Americans Fail Theology 101

The Wages of Doctrinal Docility

Could you pass a basic theology quiz? Several thousand Americans just tried. Uh-oh. Too bad God doesn’t grade on a curve.

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Eric Metaxas

One thing is certain: Americans love the Bible. A recent report from The American Bible Society and Barna Group finds that two-thirds of the nation believe the Bible contains “everything a person needs to know in order to live a meaningful life.” And a vast majority of folks in this country still consider themselves Christians. But just how deep does their Christianity run?

Not very, according to the results of a survey released late last month by LifeWay Research. The survey, commissioned by Ligonier Ministries, asked 3,000 participants a set of 47 questions about foundational Christian beliefs. Many of the answers revealed a mishmash of heresy and confusion about Christianity’s most basic doctrines.

Seventy percent of Americans agree there’s only one true God—one in essence, three in person: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet almost the same number believe God accepts the worship of all other religions, even those that deny the Trinity or worship other deities. Sixty-one percent correctly say Jesus is both human and divine, but half think that He’s also “the first and greatest being created by God,” rather than existing eternally, as Scripture and the ancient creeds of the faith teach.

More bizarre contradictions emerged: Over sixty percent of Americans say that God, Who cannot err, is the Author of the Bible. Yet fewer than half are willing to affirm that the Bible God wrote is “one hundred percent accurate in all it teaches.” Two-thirds admit everyone sins, yet also insist that most people are good by nature! Perhaps most oddly, half of Americans believe that only those who accept Jesus will be saved, yet sixty percent also say everyone will eventually make it to Heaven.

So what about professing Christians and especially evangelicals? Surely they did much better on basic doctrines of the faith. Uh, no.

daily_commentary_10_06_16Lifeway identified 586 of the three-thousand respondents as “evangelical.” These are folks who believe the Bible is their highest authority, that personal evangelism is important, and that trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way of salvation.

Yet huge percentages of these folks appeared to affirm major tenets of ancient heresies like Arianism. An astonishing seventy percent, for instance, say Jesus is a created being. Fifty-six percent say the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, “is a divine force but not a personal being.”

Evangelicals, by definition, believe trusting in Jesus is the only way of salvation. Yet two-thirds of evangelicals—more than Americans as a whole—claim Heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with loved ones.

It’s not just the departures from these historic doctrines that should concern us, but the contradictory answers. It shows not only that Americans in general and evangelicals in particular have the wrong answers on basic Christian doctrines, but that they don’t really understand the concept of doctrine itself.

Howard Snyder, director of Manchester Wesley Research Center, attributes this widespread cluelessness to churches having basically abandoned theological education. Catechesis has fallen by the wayside.

Folks, if we hope to preserve not only evangelical faith in the generations to come, but also the “mere Christianity” expressed in the Nicene Creed, we have to take theological instruction seriously again.

If you think you need a little help, come to BreakPoint.org and we’ll link you to resources that’ll equip you, your family, and your church not just to pass any test, but to confess, along with Christians down through the ages, “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

Further Reading and Information
Americans Fail Theology 101: The Wages of Doctrinal Docility

Strengthen your own theological IQ. Use the resources linked below to make sure you have the foundations for "the faith given once for all."


Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details
LifeWay Research | September 27, 2016

The Nicene Creed

The Westminster Confession of Faith

Available at the online bookstore

The Faith Given Once for All
Chuck Colson, Harold Fickett | Zondervan | January 2008

The Faith Given Once for All, Participant's Guide
Chuck Colson | Zondervan | December 2008

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters, DVD
Chuck Colson, Gabe Lyons | Zondervan

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters, Audio CD
Chuck Colson | Zondervan

Mere Christianity
C. S. Lewis | HarperOne Publisher

Basic Christianity
John Stott | IVP Books | May 2012

BibleSoft Starter Edition PC Study Bible Featuring BreakPoint Commentaries, CD
The Colson Center

Biblesoft Study Software: BreakPoint Series Vol. 1
The Colson Center


This subject is intriguing indeed, but you're talking about "Man's" theology, not the pure scripture/besorah of Yahuah Eloheinu. This is why man fails, because he is relying on his own intellect to discern what Yahuah only reveals to those who are going to follow His commands, His Royal Covenant Torah. The "Institutionalized Church" is a circus, a place where people go to be entertained, and that's exactly what goes on inside, I know, I've been there, I've seen and heard what most preachers, pastors, ministers evangelists teach/preach....most times, it's nothing short of hypocrisy and blasphemy.....all of which is false teaching. They won't teach the Feasts, Festivals (His moedim/set-apart days) and true Sabbaths of Yahuah (btw, this is His true name which has been removed from most of all translations of your modern scriptures, and is why the vast majority of so-called believers are ignorant of His true identity)

Most present day 'church leaders' are perpetuating teachings of demons, paganistic rituals, traditions of men. Everyone celebrates that which an abomination to Yahuah...i.e. x-mas, new year, halloween, etc., etc., etc.. These are NOT sanctioned nor authorized by our Abba and Elohim, they are the demonic teachings of the nations. Did not Messiah Yahusha tell us that "if we loved Him, to guard His commands?" Yochanan/John 14:15

15 “If you love Me, you shall guard My commands.

What were His commands? None other than those commands of His Abba and ours, found in the Torah, which all of the "Institutionalized Church" seems to want to throw out the window, saying "we aren't under the Torah"...Oh!!! but we are, if you want to be associated with Messiah, then that's what you need to be following (hint: it's not the 5 books of Moshe either, it's Royal Covenant Torah that Avraham followed....it's everything from Beresheeth/Gen 1:1 to Shemot/Ex 24:11.)

The Book of the Law (BoL) was for the transgression in the wilderness of Sinai, at the golden calf incident, and was imposed, not agreed to, as a witness against them, til the time of Messiah came (which it did) to pay the death penalty position for sin/lawlessness, breaking of the covenant Shemot/Ex 32.

So, you see, one does not need the "theologies of men", to learn from scripture what Yahuah requires of us. The 'churches' ignorance of Torah is do to lack of self study, an urgency to know real truth, lack of asking the right questions, to question that which comes from the stage where everyone is entertained from....it is the lack of responsibility of your leader to know real truth, which they will be held personally responsible for and for the spiritual health of all those who would listen.....we all are held responsible for what we learn, so, it is to our benefit, to want to learn real scriptural Torah that leads to life...
I've just discover this website thru an article by Eric. I've been associated with my church since 1982 and from the beginning our Pastor has continually pointed us to God's written word. He considers us to be a Christian Service Center because we have classes, classes and more classes available thru out the week. This walk is simple but not easy and so many Americans today are looking for "easy". It takes commitment to follow Jesus but oh what rewards. I was completely healed of Hepatitis C at the point of almost loosing my life. Praise you Jesus! I'm praying for all believers to wake up to what following Jesus really means with no compromise as to what is considered politically correct. There is no room for that and it amounts to nothing. Holy Spirit is our teacher and all believers should be baptized in to Him. Truly hearing from God is not in the past, it is necessary to be a disciple and our own way of thinking is not going to get us to God's heavenly realm, Pray for America we need Jesus !!
Could I?
Could I pass a basic theology test? I like to think so. Where do I go to take it and get graded? BRING IT ON!
Lack of Critical Thinking
Alan definitely has a good point. Another side to this is that in a post-modern country many, including those who say they are Christians, do not think critically about their religious beliefs. Logic and reason seem to have nothing to do with what they believe. It really fits with post-modernism where whatever a person wants to believe is fine and doesn't need to make sense. If you believe it then it is true for you. So people find no problem accepting the beliefs of others that contradict their beliefs and embracing them as true. Basically for many there is no notion of objective truth, or as Francis Schaeffer would say, true truth when it comes to the spiritual realm. So we get to decide what is true and, in a sense, create our own god. Sadly, what we get as a result is old heresies in new clothes. The enemy of our souls really isn't that creative, he hasn't come up with any new ideas in the last 2,000 years. What this requires of us is to lovingly confront those who hold such notions and pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to them through the fog of their thinking. Of course that also means we need to be really clear what we believe and why. Sometimes when I see these things I wonder who really belong to Christ and who does not. I personally pray for some that I know that have drifted away from the faith and embraced various strange doctrines.
Why? Because people don't go to church. And when they do go, they don't pay attention. Pastors go nuts over this, they preach and preach, and then when they councel someone, they discover the person doesn't know anything about his own faith. Christians NEED to read the bible on their own, and attend bible studies where they can ask questions about things they don't understand. But when you go to the bible study, there's hardly anyone there, even in evangelical churches. There is an old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.