Changes in Christianity
“For a season will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 RVIC).
In 2014, Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research began a biennial survey seeking what Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible. In this year’s report, titled, The State of Theology, the survey found a continued increase in skepticism and irrelevance in what has been called “orthodox” doctrine and practice. Those people who claim to be evangelical Christians showed surprising changes in their view of accepted doctrine.
Over half of all those surveyed (53%) say that the Bible is not to be interpreted literally, but contains many myths handed down from other cultures. This is a significant increase in skepticism from the first survey, eight years ago, when 41% held this view.
Other findings from the non-evangelical community include:
● About half believe that God changes and adapts to different circumstances.
● One-third believe that church membership is not obligatory for Christians.
● Forty-six percent claim that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality no longer applies.
Looking at the subset of evangelicals — traditionally the most conservative Christians — the change in doctrinal acceptance was remarkable:
● A majority (56%) now say that Jesus isn’t the only way to God. Participants said that God accepts all religions equally.
● Almost three quarters (73%) said that Jesus was not part of a trinity but was created by God as the first and greatest being.
● Forty-three percent (43%) said that Jesus was a great teacher, but that he was not God. In response to these two points, Christianity Today magazine when reporting the results editorialized that this was a revamp of Arianism, “a heresy that arose in the fourth century.”
● Well over half (60%) said that The Holy Spirit is not a personal being, but “a force.”
● A majority said they believe that humans are not sinful by nature, but that “Everyone sins a little.
● A little more than one-fourth (26%) favored the statement that the Bible contained ancient myths and is not literally true, an increase from 17 percent in the first survey. (Note that a majority of evangelicals, compared to general Christianity, still support the literalness of scripture. It appears, however, that many are astute enough to understand that the scriptures do not teach the trinitarian viewpoint).
Ligonier and LifeWay conclude their report: “The 2022 State of Theology survey reveals that Americans increasingly reject the divine origin and complete accuracy of the Bible. With no enduring plumb line of absolute truth to conform to, U.S. adults are also increasingly holding to unbiblical worldviews related to human sexuality. In the evangelical sphere, doctrines including the deity and exclusivity of Jesus Christ, as well as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, are increasingly being rejected.”
Christianity Today editors concluded that American evangelicals are “deeply confused” and that the fourth century “heretic Arius would be pleased.” In the broader religious world there is a significant increase in mixing of religion and politics. Perhaps the best example is the recent movement, ReAwaken America, founded by retired three-star General Michael Flynn. This so-called Christian nationalist movement proclaims “God, patriotism and politics.” A recent meeting of the group in Batavia, New York, was attended by over 3,000, with many baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” When questioned, the founders said the baptism was a commitment to both a “spiritual war and a political war.” Throughout its tour (over fifteen cities as of this writing), the conference opens with the sound of a shofar.
Christianity Today, in a recent review of the book, Before the Religious Right: Liberal Protestants, Human Rights, and the Polarization of the United States, says that social and political upheaval has produced a divided Christian religion with “separate and oppositional cultures” each attempting to topple each other.
“Come out of her, my people”
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of demons … Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and … receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:2, 4 RVIC).
With the beginning of the second advent of Jesus, and the Gospel Age harvest, came the proclamation for the true follower to reject the traditions and teachings of the major religious systems, referred to in Revelation as Babylon. The teachings of the Christian churches — those doctrines that are now being questioned by a majority of Christians — were to be recognized as mixtures of error. In the past hundred years, public attitudes have drifted away from traditional religion as the guide to truth and direction in life. Jeremy Rifkin, author and lecturer, summarized it this way in The Third Industrial Revolution: “We no longer feel ourselves to be guests in someone else’s home, and therefore obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of pre-existing cosmic rules… It is our creation now, we make the rules, we establish the parameters of reality, we create the world and because we do, we no longer feel beholden to outside forces.” (Editor’s Note: The Church of God — Abrahamic Faith, and Christadelphians, are non-Trinitarians (Socinians) and do not teach immortality of the soul.)
As suggested by The State of Theology survey, religion and belief in God have been shifting away from a position of teaching scriptural principles for life to a tool for changing social and political platforms. There is little emphasis on a life of consecration and sacrifice, nor to the ultimate purpose of God in providing His Son as a sacrifice for sin and a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5, 6).
A Call to Sacrifice
“Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles [vultures] be gathered together” (Matthew 24:28).
Interdenominational recognition, ecumenicism, and syncretism (the amalgamation of different religions) are common in our day, and as a result, most express little difference between religions. Studying scripture has become secondary to focusing on social agendas. The call to individual commitment to Christ is secondary. Christian belief has become just one of many alternatives for approaching God.
Global society is adrift, with human passions creating great restlessness. Jesus foretold such a time. “There shall be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and billows; men fainting for fear … of the things which are coming … for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25, 26). The sea of restless masses and ruling “powers of heaven” have failed to preach Jesus and the “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people” in his coming kingdom (Luke 2:10).
Jesus’ message of salvation as described in scripture was an individual one marked by sacrifice: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Those who commit themselves to such a life are promised a place beside him in his kingdom (Revelation 3:21). God’s provision for the world, unknown by most, is that they shall be restored to life on the earth: a kingdom prepared from the beginning. However, to the Christian, a higher promise was given by Jesus: “For I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3). We are called to consecrate our lives and walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to be part of the restoration work that will bring a perfect earth and perfect human family. May we focus on this promise as we see the “crumbling thrones of earth.”