USA (MNN) — There's a disturbing
trend being revealed in American churches. According to a report released this week by the Pew Forum on Religion
and Public Life, over half of polled evangelicals are moving toward the belief
there are many ways to heaven.
The findings revealed that most
religious Americans don't feel bound by strict interpretations of their
churches' doctrines, according to the survey of 36,000 people. 57 percent of evangelical church attendees
say they believe many religions can lead to eternal life.
Overall, 70 percent of religious
Americans agreed, and 68 percent said there is more than one way to interpret
the teachings of their own religion.
Either that's seen as a growth in
religious tolerance, or it can be seen as evidence that Americans dismiss or
are only aware of a watered-down doctrine.
Evangelist Sammy Tippit isn't
surprised by the findings, but he bristled at the notion of "tolerance" driving
church doctrine. "I think a lot of
Christians have bought into it because they feel like, ‘If I'm not tolerant,
I'm not loving.' I think we have to
go back to a biblical definition of what Christianity is."
What's more, there's a tendency
to sanitize theological truths to a point where there is no longer a sharp
distinction. "I think," says
Tippit, "one of the things that has
transpired in American culture in the last several years now has been a getting
away from Scripture and going more towards an experience-oriented
Christianity." But experience alone
is not a balanced approach to faith.
Tippit says this is a "wake-up
call" for American church. The report
reveals a great flaw in many outreach programs. Salvation is just the first step, which is why
much of Tippit's work focuses on discipleship. "One of the great things that must happen for a great renewal in
our culture is that we've got to come back to a commitment to the Scripture and
build a foundation for our lives from the Word of God."
America has a broad Christianity,
but it is shallow. Tippit concludes, "I
think the way we go deep is through small group, one-on-one
disciple-making. I would encourage
churches and individuals to begin to get back to the Word of God. It's the foundation for our culture, for our
lives and for our faith."