2022 State of Theology Summary

The following is extracted from an article posted online by Ligonier Ministries. I will let it speak for itself.

What do Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible? Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research partnered to find out. Every two years, we take the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and to equip the church with better insights for discipleship. Read some of our key findings from 2022 below and explore the data for yourself.

Does God Change?

As we look at ourselves and at the world, it is clear that human beings, along with the rest of creation, undergo frequent changes. But does this principle of change apply to God as well?

The Bible affirms the truth that the triune God is both omniscient, meaning that He knows all things, and immutable, meaning that He cannot and does not change (Isa. 46:10; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; 1 John 3:20). Despite this truth, the majority of adults in the United States believe that God both learns and adapts to different circumstances.

Despite the clear teaching of Scripture, this year’s survey reveals that approximately half of evangelicals believe that God learns and adapts to various situations, meaning that they believe that God does change.

STATEMENT NO. 4

God learns and adapts to different circumstances.

U.S. Adult Finding: 51% agree vs. 32% disagree

U.S. Evangelical Finding: 48% agree vs. 43% disagree

These results show that American evangelicals and the general U.S. population are essentially equivalent in their agreement with this statement. Nearly half of both groups believe that God changes by learning and adapting. This may indicate the influence of open theism (which denies God’s complete knowledge of future events) and process theology (which denies God’s omnipotence and asserts that He does undergo changes) within the evangelical church. This finding may also indicate a lack of clear, biblical teaching on the character of God in evangelical churches.

Are We Born Innocent?

When God created the world, everything He made was good (Gen. 1:10, 21, 25, 31). Yet through Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden of Eden, humankind became corrupted. The Bible teaches the concept of original sin, which means that since the fall, every human being inherits a sin nature from the time of their conception (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12). In other words, we are not sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners.

It is unsurprising that most U.S. adults believe that humans are born innocent, given the influence of humanistic philosophies and worldviews that teach self-determinism and a view of humankind as basically good.

STATEMENT NO. 15

Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God.

U.S. Adult Finding: 71% agree vs. 21% disagree

U.S. Evangelical Finding: 65% agree vs. 32% disagree

The fact that almost two-thirds of evangelicals believe that humans are born in a state of innocence reveals that the biblical teaching of original sin is not embraced by most evangelicals. God’s Word, however, makes clear that all humans are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). This truth is foundational for an accurate understanding of the gospel and of our absolute need for the grace of God in salvation.

U.S. Evangelicals: Trends

The 2022 survey results for U.S. evangelicals reveal concerning trends related to the exclusivity and deity of Jesus Christ, the historicity and divine nature of Scripture, objective truth, gender identity, and homosexuality. At the same time, encouraging trends include evangelicals’ increasingly biblical views on abortion and sex outside of marriage.

God

Key to orthodox Christianity is Jesus’ own assertion that He alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” and that “no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6, emphasis added). Trends over time and the 2022 survey results reveal an increasingly unbiblical belief among evangelicals that God is pleased by worship that comes from those outside the Christian faith.

STATEMENT NO. 3

God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2016: 48% agree
2018: 51% agree
2020: 42% agree
2022: 56% agree

This year’s survey also revealed a significant increase in evangelicals who deny Jesus’ divinity. Such a belief is contrary to Scripture, which affirms from beginning to end that Jesus is indeed God (John 1:1; 8:58; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:1-4).

STATEMENT NO. 7

Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2020: 30% agree
2022: 43% agree

Truth

Embracing the reality of objective truth is necessary to a right and proper understanding of the world. Scripture affirms that God is truth (Num. 23:19; John 1:14; 14:6; 16:13), and because the Bible is His Word, Scripture is truth as well (Ps. 119:160; John 17:17; 2 Tim. 2:15). Despite the testimony of Scripture, evangelicals increasingly believe that the Bible is not literally true.

STATEMENT NO. 16

The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2016: 17% agree
2018: 23% agree
2020: 15% agree
2022: 26% agree

A rising disbelief in the Bible’s literal truth may help us understand why American evangelicals also increasingly believe that religious faith is a subjective experience rather than an objective reality.

STATEMENT NO. 31

Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2018: 32% agree
2020: 23% agree
2022: 38% agree

Sexual Ethics

The changes in sexual ethics in the United States are occurring at an alarmingly rapid pace. However, one encouraging finding is that evangelicals affirm a biblical view of fornication and adultery in greater numbers.

STATEMENT NO. 25

Sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2016: 91% agree
2018: 89% agree
2020: 90% agree
2022: 94% agree

While evangelicals are more likely than U.S. adults in general to affirm a biblical sexual ethic, in the areas of gender identity and homosexuality, a significant rise of an unbiblical worldview is apparent, especially in the 2022 survey.

STATEMENT NO. 27

Gender identity is a matter of choice.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2016: 32% agree
2018: 30% agree
2020: 22% agree
2022: 37% agree

The rise of unbiblical views among American evangelicals on the subjects of gender and sexuality may indicate the influence of a secular worldview that is making greater inroads into the church.

STATEMENT NO. 28

The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2016: 19% agree
2018: 20% agree
2020: 11% agree
2022: 28% agree

Abortion

The Bible teaches the personhood of those in the womb (Ps. 139:13, 16; Luke 1:41, 44). As such, the practice of abortion is the murder of a human being who is an image bearer of God. Past survey results among evangelicals have remained fairly consistent since 2016, with an uptick in 2022 of more evangelicals asserting that abortion is a sin. While the reasons for this positive trend are unknown, it is encouraging to see more evangelicals affirming the personhood of human beings in the womb.

STATEMENT NO. 26

Abortion is a sin.

U.S. Evangelical Finding:

2016: 87% agree
2018: 88% agree
2020: 88% agree
2022: 91% agree

______________________

Evangelicals were defined by LifeWay Research as people who strongly agreed with the following four statements:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

Respondents can also be identified as evangelical in the State of Theology data explorer based on their supplied church affiliation.

Conclusion

The 2022 State of Theology survey reveals that Americans increasingly reject the divine origin and complete accuracy of the Bible. With no enduring plumb line of absolute truth to conform to, U.S. adults are also increasingly holding to unbiblical worldviews related to human sexuality. In the evangelical sphere, doctrines including the deity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ, as well as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, are increasingly being rejected. While positive trends are present, including evangelicals’ views on abortion and sex outside of marriage, an inconsistent biblical ethic is also evident, with more evangelicals embracing a secular worldview in the areas of homosexuality and gender identity.

These results convey the ongoing need for the church to be engaged in apologetics, helping unbelievers by providing a well-reasoned defense of the Christian faith, and helping believers by strengthening their clarity and conviction regarding why they believe what they do. Additionally, the people of God must continue to obey the Great Commission by communicating the whole counsel of God in biblical evangelism and discipleship. The need is great, but the power and promises of God can equip the church to bring truth and light to a deceived and dark world.

The REST of the Verse – 2 Chronicles 7:14

It’s been said by some biblical scholars that the three most important rules for a proper and thorough understanding of the text of Scripture are Context, Context, & Context. By that we mean:

  • The immediate context in a section or chapter of Scripture
  • The larger context of a particular book in the Bible
  • The broad context of the entire Bible and God’s plan for his children

I freely admit that some passages of Scripture can be valuable in and of themselves as precious promises, words of comfort, or even admonition or warning. They can also be used to ‘prove’ one’s personal opinion or preferred interpretation. Examining context can therefore be not only profitable, but extremely edifying.

With that said, let’s examine 2 Chronicles 7:14.

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A familiar verse indeed, and a tremendous reminder that we, as Christians need to pray with humble and repentant hearts, turn away from evil and seek God, we will hear from heaven! Not only that, God promises to heal the land!

I confess that, like many others, I too have used this verse to claim healing for the nation, at least until I read it in its original context.

1. What is the biblical context of 2 Chronicles 7:14?

The context of this passage is the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after Solomon had completed its construction. 2 Chronicles, Chapter 7 begins with the assembly of the people of Israel gathered before Solomon offering praise and thanksgiving to God after the priests had placed the Ark of the Covenant in the inner sanctuary.

Solomon then faced the assembly, blessed the people, and offered a prayer of dedication. When the prayer was finished, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (Ch 7, v. 1).

The dedication ceremony lasted 7 days, with King Solomon and the people offering more sacrifices and burnt offerings, Praises were lifted to God continuously and the sound of trumpets filled the air. A 7-day feast followed the dedication, after which Solomon sent the people back to their homes, rejoicing and glad of heart because of God’s great blessing upon the house of David.

God then appeared to Solomon in the night and spoke this to him:

13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13 -14)

As you can see, between verses 13 and 14 there’s a comma indicating that verse 14 finishes the sentence that began with verse 13.

We like to read and interpret 2 Chron 7:14 as if it’s a standalone verse, when it’s actually a secondary clause that completes a thought that in 13! I consulted multiple translations and paraphrases and they all presented both verses as a single thought from God, with a connecting punctuation mark, a connecting word, or both. Let’s look at the verses again from the ESV, with a particular emphasis on two words;

13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13 -14) (Emphasis mine)

So what’s really going on here?

God is speaking to Solomon and telling him that that when he (God) causes certain calamities and if his chosen people (the Israelites) do certain things, then he (God) will heal their land. God takes direct responsibility for drought, devouring locusts and infectious disease, as well as healing the nation. Furthermore, this is definitely a reminder of the covenant God initiated with the people of Israel we see in Deuteronomy 28, the Book of Judges, and elsewhere the Old Testament.

In 2 Chronicles 7, the Lord simply reminds Solomon of the previous agreement. If Israel obeys, they will be blessed. If they disobey, they will be judged. The judgment is meant to bring Israel to repentance, and God assures Solomon that, if they will be humble, pray, and repent, then God will deliver them from the judgment.

2. Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 a promise for the United States of America?

For several decades or so, whenever our country has found itself in distressful situations, Christians have claimed half of a promise from God to the nation of Israel as a promise to heal what ails the United States of America. As we wonder if our country will survive its current decline and moral decay, 2 Chronicles 7:14 quotes and Facebook memes are popping up on a regular basis. So that I don’t offend anyone, I won’t answer that directly, but I will ask a few questions that might help us:

      • Does God have an eternal covenant relationship with the United States like the OT covenant with Israel?
      • If the answer is NO, should we claim the promises given to Solomon for Israel for our nation?
      • God’s promises for the nation of Israel included judgement (drought & pestilence for sin and restoration dependent upon national repentance Given the continuing moral decay in our nation, does God have the responsibility to ‘heal the land’ if Christians (God’s chosen remnant) are praying and seeking God’s face, but our nation continues in its descent into the moral abyss?

NOTE: In fact, both Solomon and the nation of Israel sinned, resulting in the destruction of the nation and the temple.

  • Given that our culture, as well as the leader of our nation, promote and even celebrate that which is abomination in the eyes of God, might our nation be headed for God’s judgment and the dustbin of history?

3. How should we respond to 2 Chronicles 7:14?

As Christians, humble repentance, confession, and the forsaking of sin should be the continuous lifestyle of any believer. It may be that God in His grace will bless our nation as a result—but is there a guarantee of national deliverance? Even if God did use our efforts to bring about national repentance and revival, is there a guarantee that the nation would be politically or economically saved?

While God will do with our nation what it is He has planned to do, we can certainly follow Paul’s advice to young Timothy:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim 2:1-2)

Finally, it is our duty as believers to live holy lives, seek God, pray, and share the gospel knowing that all who believe will be saved. So I have to ask myself: “Self, what are you most concerned with, saving our nation, or the salvation of lost sinners?

So regardless of what you have believed about 2 Chronicles 7:14, now you have. . .

. . .the REST of the verse!

Be blessed!

A Mid-Week Bible Study and the Memphis Dialogues

I attended an interesting lunch time Bible study today. It meets once a week on Wednesdays here where I work. The leader said that since they were still working out technical difficulties, we would talk about what is on our minds. I took a question with me:

“Was James White ‘unequally yoked’ with Yasir Qadhi in Memphis?”

I just happen to be in the middle of a study in 2 John and already have some good notes (I am blessed to teach the class)! Talk about timing!

There were four of us and none of the others knew about Memphis, so it was perfect, as far as I was concerned. No chance of the others already having made up their minds.

I provided the necessary background and then read from a really good and fair article that was published by a Christian news outfit.

One of the other men had no problem with a general discussion about two religions, and did not see any ‘yoking’ going on (I shared the definitions from 4 separate commentaries.) One of the men had some of the same issues brought up by those who have already aired their ‘issues’ with James White. The last of the three other men didn’t give an opinion.

It was a good time of ‘dialogue’.

I learned something else that was disturbing. I heard Jimmy DeYoung, one of the regulars on Brannon Howse’s program (from the July 7 show) say

“James White does not believe the word of God and is a heretic. We should mark him and just forget about him. . .the man’s a heretic.”

Then Shrahram Hadian chimed in and said that Dr. Andy Woods said in a conversation with him that Dr. White should be given over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Fine Christian men, these!

And last but not least, in his latest podcast, at about the 1:20 mark, there is an interview with an actual missionary in Iraq that is quite illuminating and should be listened to by all of those who are ‘rebuking’ (bashing) Dr. White, especially the fellow on another blog that told me my missionary analogy was ridiculous.

My point was that the answer to being unequally yoked can be yes, no, or maybe, and maybe is probably the best answer.

Anyway, this whole ‘Christian’ fiasco has been a vehicle for this guy to dig a little deeper into His work to sharpen the few exegetical skills I might have, as well as taught me a bit more about ‘Christian’ behavior and humility

How to Receive God’s Word

by Jordan Standridge @ The Cripplegate

Have you ever stopped to think about how often you are exposed to God’s word?

Every time you open up the Bible for time with the Lord, the God of the universe speaks. Every time you go to small group and discuss a passage of Scripture He is speaking. When you quote verses in your head that you have memorized, He is talking. When exposed to His word He tells you who He is, He tells you how to live, He tells you what other people are like, He even tells you about the future.

It’s a dangerous thing to be exposed to the word of God, because every time one of two things happens. Either you will become more like Jesus Christ, or you will be hardened to the truth and become cold towards Jesus.

Steve Lawson in his biography of John Calvin says,

“We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.” This was the unshakable foundation of Calvin’s preaching-the authority of divinely inspired Scripture. He firmly believed that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”

Because of how dangerous it is to be exposed to Scripture, James, the brother of Christ, in James 1:19 is concerned for the Church. He’s already warned them to be prepared for trials, and temptation and now he wants them to be prepared to receive the word of God. In this verse he gives three short imperatives, that will remind us about the importance of how to react to God’s word when exposed to it.

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

Quick to hear

clip_image004People have a hard time listening in this day and age. I was recently watching the movie Bambi with my kids. I was shocked by how slow the characters were, how little was going on on-screen. Modern day cartoons are so different. Everything is faster, bigger, brighter, with so much more happening. We just have to face the fact that we have a hard time paying attention. And James wants us to make sure that we are alert and listening each time we come to hear from God.

We need to prepare ourselves beforehand. To hear the word we must be alert. We must get enough sleep, we must pray, we must repent of all wickedness and we must work hard to tune out temptations and distractions so that we can be fully prepared to sit under Scripture.

In James 1:21 he tells us to put aside all filthiness, in other words we need to clean out our ears. You’ve seen a child’s ear full of nasty gunk. I’ve had to clean a couple myself. In the same way we must clean out our wrong presuppositions and replace them with God’s. We must come to the word ready to listen and ready to be changed, because nothing can change us but the word of God.

clip_image006Slow to speak
In other words, “shut up!” Stop talking to yourself. If when someone confronts you, you right away get defensive and start defending yourself or change the subject, chances are you are talking to fast or not listening. During preaching we are all tempted to think, “Wow I wish ____ was here to listen to this!”, instead of allowing the word of God to break us. Or maybe mid-sermon you’re already thinking about what you’re going to be doing after the service or after Bible study. Or during Bible reading, somehow you read an entire chapter and don’t remember a word that you read because you were thinking about something else the entire time. Stop, shut up and listen to the word.

Receiving the word means that you aren’t so quick to say what you think. You aren’t a talker who gives his opinion on everything before you’re even asked. We need to practice being a listener and practice not talking, because the less you think of what you have to say, the more you’ll think of what God has to say.

If you value your opinion a lot and think highly of yourself then the word won’t mean much to you.

Slow to anger

clip_image008You must be willing to admit to yourself that you are imperfect. It’s easy at salvation. At salvation we said that we were terrible sinners and we deserve hell. But the sanctification process can only happen if you are willing to continue to say that you are a sinner. That you continue to need help. One of the ways you are able to know if you are receiving the word of God with the right attitude, is if you are slow to anger when confronted with the Bible. Whether it’s the preacher, whether its in your Bible reading, or more appropriate to us maybe, when someone confronts you, we must be slow to anger when faced with the word of God.

How do you react to confrontation?

The key to receiving God’s word is humility. Look at James 1:21 he says, “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. “

So the point of this passage is to receive the word of God but the only way you will receive rightly is through humility.

· Being quick to hear can only happen if in humility, you realize that you need to hear the word. You are in absolute need of it!

· Being slow to speak can only happen if in humility, you believe that what you have to say is not that important and what’s really important is the Bible.

· And finally, you can really judge your humility when confronted by God’s word and you don’t get angry but humbly admit that you need to change.

So how do we know if we are receiving God’s word and it is bearing fruit in our lives? James 1:22 says that there is a result. You will do what it says! The right response to God’s word will always result in application. When we are exposed to God’s word, if we apply these verses, we will be more than ready to obey our Lord in everything.

Hearing God and Sharing With Others

When I want to hear God speak, I open the Bible and read it. If I want to hear God speak audibly, I read it out loud. B. B. Warfield, eminent Princeton theologian of the 19th and 20th centuries, is known for saying “When the Bible speaks, God speaks!” I agree.

If God’s revelation of himself in the Bible is everything we need to live a godly life and equip us for every good work, I have the best possible standard by which to order my life; ALL of my life within it’s pages. If my God spoke the universe into existence, he is more than capable of ‘breathing out’ scripture (writings) into the minds and hearts of men and ensure his infallible and inerrant truths are transmitted to us. Compared to speaking the universe into existence, transmitting his inerrant word to us is probably on the order of ‘chump change’.

And if the Bible is completely sufficient for my life, I don’t need ‘private revelations’ whispered into my ear. What I do need is the ‘illumination’ of God’s word to my heart. Isn’t that the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit? If it is, then we DO receive ‘revelation’ from God as the Holy Spirit illumines (sheds light upon) God’s word and sends it straight into our hearts.

At the same time, I need to choose my words carefully when I share what God is teaching me. We hear a lot of people say to us “God spoke to me…”, or “I had a revelation…” followed by the details. While both statements might be ‘technically’ true when the Holy Spirit teaches us, using those phrases might might not be wise. Here are a few reasons.

For one thing, most, if not all of the big name televangelists use them often and frequently to mean they have a special private communication link to The Divine – a virtual private network (VPN) to God, so to speak. And we are to receive what they say as the direct word of God, no matter how outlandish or theologically vacuous are their pronouncements.

Both phrases are also often used by ordinary, everyday believers. And because they are used so much by spurious televangelists and various false teachers peddling their snake oil, I feel the need to ask the “what do you mean” question and am suddenly hit with some version of the “why are you questioning me” demon.

Also, why would I use words that cause “issues” when I can just talk about what I believe God is teaching me? Am I trying to communicate that I am somehow special or am a more mature spiritual Christian? Maybe or maybe not, but why take a chance on there being any confusion because of how I express myself. I might not have evil intentions, but Satan sure does and he loves to pounce.

Lastly for now, claiming to have a VPN to God leads to the tendency to be declarative and assert as gospel truth what we share with others. I know some who will hardly ever say “I think”, “I believe”, or “it’s my opinion”, if they begin the conversation with “God told me” or “I had a revelation”, or if they are just convinced in their minds of same.

Am not judging (please stay off of that horse) but I’m old, sometimes tired, have listened to, read, and watched much in the last 40 years. It is was it is. And please note the frequent use of the hypothetical “if” in the above.

I pray you all have a blessed Lord’s day!