Pew and Lutherans

(from Mollie) Gene Veith pointed the way to a few other bloggers who have been looking at the LCMS-specific numbers coming out of that massive Pew report on religion in America:

The survey found that only 84% are absolutely certain there is a god; 12% are fairly certain.
9% seldom go to church; 2% never do.
Only 42% said the Bible should be taken literally.
28% believe there is one correct way to interpret scripture.

I gather that the assorted bloggers thought these numbers were bad. Actually, I’m not so sure. The percentage of people not going to church is very low compared to other churches and it’s somewhat out of our line of thinking to expect sinful people to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy 100 percent of the time.

As for the other figures, I kind of think the questions are bad. I wrote a little bit about this elsewhere, but here is just one of the questions that Pew asked:

Do you think there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded?

How would you answer that question? Yes? No? I believe in heaven — I don’t believe in people in people who have led good lives.

Another question asked people if they believe in a “literal” interpretation of Scripture. We hopefully all believe the Bible is the word of God. But do you believe in a “literal” thousand year reign? Do you believe Jesus is literally a door?

I think the survey had some serious limitations. But what do you think of the results?

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Pew and Lutherans — 8 Comments

  1. (If your blog is going to have more than one author, you should uncomment the Author note in the theme template 🙂 )

    Yes, the questions suck. I address the “literal” question on NR. The “heaven” question could use some insight from the Athanasian Creed:

    41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

    42. and shall give account of their own works.

    43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fir

  2. Pastor Murray down in Houston made a similar point in his daily “Memorial Moment” devotional earlier this week regarding the weakness of these questions. While addressing a different topic, he observed that a little over a third of Americans surveyed believe they have an obligation to convert others to their “religion”. In one sense that could be discouraging to us, a sign of the increasing tendency of post-modern Americans to craft their own private “religion” which is true for them and them along. But on the other hand we who are not sectarian but confessors of Christian doctrine might rightly have answered “no” that question ourselves – at least in an absolute sense. For as Christians we are not seeking to “convert” other Christians, but rather to increase their faith and strengthen their confession. In winsomely presenting Christian doctrine to, say, a Presbyterian, we invite him to reject certain errors and join us in confessing the Gospel in its truth and purity. But that doesn’t mean we’re converting him to our religion: the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens apart from the LCMS! Indeed, I would add that He has more work to do with many in the LCMS that He does with come of our confessing Evangelical or even Orthodox friends and neighbors. That said, Christians are becoming a minority in many places in our country, so perhaps there are more people to truly “convert” these days than merely to teach and to guide. Too bad, though, that the Pew folks didn’t have a good theologian review their survey before they put it out there! – Cantormania (Phillip Magness), currently logged in as “Steadfast Lutherans”.

  3. I really liked the comment regarding ‘converting’ other Christians and that we were not doing that so much as increasing their faith and strengthening and correcting his confession. Very nicely put.

  4. Quote:
    We hopefully all believe the Bible is the word of God. But do you believe in a “literal” thousand year reign? Do you believe Jesus is literally a door?

    I believe so. It may get me a few quirky looks when I say it, but Jesus is not saying He’s *like* some big Door in the sky that’s somehow more important than He is. No, He is more of a Door than we’ve ever seen any door to be. The doors you and I think of are only earthly copies of Who Jesus really is, the Way, the Truth and the Life… and the Door!
    I thought this way after debating the Words of Christ saying “This is My Body” etc. with someone who insisted that it wasn’t literal. “C’mon, you can’t believe that those kind of statements are actually as they read.” “Absolutely!” “So Jesus really is a Door?” “Umm… I suppose you’re right. He is a Door!”
    Rev. Mark Stirdivant

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