Americans: Heaven and Jesus, Sure. Hell and Sin, Not So Much

It’s bad news for theology lovers: Americans love God, Heaven, and Jesus, but are inconsistent when it comes to doctrine, a new study shows.

As the product of Evangelical youth groups and an “inter-denominational” Christian campus ministry where the concept of sin went unspoken, I’m not shocked most Americans believe humans are naturally good and deny the idea of eternal judgment. If these messages are being churned out (or insinuated by silence) by leaders within the Church, how can we expect society to get it right?

 

It’s bad news for theology lovers: Americans love God, Heaven, and Jesus, but are inconsistent when it comes to doctrine, a new study shows.

Though 61 percent of Americans believe Jesus is divine, 64 percent say God accepts worship from all religions, according to LifeWay Research’s survey on theology. A bright spot was that Americans with evangelical beliefs were less likely to accept a Universalist God, but not by much (48%).

On Heaven and Hell, Americans were again murky on the doctrinal details. The concept of eternal judgement proved especially unpopular. Only 4 in 10 Americans believe Hell is where God sends all people who do not accept Christ as their savior. But 60 percent of Americans believe all people are reunited with loved ones in Heaven. Especially surprising was those with evangelical beliefs (64%) were most likely to agree all people go to Heaven when they die.

It would seem incompatible then for 54 percent of Americans to agree “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.”

Original sin too comes up short within American belief systems. Lifeway found 65 percent of Americans believe everyone sins, but most people are inherently good.

As the product of Evangelical youth groups and an “inter-denominational” Christian campus ministry where the concept of sin went unspoken, I’m not shocked most Americans believe humans are naturally good and deny the idea of eternal judgment. If these messages are being churned out (or insinuated by silence) by leaders within the Church, how can we expect society to get it right?

Re-visioning salvation, not as coverage for sin, but rather a healing for shame is an increasingly trendy theme especially among “post-Evangelical” pastors, authors, and cultural influencers.

Back in June, I heard the pastor of Nashville-based Gracepointe Church, Stan Mitchell, re-imagine the concept of original sin at the progressive Christian Wild Goose Festival. “We were told that the reason we were born separate from God is because we are all sinners…because of something two people did thousands of years ago in a primordial world,” said Mitchell from the Mainstage. “God does not separate from us. But estrangement is my sense that God cannot be with me in my brokenness.”

A nice-sounding (albeit self-absorbed) concept, maybe.

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