Every two years, Ligonier Ministries – the group started by the late R.C. Sproul – and LifeWay Research poll Americans about their theological beliefs. The findings this year continue a trend toward liberalism that concerns biblical apologist Dr. Alex McFarland.
"Here's the takeaway: Churched or unchurched, we are largely biblically illiterate," he summarizes.
The State of Theology 2022 looked at the beliefs of all Americans and compared those beliefs to those of qualified evangelicals. In 2022, 38% of evangelicals believed Jesus was a great teacher, but not God. A little more than a quarter of evangelicals (26%) do not believe the Bible is literally true; 37% say gender identity is a matter of choice; and 28% think the biblical condemnation of homosexuality doesn't apply today.
Reacting to those findings, McFarland says it appears evangelicals are buying into a less-demanding theology.
"We diminish God and elevate ourselves," he shares, referring to the results of diluted biblical teaching. "God's attributes are compromised while our righteousness is elevated. God's holiness is diminished, but so is our culpability."
His solution is twofold: (1) strengthen the family, because people tend to pick up a worldview from their parents – not what they say, necessarily, but how they live; and (2) put some backbone into evangelical preachers because the American Church has been chasing fads for several decades.
McFarland makes it clear he has no use for that. "When I look at this State of Theology survey, it looks like the result of three decades of seeker-sensitive church," he laments.
The apologist's assessment essentially mirrors that of Ligonier Ministries, which states: "This year's results reveal widespread confusion about the Bible and the relevance that it bears for our identity and our everyday lives. This confusion, present both inside and outside the church, cries out for clear and faithful teaching in Christian evangelism and discipleship."