Are you a heretic?
All Christians want to think that their beliefs are of biblically sound doctrine; however, a recent study from LifeWay Research suggests that evangelicals believe several heretical claims.
Christianity Today reports the survey conducted for Ligonier Ministries asked 3,000 Americans (including 586 evangelicals) their positions on salvation, worship, sin, and much more. Those taking part in the survey were given 47 statements to affirm or deny, based on their beliefs.
The study found that evangelicals varied from traditional Christian orthodoxy with 12 of those statements.
Some of the most significant positions included the following:
- People have the ability to turn to God on their own initiative (82 percent affirmed this statement, though it was denied by the Council of Orange in A.D. 529).
- Individuals must contribute to their own salvation (74 percent affirmed, thought it was denied by the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325).
- The Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being (56 percent affirmed, though it was denied by the First Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381).
Why does this matter?
LifeWay Research director Scott McConnell explained to Christianity Today that this survey indicated just how “shallow many people’s beliefs are.”
“The fact is that God’s message to us and God’s relationship to us is really a tapestry,” McConnell said. “Each of those threads of belief and love and relationship are woven together. It takes an individual really loving God enough to want to know this whole message and want to understand how it fits together.”
He continued, “Sometimes, as Christians in America, we’re so busy running from one thing to another without taking the time to really closely see how this relationship with God works. I think you can see this in the variety of responses [to this survey] where people are in the right theologically on several questions and then completely missing it on others.”
What does this mean for the church?
Pastors will want to take these findings under consideration as they continue to teach their flocks.
As visiting director of Manchester Wesley Research Center Howard Snyder told Christianity Today, “Most evangelicals churches have largely abandoned catechesis (or a functional equivalent)... Theologically informed discipleship is mostly absent from churches.”
Is your church at risk?
Beth Felker Jones, a professor of theology at Wheaton College said, “The survey underscores our desperate need for sound doctrinal teaching in the local church. I fear that we’re spending too much time in cults of personality around charismatic superstar pastors, who often focus more on their personal theological idiosyncrasies and pet ideas than on basic Christian orthodoxy.”
Take a hard look at your own church for signs of false teaching. Crosswalk provides 7 Sure-Fire Ways to Recognize False Teachers if you’re not sure what to look for.
Overall, this study should serve as a wake-up call for Christians.
Crosswalk.com blogger Dr. James Emery White warns that heresy leads us to cheapen our faith.
“Cheap faith is faith without sacrifice, without suffering, without deprivation, without selflessness. Authentic faith is faith that has little to do with what you get out of it, and everything to do with how God is glorified through it,” he writes.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can ususally be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap.
Publication date: October 7, 2016