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Majority of Americans – including Christians – believe they can earn salvation

Nearly half of all Americans believe they can earn their way to heaven through good works, a recent survey found. Only one-third of adults disagree, according to findings from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.

Most surprising in the latest findings from the American Worldview Inventory 2020 is that a majority of people who describe themselves as Christian (52 percent) accept a “works-oriented” means to God’s acceptance. More shockingly, huge proportions of people associated with churches whose official doctrine says eternal salvation comes only from embracing Jesus Christ as savior believe that a person can qualify for heaven by being or doing good. This includes close to half of all adults associated with Pentecostal (46 percent), mainline Protestant (44 percent) and evangelical (41 percent) churches. A much larger share of Catholics (70 percent) embrace that point of view.

READ: What’s the foundation of your worldview?

The research also shows that the relevance of sin is on the wane, with only slightly more than half of U.S. adults (56 percent) saying they consciously and consistently attempt to avoid sinning because they know it offends God, according to the research conducted by Dr. George Barna, CRC Director of Research. This shift in worldview may be negatively affecting individual commitment to personal evangelism. Fewer Americans (49 percent) believe they have a personal responsibility, in appropriate situations, to share their religious beliefs with people who possess different religious beliefs. That is down slightly since 1991, when 53 percent of adults felt they had such an obligation.

Other key findings include:

  • Only half of Americans (54 percent) believe they will experience heaven after they die, whether they earn it or not.
  • Fifteen percent said they don’t know what will happen after they die.
  • Thirteen percent said there is no life after death.
  • Eight percent expect to be reincarnated.
  • Another 8 percent believe they will go to a place of purification before entering heaven
  • Just 2 percent believe they will go to hell.
  • Born-again Christians, defined as people who believe that when they die they will go to heaven only because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, were least likely to hold the “salvation-can-be-earned” view.
  • Conservatives are much more likely (75 percent) to “consciously and consistently attempt to avoid sinning because they know it offends God,” compared to liberals (41 percent) or moderates (49 percent).

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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