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.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.