I’m only interested in this from the perspective of an historian whose subject is religion and because I love reading about new data on religion.

So what did they find? According to Christianity Today:

1. God (the Father) has more God-stuff than Jesus

Almost all evangelicals say they believe in the Trinity (96%) and that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (88%).

But nearly a quarter (22%) said God the Father is more divine than Jesus, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Further, 16 percent say Jesus was the first creature created by God, while 11 percent were unsure.

2. Many Evangelicals have something in common with George Lucas

But if evangelicals sometime misunderstand doctrines about Jesus, the third member of the Trinity has it much worse. More than half (51%) said the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being. Seven percent weren’t sure, while only 42 percent affirmed that the Spirit is a person.

And 9 percent said the Holy Spirit is less divine than God the Father and Jesus. The same percentage answered “not sure.”

3. Salvation is a partnership

Human nature and salvation were other areas of confusion for respondents. Two out of three (68%) said that a person obtains peace with God by seeking God first, and then God responds with grace. A similar percentage (67%) said people have the ability to turn to God on the own initiative. Yet half (54%) also think salvation begins with God acting first. So which is it?..

…More than half of survey participants (55%) said people have to contribute to their own salvation.

Visit Christianity Today for a full take on this, along with some helpful commentary on the historical issues at play in these differences.

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