Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Presbyterian Stats

A report has just been released by The Presbyterian Panel, a research group that serves the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PCUSA].

The panel's report is presented as a "Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians, 2008." The report contains relatively few surprises, and is filled with data about the beliefs of Presbyterian laypersons and clergy.

Albert Mohler, who is no doubt regarded as a Conservative in the Christian scene (though with kudos and plenty of insight and wisdom) opens his blog post on the topic with these words:

"Liberal Protestantism, in its determined policy of accommodation with the secular world, has succeeded in making itself dispensable." That was the judgment of Thomas C. Reeves in The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Protestantism, published in 1996. Fast-forward another fourteen years and it becomes increasingly clear that liberal Protestantism continues its suicide -- with even greater theological accommodations to the secular worldview.

His focus is on this point: the most significant theological question concerned the exclusivity of the Gospel and the necessity of belief in Jesus Christ for salvation. On that question there was great division, with over a third (36%) of PCUSA church members indicating that they "disagree" or "strongly disagree" with the statement that "only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved."

A much more detailed look at the stats involved appears on the GA Junkie site (GA for General Assembly, of course, and a site focused on the politics of Presbyterianism in the States). This writer looks at the actual question asked (Please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with...the following statement: only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved) and debates the case from there.

I won't go into the details of his arguments here, since they take up a fair amount of space on the original post, and he has a better head for interpreting statistics than I do.

Suffice to say, the two different perspectives expressed are both worth considering, and are perhaps not that far apart. And how does it all apply to the NZ scene?

It's worth noting the following (from Mohler's footnotes): The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was formed in 1983 as the union of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States. More conservative Presbyterian bodies include the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [EPC] and the Presbyterian Church in America [PCA].

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