"The Future Belongs to Christians of Conviction"

This was the closing statement made by Chris Larson on the latest Renewing Your Mind Broadcast: “The State of Theology.” Ligonier Ministries has just teamed up with Life Way Research to conduct a survey of 3,000 people to find out what Americans believe about God, the Bible, man, and salvation.

While discussing the results, the blaring evaluation question is, “What is the impact of the church?” How does the church influence the world? This is an important question for Christians. The relationship of Christ and culture is a topic that professing Christians disagree on a bit, even heatedly at times. But every believer should agree to have a high view of the church as the ambassador of Christ.

In order to be ambassadors, we need to know what we are proclaiming. The convictions of those interviewed in the survey are very bleak. Americans between the ages of 18-85, from different denominational affiliations were asked to provide true or false answers to statements like, “There will be people in heaven who have never heard of Jesus Christ.”  Larson writes, “This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological awareness throughout our nation, in our neighborhoods, and even in the seat next to us at church.”

The study seems to show that Americans have convictions about God, goodness, and even the afterlife, but not necessarily true, biblical ones. Seventy percent of churchgoers replied that they do not use historical creeds in their church. Dr. Steve Nichols passionately pointed out the despair: “That’s just cutting yourself off from two thousand years of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the people of God.”

What are your convictions? Are they true? Does it matter? The writer to the Hebrews emphatically exhorts them to persevere by holding fast to their confession of hope, as a covenant community, and to do it without wavering (Heb. 10:23). What is your confession? Is it the confession of hope based on God’s promises that has been faithfully delivered in his word and proclaimed by the church for over 2,000 years? Do we confess that Jesus is Lord? Who is Jesus and what does it mean that he is Lord?

The office of the pastor is important. He is proclaiming God’s word to his people in an authoritative way. The preached word is a means of grace by which God’s people are sanctified. What is the state of theology of American pastors? What would that survey look like? Probably a lot like this one. That is why it is so important for laypeople to understand their responsibility as theologians as well. Like the title of Dr. Sproul’s book, Everyone’s A Theologian. That survey interviewed 3,000 theologians. Many of them are terribly poor theologians. The results should be informative for pastors.

What is the state of your theology? Every week we are called out from our ordinary work to gather together as a peculiar people: God’s church. By grace, we are receivers of God’s promised blessings in Christ and we are sent back out with a benediction. A Christian without conviction should be an oxymoron. And yet we need to be warned to hold fast to our confession because there are many opposing forces. Our sinful natures are tempted to waver. We need theological stamina! We get that by actively engaging in God’s word, training ourselves by it, and exercising our faith. We are new creations who are given a fighting faith to persevere.

Thankfully, we belong to a God who has made an intratrinitarian oath before the the beginning of time. As a result, he has entered into a covenant  with his people to redeem and sanctify us through the blood of his only Son. And he who promised is faithful. Jesus is Lord, whether you confess it or not.

Maybe you have cruised over to the Ligonier site and took the survey for yourself, affirming that you know the right answers and that you are a good theologian. What is your witness? And what is our role in sharing our confession of hope? How does the church influence the world? These are some questions we will be addressing in some upcoming episodes on Mortification of Spin. Stay tuned to listen to our interview with Dr. David VanDrunen tomorrow. He speaks from what is called a two kingdoms perspective. And on November 12th, we will air our interview with a pretty influential pastor who takes a transformationalist perspective on Christ and culture. Any guesses on who it is?