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April 13, 2012Research

New Research: Universalism, Pluralism, Pastors, & the People

We released some new research yesterday at LifeWay Research showing 84% of Protestant pastors disagree that eternal life can be obtained through religions other than Christianity. That view is generally called "universalism" or "pluralism" (though technically not the same thing, they are often used interchangeably and relate to one another). So, based on this data, Protestant pastors are overwhelmingly not pluralist/universalist.

However, the same cannot be said of their church members. When presented with the same statement, just 48 percent of adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more disagree strongly and 9 percent disagree somewhat. A total of 26 percent agree. In other words, protestant church attendees are substantially more pluralist/universalist than their pastors.

Some highlights from the pastor research:

• Pastors in large cities are more likely to believe that other religions lead to eternal life.

• Pastors identifying themselves as evangelical are less pluralist/universalist than those self-identifying as mainline.

• Pastors with a graduate degree are more likely to strongly agree (7 percent to 3 percent) and less likely to strongly disagree (70 percent to 90 percent) than pastors with a bachelor's degree at most.

The full church member research will be released later in the year in conjunction with the upcoming book Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelly and Philip Nation.

Here is a graphic with the numbers:

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New Research: Universalism, Pluralism, Pastors, & the People