On tuesday of this week (October 28th) Christianity Today magazine published an important article on its website titled: "New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies. Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines."
The article reports on a recent survey of Evangelical Christians and has a margin of error of only 1.8%. The growing lack of orthodoxy among self-identified Evangelicals is alarming. For instance, 24% believe that the Book of Mormon is or may be a revelation from God. About 25 years ago I was involved in outreach to Mormons with the Gospel. At the time, a major Baptist ministry to Mormons was reporting the tragic fact that about 200 Baptists per week were becoming Mormons. I remember being shocked by that statistic, but with the Evangelical Christian population in America totaling about 60 million people, and with 24% of them believing that the Book of Mormon is or may be a revelation from God, it is not surprising. The Mormons have about 15 million potential Evangelical converts to proselytize. Few of these 15 million Evangelicals have ever read the Book of Mormon or investigated the claims made for it, but that doesn't seem to matter to them.
While 96% of Evangelical Christians say that they believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, their answers to subsequent questions in the survey demonstrate that a large majority are not really Trinitarians at all. 27% of Evangelicals - more than one in four — are Arians, believing that Jesus is a creature; while 31% believe that the Father is more Divine than the Son. Therefore, 58% of Evangelicals hold heterodox beliefs about Jesus. But it gets even worse...
Only 42% of Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit is a person. 58% believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force rather than a person, and 18% believe that the Holy Spirit is less Divine than the Father. That means 76% of Evangelicals - more than three out of every four — hold heterodox beliefs about the Holy Spirit.
How can so many Evangelicals hold beliefs that so clearly contradict the ancient Creeds you ask? In the survey, 70% of Evangelicals said that the Creeds have no place in their personal discipleship. No place! The Survey also found that 2/3rds of Evangelicals are Pelagians. Pelagianism has been called the most condemned heresy in Church history. But then, only slightly over half of Evangelicals saw any value in Church history at all. As far as the authority of the Church is concerned, 90% of Evangelicals believe that the Church has no authority to declare someone not a Christian. In other words, 90% of them believe that the Church has no authority to protect the flock or to correct those who stray far from Christian orthodoxy through church disciple.
Here is the link to the article on the Christianity Today website:
The Protestant Reformation abolished one pope, but through the Protestant errors of Sola Scriptura and Private Interpretation of Scripture has made millions of Evangelical Christians into personal popes. This has led to what I call a "Book of Judges Theology" — "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).
Like in the days of the Judges, this way of thinking has led to disaster. The disaster has been both ecclesial and theological. Accepting no real authority outside of "what I believe" or "what I think" the Bible says has left Protestants divided into some 30,000 denominations in the 500 year history of Protestantism, plus uncountable numbers of independent, nondenominational and interdenominational churches, with five new denominations being formed every week. This is ecclesiastical chaos.
The theological fruit has become equally bad, with Evangelicals first rejecting the Holy Eucharist and the Sacraments, and now as the survey in Christianity Today demonstrates, even the historic Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, with 58% of contemporary Evangelicals holding heterodox beliefs about Jesus, and 76% holding heterodox beliefs about the Holy Spirit. According to the Survey, 76% of Evangelicals are no longer really Trinitarians.
At Holy Cross Orthodox Church our mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him, and the fullness of the Apostolic Faith to those who do. That means we have a mission to the unevangelized and the unchurched, but also to self-professed Christians who do not hold to the fullness of the Apostolic Faith whether they have subtracted from it or added to it. This latest survey of Evangelical Christians reminds us that as Orthodox Christians we have a lot of work to do...
It does matter what Church you belong to. It really does.
1. Jesus built His Church Himself (Matt: 16:18). Therefore the Church Christ built must have an unbroken history going back 2,000 years.
2. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18). Therefore the Church He founded nearly 2,000 years ago is still His Church today. No Teacher, Theologian, Reformer or "Prophet" is authorized to start a new Church. Any Church that is a split, a splinter, a severed branch, or a new denomination cannot be the Church of Christ.
3. Jesus commands us to "hear the church" (Matt. 18:17). He gave the Church the authority to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18). Yes, he gave the Church authority that Christians must accept. Jesus went so far as to say, "but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:17).
4. We are to "earnestly contend for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Therefore, no novel 16th century (or later) Confession of Faith or doctrinal statement has any authority.
5. We have the assurance that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church "into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" (John 16:13). Holy Tradition is nothing less than the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
6. There is a vast amount of difference between the Church founded by Jesus Christ and the denominations started by men — even by men with the best of intentions. The Apostle Paul writes, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:4-5). Note how often the word "one" is used.
Nearly a millennium after our forefathers were separated from the Orthodox Christian Church in AD 1066, by the Norman Conquest of England, we have finally been restored to unity. The original goal of the English Reformation was to restore the Faith and Order of the Undivided Church. Sadly, over the centuries most Anglicans have lost sight of that goal and began to see themselves as merely another denomination and to adopt a faulty "Book of Judges Theology" doing what was right in their own eyes. At Holy Cross parish we have been given a great grace. For us, the English Reformation has finally been completed. We have returned to the Faith and Order of the Undivided Church, and we are now in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church as a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. We are finally back home again. We have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to do. The door to the Orthodox Church is wide open and the welcome mat is out. Let us each strive to share the grace that has been entrusted to us that through our witness and ministry many others in the West may be reunited with the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. God loves everyone. Let's invite them to come home to "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth" (I Tim. 3:15).
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My parish has heard me speak about the Orthodox Study Bible from the pulpit. The New Testament of the Orthodox Study Bible is the New King James Version (NKJV) while the Old Testament is translated from the Septuagint. The Septuagint is some 1,200 years older than the Hebrew text found in nearly all English Bibles today and is very, very important. The Old Testament of the Orthodox Study Bible includes the Deuterocanonical Books, and the entire Bible contains commentary from the Fathers of the Church.
Ancient Faith Press has the Orthodox Study Bible in hardcover on sale right now at a great price. The regular price for this Bible is $49.95, but you can buy it for only $34.97. If you spend at least $75.00 with Ancient Faith Press you will even receive free shipping! Why not buy one for yourself and order extras for Christmas presents. What better gift can you give on Christmas than the Holy Scriptures? Here is the link: