In this analysis, CT theology editor Caleb Lindgren compares Ligonier’s 2018 theology survey to the 2016 version, followed by ten expert reactions to the overall results.

Are American Christians really this bad at theology? Are we simply just a band of unwitting heretics? Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research’s recent State of Theology study seems to indicate that, yes, a large percentage of us are.

While it may be tempting to declare a state of theological emergency, a further look at the groundbreaking survey, now in its third wave, shows room for optimism amid the concern.

Clearly the theological acuity of Christians in the United States could improve. But the findings from Ligonier’s study actually indicate that where instruction and education do occur, at least evangelicals can be remarkably orthodox. By comparing this year’s study and the previous one from 2016, we can gain a better idea of what these results say about how heretical we American Christians are.

Let’s focus on evangelicals by belief, as defined by the National Association of Evangelicals, and start with the questions that were reworded between the 2018 study and the 2016 study.

In 2016, the survey phrased one question as, “People have the ability to turn to God of their own initiative,” and about 8 in 10 respondents agreed (82%). Compare that to this year’s wording: “Only the power of God can cause people to trust Jesus Christ as their savior,” which garnered an essentially identical agreement of 83 percent. So between 2016 and 2018, nearly the same percentage of evangelicals believed diametrically opposed positions on the very same issue. (To be fair, the Council of Orange in A.D. 529, which ...

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