This year in March, the LifeWay Research group conducted their biennial State of Theology survey in which they surveyed over 3,000 Americans adults. The results of the survey showed that Americans have increasingly complex and conflicting ideas of theology and Christianity.
Perhaps the greatest discrepancy was that 54% of Americans believe theology to be a matter of personal opinions, rather than actual objective truths. As Scott McConnel, executive director of LifeWay Research puts it, "Many Americans treat theology like a choose-your-own adventure book... It's clear from certain beliefs that some people feel truth is something people are free to define on their own, and in doing so they possess seemingly incompatible beliefs."
For example, one question asked Americans whether they agree with the statement that "Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not objective proof." 54% of Americans said they agree, believe theology to simply be a matter of opinion. This idea of opinion is highlighted by the responses to the other questions of the survey. While 72% of Americans believe in the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, 59% agree the Holy Spirit is not a personal being, but a force of some kind. Additionally, 55% agree that "Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God," with 52% saying that Jesus was not God but just a great teacher. McConnel commented on this statement, clarifying that "While many Americans repeat with agreement a definition of this one Triune God, a further look at their beliefs reveals a majority do not believe in each Person of the Trinity as described in the Bible."
There were also divided beliefs and ideas of sin and salvation. The study showed that an increasing number of Americans believe that "even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation." 26% of Americans said they agree with that statement, which is an increase from two years ago when only 23% agreed, and two years prior to that when 19% agreed. However, 60% of Americans believe that "only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation," and 26% believe in the doctrine of Predestination, in which those saved and damned were predetermined by God.
The authority of the Bible was another matter in question amongst Americans. About 48% of Americans believe the Bible is completely accurate, and another 48% believe it to be just an account of helpful ancient myths. Another 38% believe the Bible can be completely disproved by modern science, and only about half believe that the Bible has any authority to tell us what to do.
These varying beliefs and ideas can affect politics as well especially with this current election year. McConnel stated that "Christians should be aware that not only will there be people who disagree with their perspectives, but 1 in 4 Americans will disapprove of a Christian speaking about political matters at all."