“What do Americans think about God, Jesus Christ, sin, and eternity? Ligonier Ministries’ State of Theology survey helps uncover the answers. Every two years, we take the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with better insights for discipleship. Read some of our key findings from 2018 below and explore the data for yourself.” (Emphasis added, source)
So begins an article summarizing the data for Ligonier Ministries’ latest survey. Ligonier was founded by 1971 by R.C. Sproul and reflects a conservative Calvinist theology and social ethic. And like many ministries, it employs survey data with tendentious questions and marginal social-scientific value as a means to raise the profile and underscore the importance of their own ministry. In short, such surveys are typically most useful for illuminating the theological concerns fo the ones giving the survey.
Consider this question:
“Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” [Yes or no?]
Let’s be clear on what is being asked. So consider this scenario:
Three-year-old Billy sees Timmy playing with his toy train. “It’s mine!” Billy snaps jealously as he yanks the train out of Timmy’s hand.
Billy behaved badly. He is deserving of a time-out. Perhaps, if you’re old-school, he’s even deserving of a swat on the bum.
But do you think Billy thereby deserves to be tortured unimaginably in body and mind forever? That’s what Ligonier Ministries wants to know.
Not surprisingly, most respondents do not think Billy’s burst of bad behavior is sufficient to warrant eternal torture. The surprising bit is that Ligonier Ministries is disturbed by this fact. They write:
“An alarming 69% of people disagree that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation, with 58% strongly disagreeing.” (Emphasis added)
Think about that. Ligonier Ministries considers it disturbing that 69% of people do not believe Billy’s temporary temper tantrum warrants eternal torture.