Majority of Americans believe Jesus was a good teacher, not God

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A new survey reveals that 52 percent of American adults believe that Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more. If Jesus’ claim to be God is false, then He was either delusional or deceptive, but He could not have been a great teacher.

Ligonier Ministries’ biennial State of Theology survey provides key findings on what Americans think about God, truth, the Bible, worship, and ethical issues. Conducted with LifeWay Research, this survey polled a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The full results for the 2020 survey will be available online at TheStateofTheology.com as of September 8.

The Bible and the historic creeds of the Christian church plainly declare that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. Throughout history, critics have denied this claim, believing that Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more. The 2020 State of Theology survey reveals that a majority of American adults now hold this false view.

Historically, evangelical Christians have affirmed the authority of the Bible and salvation by Jesus Christ. The Bible testifies often to the deity of Christ; He is God incarnate, the Word made flesh (John 1:1; 8:58; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:1–4).

It may not be a great surprise that the majority of the general U.S. population rejects the deity of Christ, but now almost a third of evangelicals (30 percent) agree that Jesus was merely a great teacher.

And while 66 percent of American evangelicals disagree with the statement, “Jesus was a good teacher, but he was not God,” nearly as many (65 percent) still agree with the statement, “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” The confusion illustrated in these results suggests a dire need for Christians to be taught Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries and president of Reformation Bible College, said:

“Statistics like these from the State of Theology survey can give us quite a shock, but they also shed light on the concerns that many American Christians and churches have expressed for decades. As the culture around us increasingly abandons its moral compass, professing evangelicals are sadly drifting away from God’s absolute standard in Scripture. It’s clear that the church does not have the luxury of idly standing by. This is a time for Christians to study Scripture diligently, engage confidently with people in our culture, and witness fearlessly to the identity and saving work of Jesus Christ in the gospel.”

To help Christians articulate the Bible’s teaching on the person and work of Jesus Christ with accuracy and simplicity, Ligonier Ministries has formulated the Ligonier Statement on Christology. Available in twenty written languages, this statement can be read and downloaded at ChristologyStatement.com.

LifeWay Research surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,002 adults in the United States, including 630 professing evangelicals. The survey was carried out from March 10 to 18, 2020. More information can be found at TheStateofTheology.com on September 8.

Evangelicals were defined by LifeWay Research as people who strongly agreed with the following four statements:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

Ligonier Ministries exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.