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Evangelical church teachings
compared with members' actual beliefs
Most evangelicals generally believe in the main historical doctrines of
the Christian church:
Inspiration: The authors of the Bible were inspired
by the Holy Spirit as they wrote.
Inerrancy: The books of the Bible, in their original autograph
copy, were without
Virgin birth: Miriam, the mother of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was a virgin when she conceived.
Atonement: Through Jesus' death, the relationship between God and Man (which had
been damaged by Adam and Eve's sin) can been restored.
Resurrection: After Jesus' death and burial, he arose
Second coming: Jesus' return to earth is imminent. Jesus himself is mentioned in the Gospels as expecting to return within the lifetime of most of his disciples, which didn't happen.
Incarnation: God appeared on earth in human form, as Jesus.
Justification: An act of God in which any person who accepts that they have sinned and
who believes in the atonement of Christ is forgiven of their sins and brought into a close
relationship with God.
Regeneration of the spirit: A new believer undergoes a spiritual rebirth.
Trinity: God exists as a Trinity, consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
three persons within a single godhead.
Satan is a created being, a living
entity, who was once an angel but
is now an all-evil tormentor of humanity. He wanders the Earth with his demons seeking people to destroy.
Salvation is a gift of God, attained by repentance and trusting
Jesus as Lord and Savior. Some Evangelicals do not include the need for repentance
as a first step, because it requires an effort -- a good work -- on the part of the
Heaven exists as a place of
beauty, peace and eternal reward where saved Christians will enjoy the
presence of God forever.
Hell exists as a place never-ending torture with unbearable heat, flesh-eating worms, etc. without mercy or any hope of
cessation for the unsaved.
Of these beliefs, three are currently in a state of flux. The eventual
outcome is unclear:
Hell: In previous generations, pastors would often terrify
congregations with "Fire and brimstone" sermons describing the
unbearable heat, pain, thirst, flogging, darkness, etc. of Hell. Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners
in the hands of an angry God" is perhaps the most famous. Such sermons have now
become quite rare. Supporters of human rights believe that torturing
prisoners, and imprisoning people
for thought crimes (e.g. believing in the wrong God, or not believing in any God) are profoundly immoral practices on Earth. Many Evangelicals now find these
practices in Hell incompatible with a loving God. In recent decades, Hell is more
frequently described in Evangelical circles as a place where one is isolated
from God; torture, burning heat, worms, and other sources of pain are being downplayed.
Inerrancy: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a widespread debate raged
among Evangelical theologians over biblical inerrancy. It was never resolved.
"The controversy quickly became an impasse and the impasse quickly became
unspoken. As a result, evangelical theologians have, for the past twenty
years, held widely divergent views of Scripture's authority with no apparent
hope of coming to a common understanding." 1,6
Salvation: As described above, Evangelicals believe that those who
have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior will attain Heaven after death. Those
who have rejected Jesus and the Gospel will go to Hell. In past decades,
increasing attention has been paid to those who have not had the opportunity
to learn of Jesus, the Gospel message, or Christianity. Some Evangelicals feel
that relegating to Hell those who have never had the opportunity to accept
Jesus is incompatible with a just, kind, and loving God. Others hold to the historical Christian
belief that everyone who has not trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior will spend
eternity in Hell; this includes both those who have consciously rejected
Jesus, and those who have never heard of Jesus, the Bible or Christianity.
Differneces between what evangelical churches teach and what their members believe:
LifeWay Research conducted a State of Theology survey of 3,000 Americans for Ligonier Ministries. Evangelical Christians gave some unexpected answers, as in the following statements and responses:
- "Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature." 67% of evangelicals agree somewhat or strongly. However, that belief conflicts with Romans 3:10-12.
- "God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." 62% agree. But that belief conflicts with Romans John 4:24.
- "Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth." One in three (32%) agreed.
"The Bible's condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today."
44% agreed; 15% were not sure; 41% disagreed.
Among evangelicals aged 18 to 34, a majority of 51% agreed, 14% were not sure and 35% disagreed. This cohort contains many individuals who, unlike earlier generations, have personal friends or family members who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. They have learned directly about homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. from members of the LGBT community.
- "The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true." 47% agreed; 10% were not sure; 43% disagreed.
- "The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches." 50% agreed; 9% were not sure; 41% disagreed.
- "It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. 52% agreed; 0% were not sure; 48% disagreed.
On the other hand, for some questions, evangelicals gave answers that agree with normal evangelical teaching:
- "God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ." 91% agreed.
- "There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit." 97% agreed.
- "Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God." 73% agreed.
"Abortion is a sin.' 52% agreed. 3
"There will be a time when Jesus Christ returns to judge all the people who have lived." 3 63% agreed.
Evangelical beliefs about transgender persons:
Until recently, the most active religious disagreement by evangelical Christians in the U.S. was over homosexuality. However, this has settled down since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the U.S. in mid-2015. Today, in late 2018, the oppression of transgender persons seems to be the most active topic. Adult transgender persons constitute about 0.6% of the population. They identify their personal gender identity as different from their birth-identified gender. So, for example:
A transgender adult who was identified as a girl at birth now identifies as a male, or (less commonly) as neither female nor male, or as both female and male -- perhaps changing from time to time.
In contrast, a cisgender adult who was identified as a girl at birth still identifies as a female.
Scientific researchers have found structures near the center of the brain that come in two types: larger structures with a higher density of neurons typically found in males, and smaller structures with a lower density of neurons, typically found in females.
- A cisgender male has larger structures in their brain. a cisgender female has smaller structures.
- A transgender male, identified as a female at birth has larger structures in their brain, matching those of a cisgender male.
- A transgender female, identified as male at birth has smaller structures, matching those of a cisgender female.
Thus, it appears that these structures are "telling" the individual what gender they are.
Therapy and counseling often does help a transgender person accept their identity but has had a success rate equal to or close to zero at converting transgender persons to cisgender. If being transgender were a choice, then one would expect a high success rate.
Most evangelical leaders teach that gender identity is a matter of choice. The survey of evangelicals showed that most disagree with the leaders: 51% disagree that it is a choice, 38% agree that it is a choice, 11% are unsure. 4
"Evangelical Persecution Syndrome:"
Patheos has a "Laughing in Disbelief" blog whose slogan is "Liberte, Egalite, Absurdite." It contains an entry by Andrew Hall called: "A New Psychological Disorder – Evangelical Persecution Syndrome." 5 A note states: "The story you are reading is satirical. The post may have links to real events that the satire is based on, but the Laughing in Disbelief article is fake.
Hall refers to the American Phrenological Association (APA), which of course does not exist. Hall states that diagnostic criteria for EPS include:
- "Crying out that their religious liberties are being violated when not allowed to discriminate against homosexuals.
- Stating a preference for a candidate who believes that “God told them to run for President.”
- Magical thinking that is congruent with a 6,000-year-old Earth.
- Uttering non-linear trains of thought and demanding others accept them as fact.
- A fixation on controlling female genitalia.
- Guns. Guns. And more guns."
The article concludes:
"Therapists who treat such patients report severe headaches from repeatedly banging their heads against the wall. Helmets have been distributed." 5
John Perry, "Dissolving the Inerrancy Debate: How Modern Philosophy
Shaped the Evangelical View of Scripture," Quodlibet Journal, Volume
3, #4, 2001-Fall, at: http://www.quodlibet.net/
Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God," at: http://www.jonathanedwards.com/
"Evangelicals deeply confused about core Christian beliefs," Religious News Service, 2018-OCT-16, at: https://religionnews.com/
"28: Gender identity is a matter of choice," The State of Theology, at: https://thestateoftheology.com/
Andrew Hall, "A New Psychological Disorder – Evangelical Persecution Syndrome," Patheos, 2018-OCT-16, at: http://www.patheos.com/
"Article Review:”Dissolving the Inerrancy Debate: How Modern Philosophy Shaped the Evangelical view of Scripture," Revolutionary Intent, 2008-JUL-28, at: https://revolutionaryintent.wordpress.com/
Copyright © 2003 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-APR-8
Latest update: 2008-SEP-16
Author: B.A. Robinson