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Jan 9, 2012

New Research on the Views of Protestant Pastors in Regard to Evolution and Creation

Creation and evolution is always a heated topic. It's come up in the Presidential campaign. Occasionally, creates a national controversy, always includes ongoing debates, and leads to lots of conversations.

As such, we wanted to know what Protestant pastors thought. This morning, LifeWay Research released new data on the views of Protestant pastors which suggests there is ongoing debate over the creation account in Genesis. While Protestant pastors overwhelmingly believe that God did not use evolution to create humans (and think Adam and Eve were literal people), other topics do not have the same level of agreement.

When asked to respond to the statement, "I believe God used evolution to create people," 72 percent of the 1,000 American protestant pastors disagreed while 24 percent agreed.

In response to the statement, "I believe Adam and Eve were literal people," 82 percent agreed while just 17 percent disagreed.

On those two issues, Protestant pastors overwhelmingly agree (evangelicals more, mainliners less). Yet, also asked about the age of the earth. The "old earth" vs. "new earth" view was split 46-43 in favor of a "new earth." From my view, I was surprised and intrigued that so many Protestant pastors hold a young earth view. There are always more evangelicals that mainliners in such a sample, but the number is still surprising to me.

Yet, some of these views are not that out of line with the views of Americans. Compared to a Gallup poll of Americans from December 2010, however, pastors are more Creationist than the American public at large. In that poll, 40 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form, 38 percent say God used evolution to develop humans and 16 percent think man evolved with God playing no part in the process.

Finally, I was surprised at how often Protestant pastors preach on the subject. When asked, only a third of pastors (36 percent) teach on creation and evolution more than once a year. Twenty-six percent teach on it about once a year, and 29 percent do so rarely. Eight percent never teach on creation and evolution.

Below are some of the highlights. For the full report, click here.

  • Pastors in the Northeast are more likely than their counterparts in any other region to strongly agree that God used evolution to create people. While 25 percent of Northeastern pastors strongly agree, only 13 percent in the West, 12 percent in the Midwest and 8 percent in the South feel similarly.
  • Pastors of larger churches are less likely to believe in evolution than those in smaller congregations. Only 4 percent of pastors in churches with 250 or more in attendance strongly agree that God used evolution to create humans. In comparison, 13 percent in churches with attendance of 0-49, 14 percent with 50-99 and 12 percent with 100-249 feel the same.
  • Pastors who consider themselves Mainline are more likely than Evangelicals to believe in evolution. Among those identifying themselves as Mainline, 25 percent strongly agree that God used evolution to create humans. Only 8 percent of Evangelicals strongly agree.
  • Pastors who indicate they are Evangelical are more likely than their Mainline colleagues to strongly agree that Adam and Eve were literal people (82 percent vs. 50 percent).
  • Pastors with graduate degrees are more likely to strongly disagree that Adam and Eve were literal people than those whose highest level of education is a bachelor's degree (16 percent vs. 2 percent).
  • Pastors in the South are most likely to strongly disagree that most of their congregation believes in evolution.
  • Younger pastors are the least likely age bracket to strongly disagree that the earth is 6,000 years old.

Feel free to share and use the graphic on your blog (and, I know that the Bible does not say that it was an apple...).

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Posted:January 9, 2012 at 12:00 am


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