We hear a lot from evangelical Christian leaders that unless you share and profess their basic understandings of Christianity you cannot get into heaven. But a new poll out this week by Beliefnet.com and Newsweek shows that rank and file evangelicals don’t share that opinion. Steven Waldman writes:
One of the central tenets of evangelical Christianity is that to be saved—to earn admission into heaven—you must accept Jesus Christ as your savior. At football games, it's not uncommon to see Christians wearing t-shirts with the numbers 3:16 on the back, a reference to the Gospel of John passage in which Jesus says the Father can only be reached through the son.
Yet 68% of “born again” or “evangelical” Christians say that a “good person who isn’t of your religious faith” can gain salvation, according to a new Newsweek/Beliefnet poll.
This is pretty amazing. Evangelicals are among the most churchgoing and religiously attentive people in the United States, and one of the ideas they’re most likely to hear from the minister at church on a given Sunday is that the path to salvation is through Jesus. Apparently, rank-and-file evangelicals have a different view.
Nationally, 79 percent of those surveyed said the same thing, and the figure is 73% for non-Christians and an astounding 91% among Catholics. The Catholics surveyed seemed more inclined listen to the Catechism's idea that those who "seek the truth" may gain salvation -- rather than, say, St. Augustine's view that being "separated from the Church" will damn you to Hell "no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living.”
For a few thousand years, wars have been fought over this point; countless sermons have been given -- by people of all faiths -- to prove the opposite point. It is one of the main ways that clergy of any given faith can explain why it's important for people to show up at their particular church and read their particular sacred text.
How could so many Americans be tossing aside such a central element of theology? I think the Newsweek cover story that grew in part out of this poll has the best theory. Americans have become so focused on a very personal style of worship -- forging a direct relationship with God -- that spiritual experience has begun to supplant dogma.
Click here to read more about the poll results.
The poll results really are amazing – at least too me.
When did evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics do such a turnabout? What did I miss?