Survey Finds That Most British People Don’t Know the Answer to Questions About Basic Theological Concepts

A third of people in the United Kingdom say they don’t know whether the Resurrection actually occurred, whether God counts a person righteous based on faith alone, or whether trust in Jesus alone leads to salvation.

In Ligonier Ministries’ first-ever State of Theology survey conducted in the UK, “I don’t know” was the top response to numerous questions about Jesus, sin, the Bible, salvation, and other rudimentary theological concepts. (CT has covered the US version of the survey in 20142016, and 2018.)

Many Brits remain ambivalent on matters of faith. About a third were unsure about the nature of the Trinity (31%), Jesus’ bodily resurrection (33%), the existence of hell (30%), and Jesus’ return (31%). Even more, 36 percent, said they didn’t know whether to agree or disagree with the statement, “God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s own works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

“It’s actually tragic when you look at the survey and you see so many saying ‘I don’t know,’” Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries and president of Reformation Bible College, told Premier Christian Radio.

“These aren’t just matters of life and death, these are matters of eternal life and eternal death. There can’t be any more consequential questions than the questions on this survey and so these ‘I don’t know’s are really troubling.”

Heresies Among British Christians

The foundations of faith may be on sandy ground in the British Isles, where—like their American counterparts—a significant number of Christians ascribe to heretical beliefs.

Half of practicing Christians (49%) attest that religious belief is a matter of personal opinion rather than objective truth. Only 22 percent disagree, and another 21 percent somewhat disagree.

The survey of 520 practicing Christians also found that:

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of British practicing Christians say God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

  • About 7 in 10 (68%) say the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being.

  • And 62 percent of British believers disagree that “even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation,” with 42 percent disagreeing strongly.

Even practicing Christians in the UK generally see the Bible as a book of stories. Around half (47%) believe that the Bible contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true. About a third of those go on to say that modern science disproves the Bible.

Most of the nation’s faithful hold to traditional Christian views on sex and social issues. Only about a quarter (26%) of practicing Christians think believers should stay quiet on political issues.

More than half (64%) consider sex outside of marriage a sin, compared to 30 percent who disagree. The stances are similar for abortion, with 64 percent believing it’s a sin and 29 percent disagreeing. The church in the UK is more divided on homosexuality; half of practicing Christians disagree with the statement, “The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today,” and 41 percent agreeing. Nine percent say they don’t know.

The Evangelical Exception

Ligonier estimates that there are as many as 2 million evangelicals in the UK, and their stances stand out in comparison. Though the survey only sampled 119 UK evangelicals, leaving more room for error, the findings suggest they hold stronger theological and social positions than fellow Christians or the country on average.

Evangelicals, defined by belief, are considerably less likely than other UK Christians to fall into heretical traps, much more readily affirming, for instance, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, the depravity of mankind and the penalty for sin, and the authority of the Bible. Evangelicals are also far more likely to agree that hell is real (86%) and that righteousness comes by faith in Jesus alone (91%).

British evangelicals “are committed to the belief that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, and their pro-life and pro-marriage beliefs contrast sharply with the general population,” the study’s authors said. “Yet evangelicals expressed some erroneous views about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

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Source: Christianity Today