Today a literate American group is being deceived by their own illiteracy of the Bible — they’re evangelicals. It’s as if Martin Luther came, went, and nothing changed. This fact is about to influence the presidential election.
According to a recent Pew Research study, the GOP has a “12-point advantage” among white Protestant voters, whereas leading into the 2008 election this group was “evenly divided” among Republican and Democratic parties. A previous Pew study indicates that most evangelicals expect government to uphold morality, but most evangelicals don’t actually know what that means according to their own faith.
An incredible 50 percent of American evangelicals think government has a role in protecting morality, according to Pew. This data is not far from suggesting that evangelicals’ views of morality influence their political leanings. Eighty-eight percent of the evangelicals sampled believe that the Bible is the Word of God, yet according to a recent LifeWay Research study, 54 percent of Christians read the Bible once a week or less. If the Bible is the primary moral compass in evangelical churches — it’s the very Word of God for 88 percent — and it’s not being actively read, then it seems that evangelicals aren’t fully engaged with their primary moral compass.
Considering that Protestants flunk when it comes to knowledge of their own religion, their biblical illiteracy isn’t surprising. In a Pew study, they score an average of 6.5 out of 12 on questions pertaining to Christianity, like when the Jewish Sabbath begins, which is ironic considering that its timing is used at the second most monumental moment in Christian history next to Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ death (John 19:31–37; 20:1–9).
The real-life satire continues. In another study, Pew found that 57 percent of evangelicals think that many religions can lead to eternal life, yet one of the primary tenets of the Bible is that Yahweh is the one supreme God and that His Son Jesus is the only way to salvation (Deuteronomy 6:4–6; John 3:16–17; Romans 3:21–31). If God said in the Bible, “You shall have no other gods before me” and Jesus claimed, “No one comes to [God] the Father except through me,” how can the majority of evangelicals believe that there is another way (Exodus 20:3; John 14:6)? The answer: the majority of evangelicals don’t actively read and study the book they claim is God-authoritative and inerrant.
If the majority of Americans are Protestants, and most Protestants don’t believe in the type of Christianity the earliest Christians died for, then a shocking amount of Americans are heretics, biblically speaking. Now, the Bible distinguishes between those yet to believe, and those who claim to believe but synchronize their faith with surrounding religions. The unbelievers are to be ministered to, whereas the second are called heretics who must be sternly corrected with the possible ramifications of being booted out of the church (1 John 2:18–27).
Last time in Christendom a “majority-Christian country” believed that salvation could be obtained outside of Jesus it was 1518 in Germany. At that time, Martin Luther began the Reformation, which was his opposition to sins being paid for by tithes to the church and his campaign to educate the church once again with the Bible. An illiterate people were being misled by the church at large, so Luther campaigned for biblical literacy. Considering the state of Christianity, a new Reformation could begin in America today. In the meantime, the political ramifications are startling.
In prior campaigns, candidates may have appealed to the evangelical belief in the “one true God” or even allude to the Bible, but that doesn’t seem to even matter anymore. Christians may be in the majority in America, and Protestants may be primarily GOP fans, but who cares? The core beliefs of Christianity are hardly a factor for most American Christians. It’s not candidates that have ground to make up; it’s Bible- and Jesus-believing Christians.
Sources: The Lexham English Bible, Logos Bible Software (2012); Russ Rankin, “Study: Bible Engagement in Churchgoers’ Hearts, Not Always Practiced,” LifeWay Research (September 6, 2012); “Americans Continue To Be Wary of Church Involvement in Partisan Politics,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (October 3, 2012); “Religious Groups and Political Party Identification,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (September 28, 2010); “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (February 2008).
John D. Barry is the publisher for Logos Bible Software and chief editor of Faithlife Study Bible, Lexham Bible Dictionary, and Bible Study Magazine. He is the author of Resurrected Servant in Isaiah and coauthor of Connect the Testaments and Mary: Devoted to God’s Plan.
Publication date: November 5, 2012