Thursday, 30 October 2014


This survey commissioned by Ligonier Ministries of the theological beliefs of Americans seems to have created something of a stir (though I suspect that it was intended to).

The stated aim was "to measure the theological awareness of adult Americans."

They say,

"Anecdotal evidence has shown an increasing lack of theological understanding in America, both outside and inside the church. Ligonier Ministries wanted to understand with accuracy the extent of the need to improve that understanding."

Well, Ligonier certainly got their answer.

According to the survey findings

"1-in-5 Americans deny that Jesus is the God-man. One third of Americans think the Father is more divine than the Son...Nearly two thirds (63%) think the Holy Spirit is a force and not a person."

Now to be fair, having gone through the survey myself, I do think that some of the questions read like traps designed to ensnare the unwary. One of them, for instance, is clearly asking you to draw upon a knowledge of the Westminster Confession rather than the Bible! 

 Correctly responding to some of these questions necessitates a belief not only in an evangelical faith but in that specific form of evangelicalism known as Calvinism, and a couple of questions are so vaguely phrased that as it stands I consider them actually unanswerable.

     "Salvation always begins with God changing a person so that they will turn to Him in faith."

Now this is very vague. What is meant by the term "salvation"? Salvation is a process not an event. Strictly speaking I would say that salvation actually begins with God's sovereign choice of that individual in eternity past.

By salvation do they mean regeneration? If so then it ought to be made much clearer than it is.

Given that Ligonier is R C Sproul's crowd I am surprised at how vague and/or misleading some of the questions are. 

   "There will be people in heaven who have never heard of Jesus Christ"

Firstly, to me, the phrasing leaves open the possibility that we are being asked whether there are people currently in Heaven who still do not know the name of Jesus Christ despite the fact that they are in His Heaven!

But presumably what is actually meant was, "Did people ever get to Heaven without knowing that name whilst on earth?"

  To which the only correct answer must be yes! 

 For is not Heaven the dwelling place of all those Old Testament believers who, whilst having had a justifying faith in a coming Messiah, could hardly have been expected to know that when He finally came He would be given the specific name Jesus?

But going back to those headline findings, is Ligonier really astonished that 1 in 5 Americans (not Christian Americans mark you) deny that Jesus is the God-Man? 

 Seriously? Did they even bother to discount all of the Jews, Muslims, atheists etc from that figure?

 I mean, if all of the other four out of five Americans actually agree that Jesus is God then wouldn't we expect that 80% of the US would be in church worshipping Him every week?

 It seems to me that the survey is replete with Christian presuppositions which the commissioners must surely have realized increasing numbers of Americans would deny in their entirety. 

 How do you measure a society's knowledge of how salvation is obtained (including discussion of the Ordo Salutis!) when that society increasingly has no idea what salvation is, or that it is even needed?

Ligonier ought to be glad that the answers demonstrated any kind of spiritual awareness at all. It would be an illuminating exercise to carry out the same survey in the UK where religious presuppositions have long since vanished. 

But fear not, America, you are fast catching up with us.

Do your survey in another generation's time, Ligonier, and all you will get in reply is a blank stare.