Survey Finds Many Americans Believe Jesus Was a Good Teacher But Not God

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ORLANDO, Fla. — A biennial survey conducted by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research finds that many Americans believe Jesus was a great teacher but not God. Nearly one third of evangelicals polled also hold to this view, and the majority of professing Christians agree that Jesus was “created by God.”

“Statistics like these from the State of Theology survey can give us quite a shock, but they also shed light on the concerns that many American Christians and churches have expressed for decades,” Dr. Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer at Ligonier Ministries and president of Reformation Bible College, said in a statement.

“As the culture around us increasingly abandons its moral compass, professing evangelicals are sadly drifting away from God’s absolute standard in Scripture,” he lamented.

Ligonier plans to unveil the full results of its survey on Tuesday but has provided a sneak peak to demonstrate the cultural slide away from truth, including the biblical ignorance that resides in many who claim to hold the Bible as their final authority.

In March, LifeWay surveyed 3,002 adults at random, with 630 professing evangelicals being among the group. The State of Theology research is conducted every two years in an effort to take the “theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with better insights for discipleship.”

Questions include obtaining respondents’ views about the nature of God, sin, salvation and eternal judgment.

In 2018, it was found that 51% of participants believe God accepts the worship of all religions, 58% felt that worshiping alone or with family is a “valid replacement” for regularly attending church, and 60% said that religious belief is merely a personal opinion and not an objective fact.

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Professing Christians also disappointed researchers, as 32% did not find their beliefs to be objective truth, 52% agreed that men are good by nature, and 38% “strongly” agreed that God accepts the worship of all religions.

This year, 52% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Jesus was a good teacher, but He was not God.” While most evangelicals (66%) rejected the statement, 30% — or nearly one-third — agreed. 65% of professing Christians also affirmed that Jesus is a created being, agreeing with the statement, “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” 73% of stated believers “strongly” agreed with the statement in 2018.

“The confusion illustrated in these results suggests a dire need for Christians to be taught Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ,” Ligonier said in a press release. The organization likewise expressed concern two years ago that there is a lack of teaching in churches on who Christ is.

“It’s clear that the Church does not have the luxury of idly standing by,” Nichols remarked with the announcement of this year’s survey results. “This is a time for Christians to study Scripture diligently, engage confidently with people in our culture, and witness fearlessly to the identity and saving work of Jesus Christ in the gospel.”

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The Bible has much to say about Jesus being one-third of the Godhead and being the Creator Himself rather than a created being.

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us,” Matthew 1:23 says of the coming of the Messiah.

John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

In John 10:30, Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one,” at which point the Jews sought to stone Him, calling out, “For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”

He similarly escaped stoning for proclaiming, “Before Abraham was, I am!”

Colossians 1:15-17 teaches that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.”

“For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in Earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers — all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”


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