I was curious to read the report released this week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The results were described in an article entitled, “Religious Americans: My faith isn’t the only way. Survey shows growing religious tolerance when it comes to different faiths.” The report confirms what many have felt for some time, that “evangelical Christians” are becoming more and more biblically illiterate. Consequently, we have no firm convictions about what we believe, so much so that we feel that every belief is no more or no less valid than the next.
“57 percent of evangelical church attendees said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life, in conflict with traditional evangelical teaching. In all, 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation shared that view, and 68 percent said there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.”
“The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep,” said D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion.
While not surprising, the findings certainly are disturbing. I think we have arrived at this point because, as Dallas Willard points out in The great omission, we stopped reading the Bible.
“Well, you see, in the evangelical churches the big secret is that few people actually read their Bibles and pray. The reason they don’t is because it isn’t presented as an essential part of an overall life that is highly desirable and that we must approach in a certain way. Christians who do read their Bibles often don’t know their Bibles. The reason why they don’t know their Bibles is because they don’t really read their Bible as a treatise on reality, as something that brings change and transformation of our lives. For instance, many people read their Bibles on a schedule. You really only have to look at them to know what their aim is: to read the whole Bible in a year. What that plan is good for is that at the end of the year you can say you read your Bible. It’s a legalism. (Of course, some people are significantly benefited by it.)”
Because we stopped reading and believing the Bible, we no longer know what it means to be an evangelical. Originally, the term came from the Greek word “evangelion,” meaning “the good news,” or more commonly, the “gospel.” Now the term has been stretched so broadly, it has become an elastic term which means nothing. As the Pew survey indicates, many “evangelicals” have stopped believing that there is only one way to heaven, and instead believe that all roads lead to the top.