Thursday, July 3, 2008

Who Says?

A LifeWay Research study of 2500 Protestant adults may have a different take on how many evangelicals adhere to the soteriological exclusivism of Christianity than does the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

While the surveys are far from identitical in structure and format, in many ways the differences appear to help clarify the data. For example, rather than categorize an evangelical as self-designated, the LifeWay study requires the subject to agree with minimal evangelical essential doctrines in order to be classified as such. In addition, the LifeWay study focuses on those who attend church at least once a month. So while the Pew study indicates 57% of those who fancy themselves as evangelicals also hold to the erroneous notion that many religions can lead to eternal life, the LifeWay results show that 80% of evangelicals reject the idea that eternal life can be obtained through religions other than Christianity-- when the evangelical category is defined by meeting essential beliefs common to the evangelical community. And again, the LifeWay results are confined to those who attend church at least minimally.

One conclusion that might be drawn from a comparison of the two studies is a lot of folks who think they are evangelicals don't understand what an evangelical is. Another is that both the Pew and LifeWay reports highlight recent weaknesses in evangelicalism in the area of teaching sound essential doctrine to the flock under the care of evangelical leaders, pastors, and teachers.

In 1 Timothy 3: 15 the apostle Paul describes the church as the household of God and the pillar and support of the truth. This is both a tremendous blessing and sobering responsibility.