In a recent study by LifeWay Research, 3,000 adult Americans were asked to indicate their level of agreement with forty-seven statements about Christian theology. An interactive “data explorer” allows you to filter the results on each survey question based on respondent attributes such as age range, education level, geographic region, income, and marital status, among others. The program will tell you how many respondents fit the newly created profile, and then displays their responses as an overlay on the full survey results, which allows for some nifty visualizations.
Curiously, the survey offers only five choices in the category of faith affiliation: “Black Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline, and Other.” This lack of precision is somewhat troublesome: can one not be both a Black Protestant and an Evangelical or Mainline Protestant? What about people who worship at Mainline Protestant churches, but personally hold beliefs that would be considered Evangelical, or vice versa? Putting this aside, what emerges from the survey is a clear sense that the term “evangelical” in and of itself has little or no value in predicting an individual’s adherence to Christian orthodoxy. Rather, as survey sponsors Ligonier Ministries point out, “there is a clear correlation between regular church attendance and theological orthodoxy.”