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Religious heresies among evangelical Christians:
The 2018-DEC edition of Christianity Today featured a list of the editors' "Favorite Heresies" that are believed to be true by significant percentages of evangelical Christians. 1
Evangelical Christians are defined by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) as persons who strongly agree that:
- The Bible is the highest authority,
- Evangelizing others is a very high priority,
- Sin can only be cancelled by the death of Jesus, and
- Salvation only comes when a person trust Jesus as Savior.
The editors were reacting to polls by Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries. They have conducted a series of polls of evangelicals' beliefs to find where they "strongly agreed," "somewhat agreed, "not sure" or "disagreed" with commonly held Christian beliefs.
They found ten beliefs where 25% or more of evangelicals "strongly agreed" or "somewhat agreed" to beliefs that the editors of Christianity Today consider to be heresies:
77%: "Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God." This was determined to be false by a majority of delegates to the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.
57%: "The Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being." This was determined to be false by delegates to the First Council of Constantinople in 381 CE.
- 53%: "Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature."
- 52%: "God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christiantiy, Judaism, and Islam."
- 46%: "God will always reward faith with material blessings."
- 41%: "Worshiping alone or with one's family is a way to replace church."
- 32%: "Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth."
- 22%: "The Bible contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true."
- 21%: "The Holy Spirit can tell me to do something which is forbidden in the Bible."
- 25%: "Modern science disproves the Bible."
They also found two beliefs about which most evangelicals "disagreed" or "were not sure" about, and which Christianity Today editors consider to be true:
53%: "Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation."
Stephen Nicholos, writing for Ligonier Ministries about the results of their earlier study in 2016 -- which used the same question -- commented:
"Eight out of ten American [adult]s have an incorrect view of sin. As an implication, we could say that eight out of ten Americans do not know the biblical God. ... Self-identifying Roman Catholics stand at 79% in disagreement. 83% of self-identified Mainline Protestants [also] disagree. Self-identifying Evangelicals do better but even among them, 54% disagree. That is to say, a majority of evangelicals do not have a biblical view of sin. This is all the more disconcerting when we consider the necessity of a proper understanding of sin. In order to have a proper understanding of the gospel we must have a proper understanding of sin. How can we speak of redemption if we don’t know what we are being redeemed from? How can we be saved if we don’t even know we are lost? Why, after all, did God send His Son to the cross on our behalf? ..."
"Even the slightest sin is an affront, an insult, to the holy God. When eight out of ten Americans fail to grasp this we realize that we still must proclaim and defend the holiness of God in all of its fullness. And when a majority of Evangelicals, even if it’s a slight majority, fail to grasp this we realize the need to proclaim and defend the holiness of God within the church. When we see the responses to this statement, versus what the response should be, we realize that we still have our work cut out for us. That we still need to teach who God is, which in turn will reveal to us who we are and what sin is. Sin is ghastly. God is holy. Christ is absolutely necessary. These are the basics." 2
- 69%: "The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual new birth/life before a person has faith in Jesus."
John Hendryx at the Monergism web site teaches that:
"According to Scripture, all people are born dead in sin... This simply means that, as a result of the Fall, people are born without the Holy Spirit and therefore, (left to themselves and being spiritually dead) are hostile to Christ and unable to understand spiritual things. It does not mean they can do (or think) nothing in their fallen state, but it means they can do nothing spiritual or redemptive ... that they will always think God's word is foolish ... until the Holy Spirit, who comes from the outside, works grace in their hearts." 3
Thus, people are born unsaved and remain in that state unless and until until the Holy Spirit first selects them for inspiration. Only later, will they become able to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. This belief is supported by quotations from the Bible in John 6:37, 6:44 and 6:63-65.
This belief is very difficult for some persons to accept if they believe that personal salvation is required in order to avoid the torture chambers in Hell for all eternity after death. If about 67% of humans are not Christians, and if a minority of the people who are Christians are never "saved," then this belief implies that the Holy Spirit selects a relatively small minority of humans to attain Heaven on the basis of their belief, and decides to send a very large majority to Hell.
However, the "Sheep and Goats" section of Matthew 25 quotes the words of Jesus who stated that there is only one criterion by which every human is judged after death at the time of the Final Judgement: whether they have peformed good works towards needy persons while they were alive on Earth. This implies that all humans, no matter what their religion, their denomination, their beliefs, and their salvation status are judged only on the basis of their "good works" -- i.e. whether they have followed the Golden Rule.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Our Favorite Heresies," Christianity Today, 2018-DEC edition, Page 21.
Stephen Nichols, "The State of Theology: Does Even the Smallest Sin Deserve Eternal Damnation?," Ligonier Ministries, 2016-OCT-12, at: https://www.ligonier.org/
John Hendryx, "Jesus Teaches that Regeneration Precedes Faith," Monergism, undated, at: https://www.monergism.com/
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Copyright © 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2018-NOV-26
Author: B.A. Robinson