For the first time, Ligonier (working with ComRes) have conducted the same survey here in the UK. You can download the full report below.
The survey asked questions of the general population, of self-described 'Christians', of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals. ('Evangelical' is here defined along the lines of David Bebbington's famous quadrilateral definition - it's not a perfect measurement, but it's become a go-to for students.) In total, ComRes surveyed 2000+ people.
There are some encouraging findings here, for example:
There's lots to be thankful for here! Let's not miss that. Whilst we may prefer some of those numbers (if not all of them!) to be nearer 100%, there's still an overwhelming consensus on many theological fundamentals.
There are, however, several findings that are deeply concerning. Some of these even outright contradict what was previously affirmed. Human beings, after all, are complex, and we all have blind spots. For example:
Allow me to make a few quick observations.
First, these latter statistics are undoubtedly alarming, but I do not mean to look down my nose at those surveyed. At TTS (especially in the first session) we're often at pains to point out that theology is for everyone. Theology ought to be worshipful - a way of rejoicing in the life-giving truths of God. The problem is that theology is not seen like this. It's seen as deathly, divisive, pharisaical, etc. Is it any wonder, then, that we're now discovering such a level of theological illiteracy in the Church? To the extent that theologians have made it seem that theology is only for the intellectually gifted, or have scoffed at popular efforts to be theological, we must repent.
Second, let's again acknowledge that human beings are complex. We're not robots; we can hold seemingly contradictory views without realising it. For example, 93% of UK Evangelicals believe in the Trinity - and yet (at the same time) 74% believe that Jesus is part of God's creation. These two things cancel each other out, and yet there we have it. Are 74% of Evangelicals actually closet Arians, who believe that there was a time when the Son was not? I highly doubt it. It's simply not clear for many what the Incarnation means, and what the Trinity actually involves. My 'hunch' is that the intent is orthodox, even if the expression is imperfect. God's people must be equipped and trained so that the former matches the latter.
Third, if it wasn't clear already, it's now certainly demonstrable - we need theologians in service to God's people. We need preachers and teachers who marry pastoral care with a passion for deeper things. One must repent of the assumption that theology is "not for me", and take every thought captive for Christ. It may be that God is moving this kind of theological study out of the academy, and into the context of the local Church. That's certainly the vision for Theology That Sings - to serve God's people, and to help give us a common theological language, one that will equip leader and congregant alike.
The great martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
The challenge is not whether we do theology - we all do theology. You cannot say a single word about God or life or creation without doing theology. Even insisting on God as transcendent, above all categories and boxes, is a kind of theology. We're all theologians; we have no choice in that.
The challenge is whether we (as God's people) do theology well.
The challenge is whether we (as theologians) serve God's people.
The challenge is whether (in the words of Helmut Thielicke) we allow theology to become a coat of mail that suffocates us, or a praise song of ideas.
Many thanks to all those who turned up last night for our second Foundations session! We started a three part series on the Doctrine of God, based on our confession of "One God, the Father, the Almighty".
Who is God? What is the Divine Name, and why is it important? In what way is God different from creation, and why does that even matter? What is the Glory of God, and why do the Biblical authors speak about it so frequently? How can we even relate to such a big, majestic God?
We looked at all these questions and more! You can find notes below, as well as the video clip we played. (The burning bush scene from "Prince of Egypt".)
We relaunched the TTS Foundations course last night - a great first session, many thanks to all those who turned up.
Using the first two words of the Nicene Creed as our skeleton ("We Believe"), we asked ourselves: What is theology? Why is it important from God's perspective? How is it done badly, and how can it be done well? Here's our working definition: Theology is concerned with speech ABOUT God - with the speech OF God - as well as our experiencing life WITH God.
You can find notes over at our hub for TTS notes here, or you can download / view them below as a PDF.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.