Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details

Most Americans still identify as Christians but they seem to be confused about some of the details of their faith.

More than half of Americans (58 percent) say God is the author of the Bible. About half say the Bible alone is the written Word of God (52 percent). Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say the biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. A quarter (23 percent) disagree. Thirteen percent are not sure. Almost all of those with evangelical beliefs (98 percent) agree, as do more than half of Americans who do not hold evangelical beliefs (56 percent).


NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Americans don’t know much about theology. Most say God wrote the Bible. But they’re not sure everything in it is true.

Six in 10 say everyone eventually goes to heaven, but half say only those who believe in Jesus will be saved. And while 7 in 10 say there’s only one true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—two-thirds say God accepts worship of all faiths.

Those are among the findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says most Americans still identify as Christians. But they seem to be confused about some of the details of their faith.

For example, he says, about two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus is God while half say Jesus is a being created by God. Those two beliefs don’t seem to match, he says.

“Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people,” McConnell says.

The online survey on theology was sponsored by Orlando-based Ligonier Ministries. Researchers asked 47 questions on topics from prayer and the Bible to heaven and hell.

Among the findings:

Americans think God likes all religions.
Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Twenty-four percent disagree. Twelve percent are not sure.

Americans of all ages hold this belief, from those 18 to 34 years old (62 percent) to those 50 and older (67 percent). More than half of African-Americans (69 percent), Hispanics (65 percent), whites (63 percent) and Asian-Americans (57 percent) agree.

The one holdout: Americans with evangelical beliefs (48 percent), who are less likely than Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs (67 percent) to hold this view.

Evangelical believers say hell is for real. Other Americans aren’t so sure.
Eighty-four percent of those who hold evangelical beliefs say hell is a place of eternal judgment, where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ. Only 30 percent of Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs hold that view.

Overall, fewer than half (40 percent) of Americans say those who don’t believe in Jesus will go to hell.

Many evangelical believers say everybody goes to heaven. They also believe that only those who trust Jesus as their Savior are saved.
Two-thirds of those with evangelical beliefs (64 percent) say heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. That’s slightly higher than Americans in general (60 percent).

By definition, all those with evangelical beliefs affirm that only people who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Overall, about half of Americans (54 percent) say only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone receive eternal salvation.

Everybody sins but it’s no big deal.
Americans admit they aren’t perfect. But they give each other the benefit of the doubt. Two-thirds (65 percent) agree that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) say it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. But that wrath seems to be reserved only for the worst sinners.

Three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans disagree with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes almost two-thirds (62 percent) who strongly disagree.

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