I teach a theology class to high schoolers. One might wonder why high school students, who should be busy worrying about college and careers, should take time to learn about theology. After all, these student’s go to church, what more do they need?
As the late great R.C. Sproul would say, “all Christians are theologians”. That is, all Christians (and even non-Christians) have ideas and questions about God. And this is no trivial matter. Ideas have consequences. They shape our actions. And those actions further shape our ideas.
Ligonier Ministries has been conducting a survey called the State of Theology, to see what Christians believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, sin, and other important matters of the faith. You can find it here to read it yourself.
The data reveals outcomes that, while concerning, follow the current trajectory of popular religious thought. First, the data reveals that among Americans, and even Evangelicals, the trends of secularization and individualism continue to motivate ideas, even regarding Christianity. An agonizing 60% of Americans, and even 32% of Evangelicals, say that their religious beliefs are not objectively true. Even if our churches are still full of participants, how committed can one be a belief that’s not believed to be objectively true? How fast will one give up such a belief in the face of difficulty. And how much does one rely upon their faith to guide them daily if it is not even coherent enough to believe it is universally true?
It is no surprise that the more people look for at least some validity of a claim in science and reason, the more they reject Christianity. There are many claims of Christianity that hold up to the strictest logical scrutiny. Which is why so many academics and philosophers end up turning on atheistic and secular worldviews and embracing the Faith. But we have much work to do if most Americans can’t even claim their belief to be true.
Second, the data reveals the waning commitment to holiness that Americans hold; especially those aged 18-34. As expected, over 50% view the Bible’s prohibition of homosexuality as irrelevant. And 36% believe that God is unconcerned with the day to day activities of one’s life.
God is relegated to a cosmic Santa Claus; only necessary when we really need Him. In the eyes of most Americans, God does not care about your heart, soul, or mind, so why should he care about what you do with your body, and with whom?
There is even some evidence, that I hope to be able to write about soon, that show the lack of commitment to holiness is at least a partial cause of men (of all ages) forsaking the Christian faith.
This data should confirm to us that hold to an orthodox and historic Christian faith that the road is not getting any easier. The ideas of our culture, and sometimes even in our Christian communities, are not friendly or conducive to spiritual growth. The data in these surveys are not as outrageous or provocative as other news stories, but they should serve to remind us that we must be diligent to deepen our faith and protect our communities from the powers that wish to dismantle it.