Based on their beliefs about what awaits them after they die on earth, three out of every ten adults in the United States are born again Christians. There are many assumptions about the faith of that group – some of which prove to be inaccurate according to a new nationwide survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI).
Defining Born Again Christians
The survey did not rely upon people to describe themselves as “born again Christian.” Instead, respondents were asked what they thought would happen to them after they die. The respondents were given 10 options to choose from, one of which was the statement “after I die I know I will go to Heaven because I have confessed my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.” Thirty percent of the 3000 adults interviewed met that definition.
That particular response was the most popular of all ten answers offered to participants in the study. Almost as popular was the admission that the individual had no idea what would happen to them after they died, a reply chosen by 25%.
The remaining eight response options encompassed the perceptions of the remaining half of the population. Less than one out of every ten adults chose each of the other eight response options. That included those who said they would go to Heaven either because they have been good person (9%), or because God loves all people and will not let them perish (7%), or because they have tried to obey the 10 Commandments and God’s rules (6%). The idea of reincarnation is embraced by 7% – they believe they will return to earth as a different life form or different person. The notion of going to a place of purification before being allowed to enter Heaven – a place known to Catholics as “Purgatory” – was embraced by 4%. The idea of any kind of conscious afterlife was summarily dismissed by 8% – half of whom said there is no such place as Heaven or Hell and the other half stating that there is no life after death, physically or spiritually.
Some Beliefs Are Biblical, Others Are Not
The born again population maintains a combination of biblically accurate and indefensible beliefs. As seen in the accompanying table, most born again adults have biblically correct beliefs on a variety of matters – and are completely inaccurate on others.
In light of the previously-reported finding by ACFI that only 30% of born again adults have a biblical worldview, the hodge podge of beliefs is not unexpected. However, there was not a single biblical belief among the 17 examined in this report that was held by at least 90% of the born again respondents.
Almost nine out of ten (89%) had an orthodox view of the nature of God, while four out of five agreed that God is alive and active in peoples’ lives these days (82%), and that all people are sinners (79%), and that same-sex marriage is inappropriate (78%). Three-quarters of them (76%) also concurred that the Bible is the Word of God and has no errors.
About two out of every three born agains asserted that God created the universe, as described in the Book of Genesis (66%) and that the Bible is totally accurate in all the life principles it teaches (64%).
After that it gets a bit murky.
Less than six out of ten (58%) believe that Satan exists. Only half believes that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life (52%) or that absolute moral truth exists and is found in the scriptures (47%). Most born again Christians believe that divorce is morally acceptable, that the Holy Spirit is a symbol but does not actually exist, and that success is best defined by activities others than obedience and commitment to God.
Ironically, the truth about eternal salvation appears to be a mystery to most born again adults. Even though they are considered to be born again because they say they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ, rather than tried to earn their salvation by being good or through doing good deeds, only 37% argue that it is impossible to earn one’s way into Heaven. Further, sharing the good news with non-believers is not on the radar of most born again people: only one-third of them (34%) believe they have a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with non-believers. Maybe that relates to the fact that they also dispute the biblical teaching that people are not basically good due to our sin nature. In contrast, 75% of born agains claim that all people are basically good.
The ACFI data also pointed out that most born again adults do not read the Bible during a typical week (46% do so) and that one-third of them (34%) say they prefer socialism to capitalism.
About the Research
The research described in this report is drawn from three nationwide online surveys that are part of the FullView™ series. Each wave of the survey had a sample size of 1,000 adults. In each survey, born again Christians were identified not based on self-identification but through their answer to a question about what they expect to experience after they die. For the purposes of this report, the survey responses of born again adults from all three studies were combined, providing a total sample of 902 qualified born again adults. Those three studies were conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute from February 22 through April 27, 2017.
The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.
Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.