Beliefs differ from church teachings
The Arizona Republic
What people sitting in the pews believe isn't necessarily what their churches are preaching.
A nationwide poll of more than 6,000 randomly sampled adults by Barna Research shows there are discrepancies between beliefs and core church teachings.
Although Protestant denominations teach that salvation is a gift from God through faith in Jesus, and good works cannot earn a place in heaven, not all church members hold those beliefs.
In the poll, 64 percent of Assembly of God church members believe in salvation as a gift, while 60 percent of nondenominational Christians agree, 43 percent of Baptists agree, and 24 percent of Methodists agree.
Three out of 10 Americans hold that perspective, the poll suggests.
The research looked into belief patterns and how they reflected biblical views. The gulf shows that society is living in an age of theological anarchy, says Barna Research President George Barna.
"The Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy," he writes in his report.
Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not generally considered a Protestant church, Barna Research included the church in its surveys. It discovered that adults who attend a Mormon church are more likely to read the Bible during a typical week than are Protestants.
Also, Barna reports, the study suggests millions of people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or an orthodox view of God nevertheless pray to God on a regular basis.
The California-based Barna Research is an independent marketing research company that studies trends related to culture, values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
Among other poll results:
Four out of 10 Americans believe that the Bible is accurate. Within major churches, the numbers are: Episcopal, 22 percent; Mormon, 29 percent; Methodist, 38 percent; Assembly of God, 66 percent; Baptist, 77 percent; Pentecostal, 81 percent.
Seven out of 10 Americans believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe. Within churches, the numbers are Episcopal, 59 percent; Methodist, 73 percent; Mormon, 84 percent; nondenominational Christian, 89 percent; Assembly of God, 96 percent.
Three-fourths of Americans believe Satan is a symbol of evil, not a real being who can influence people's lives. Within the churches, the numbers of people who strongly believe Satan is a real entity are Methodist, 18 percent; Episcopal, 20 percent; Baptist, 34 percent; nondenominational Christian, 48 percent; Assembly of God, 56 percent; and Mormon, 59 percent.
Less than half of all Americans (four out of 10) believe Jesus lived a sinless life on Earth. Within the churches, the numbers are Episcopal, 28 percent; Methodist, 33 percent; Baptist, 55 percent; nondenominational Christian, 63 percent; Assembly of God, 70 percent; Mormon, 70 percent; and Pentecostal, 73 percent.