What do American Christians think about theology, God, Jesus, sin, and what happens to us after we die? Those are some of the questions that Ligonier Ministries (a project of the now-deceased R. C. Sproul, a Reformed minister) asks every two years in its The State of Theology survey. Results from the most recent survey are in, and I want to call attention to two findings:
First: Respondents were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. 67% of respondents agreed or somewhat agreed with this statement. 56% of white evangelicals did. This seems to align, I think, with politically conservative views that of human nature: laws cannot make people good, and mostly wolf is a wolf unto man.
Second: Respondents were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement Worshipping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. 59% of respondents agreed or somewhat agreed with this statement. 48% of white evangelicals did. (Perhaps more upsettingly, 66% of Catholics, who have to attend mass to receive the sacrament of communion, said the same.)
That nearly half of evangelicals are cool with replacing church with private or family-based worship is a result that frankly worries me: church communities, at their best, provide checks against individualist interpretations of scripture and understandings of theology. Broadly speaking, Mennonites discern together, and if this has sometimes slowed us down too much in our development into kinder communities, it has also provided some quality control that squashes harmful theologies. I am quite critical of evangelical churches (as regular readers here know), but I am even more concerned about lone wolf evangelicals.