Every other year, the folks at Ligonier Ministries team up with LifeWay Research to conduct a State of Theology Survey. In addition to assessing what Americans in general believe about God, sin, the Bible and salvation, they also look at how people who would affirm core theological beliefs answer the same questions.
The results of the 2022 survey were released a few weeks ago. I don’t imagine many of you will be shocked to know that most of our neighbors aren’t thinking biblically about theological issues. You might be more surprised to learn that many who hold to evangelical convictions have some huge gaps in their theological thinking.
For example, 51% of Americans would agree with this statement: “God learns and adapts to different circumstances.” But would you be surprised to know that 47% of evangelicals also agree?
And it’s no surprise that an overwhelming majority of US adults affirm that “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” But what should we make of the findings that show that 65% of evangelicals hold that view?
The survey asked people to respond to this statement: “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.” While the wording of that statement is problematic, still the fact that a growing number of evangelicals would agree is troubling. In 2014, 41% of evangelicals affirmed the statement. Eight years later, the number has swelled to 53% who agree.
The newest results shouldn’t surprise us. As I scanned the survey, I was reminded of a more informal poll that was conducted almost 30 years ago.
In 1994, a 30-year-old Michael Horton, who was pursuing his PhD in theology from Cambridge, attended the annual Christian Booksellers Convention. As a newly published author, Horton visited with a variety of Christian publishers, authors, and pastors at their displays.
Seeing the word “gospel” plastered everywhere, Horton decided to conduct an informal survey of his own. He went from booth to booth at the convention asking the booksellers this question: “What is the ‘gospel’ to you?” One exhibitor responded, “Well, it’s not really tangible. It’s personal. You must find it within yourself.” Another answered, “The gospel? It means you love the Lord, you love yourself, and you love other human beings.” Still others said things like, “It means good news.” “You do your best.” “I don’t know. All I know is that I love the Lord with all my heart.”
He followed up with a second question. “What does justification mean?” He reported that several exhibitors said, “I don’t know.” Others said things like, “I can’t answer all these questions. I just know I’m born again.” In six hours of taping interviews, Horton said only two people came remotely close to giving a biblical answer.
Why does it matter? After all, there’s no theology entrance exam for heaven. Our salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. All of us will find out one day what we had wrong and what we had right when it comes to theology. And we’ll find ourselves spending eternity with people who have been born again but who would have not scored very well on a doctrine exam.
The problem comes when we realize that many people today say they believe in and worship the God of the Bible, when in fact, the god they worship bears little resemblance to the God who has revealed Himself to us in the pages of scripture. In many cases, the god being worshipped by a lot of self-identified evangelicals is a god who agrees with them on matters of ethics and politics. Author Anne Lamott, who wouldn’t call herself an evangelical has nevertheless correctly observed that “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
I’ll add to that. If you’ve never found yourself wrestling with uncomfortable theological, moral or ethical issues, where what you read in the Bible is out of step with your own thinking, chances are you’re worshipping what theologian Carl Trueman calls an “anthropomorphic godlet” – an idol who is simply a smarter and better version of yourself.
One of the great joys of being a child of God is that we can grow in our knowledge and understanding of the God who is, the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. Along the way, we will find ourselves challenged. We’ll have to wrestle with whether we can really believe in, trust in, and follow this God, or whether we’ll attempt to remake Him into a more palatable deity. Dumbing down God is a dangerous activity that can lead you on a deadly path. It’s not always easy embracing the God who is. But it’s always right.
Please remember to pray for our students this weekend as they head to Hot Springs for our Fall Youth Retreat. Pray for safety, fun and for them to be spiritually equipped and challenged as Pastor Matt takes them through the book of Jonah.
Cole & hannah perkins
We’re excited to be welcoming Cole and Hannah Perkins to Redeemer in a few weeks. And we want to ask you to take part in helping to bless them as they arrive.
They’ll be moving into their home the weekend of October 21. And to welcome them, we’re having a Gift Card Shower. Pick a store – Home Depot, Kroger, Walmart – or a restaurant you’d like them to try (I happen to know Slim Chickens is already a favorite) – or grab a basic Amazon gift card – write a welcome note from you with a few fun facts about you or your family to help them get to know you, and bring the note and the gift card to church this Sunday or next Sunday. That way, we can have a gift basket of cards waiting for them when they arrive on September 22.
|Cole’s first official day on staff will be November 1. Please pray for Cole and Hannah as they make the transition to Little Rock to be part of what God is doing at Redeemer.|
legacy grandparenting summit
Did you miss the deadline for the special reduced price for the upcoming Grandparenting Summit, happening on Saturday, October 22? Well guess what? The offer has been extended for a limited time. That means you can still save $24 per person when you click here and use the promo code THANKYOU as you fill out the online registration form.
trunk -or- treat | sat oct 29
|October has arrived. That means it’s almost Trunk or Treat time. This year, we’ll be back on the blacktop on Saturday night, October 29 with a fun night for families and a chance for kids to take home some candy. |
Have you bought a few bags of candy for the event yet? Bring them to church with you this Sunday and put them in the collection baskets in the lobby. Thanks for your generosity!
|Ladies, circle these dates on your calendar now. The Ladies Fall Retreat is scheduled for November 11-13. You can sign up now to reserve your space.|
ladies fall retreat | nov 11-13
Men’s first tuesday | nov 1
|And men, make sure you have Tuesday night, November 1 blocked out on your calendar. We’ll meet at church at 6:15 for a chili dinner, and then at 7:00, Pastor Dean Inserra will join us to help us with a discipleship checkup.|
|Throughout the Farewell Discourse, Jesus has been warning His disciples that they can expect trouble ahead. But before He’s done, He points them to where they can expect to find peace when things get rough. We’ll see where He points them – and us – as we turn again to John 16 this Sunday.|
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!