A new study from Probe Ministries might suggest that the doctrinal beliefs of born again Christians are shifting. That’s not terribly surprising, as no religious group will ever be totally immune from the winds of change, but the beliefs themselves are surprising and, as we’ll see, contradictory. For example, of the born again Christians between the ages of 18-39 surveyed, 60 percent agreed with the statement “Buddha, Muhammad and Jesus are all valid paths to God.”
But there’s a wrinkle in the study that shows just how elastic human belief can be. In the same survey, the number of born again Christians who agreed with the statement “I believe that the only way to a true relationship with God is through Jesus Christ” was around 25 points higher than it was for the statement “Muhammad, Buddha and Jesus are all valid ways to God.” As the report put it “the survey respondents show us that one does not have to give answers which logically support one another.”
So, that’s an important caveat to the rest of the survey’s findings. Thusly armed, read on.
The survey broke down traditional evangelical teachings into two camps. “Basic biblical worldviews” included things like God’s attributes, the accuracy of the Bible and the sinlessness of Jesus. “Expanded biblical worldview” had less central doctrines like beliefs about a literal Satan and an objective moral universe. By their study, America has seen a sharp drop in born again Christians who believe in “basic biblical worldviews” over the last ten years, from 47 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2020. In 2010, 32 percent of born again respondents agreed with the “expanded biblical worldview.” By 2020, that number had dropped to 16 percent.
The writers of the survey determined that “the percentage of born again Christians with a biblical worldview (of either type) has been cut in half over the last decade.”
Now, the survey interviewed 3,100 Americans ages 18 to 55 in 2020, which isn’t a terrible sample size. But even so, the survey shows why it’s difficult to draw broad conclusions about a whole demographic based on a couple questions. People are complicated and hold complicated beliefs that don’t always map well onto a spreadsheet.