More people believe salvation can be earned

(Photo: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez)

Christians who think it's enough to be a good person in order to be saved outweigh those who believe Jesus is the only way to salvation, a new survey has found. 

The survey of 2,000 American adults found that only two-thirds believe salvation is through Christ, with more believing it can be earned.

Only a third of those surveyed agreed with the statement: "You consider yourself to be a Christian; and when you die you will go to Heaven only because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior."

All of those who described themselves as born again Christians agreed with this statement, followed by Evangelicals (72%) and Pentecostals (55%).

Overall, respondents were far more likely to agree that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things during their life, they will "earn" a place in Heaven (48%).

The research was carried out by Arizona Christian University's Cultural Research Center and published in its report, American Worldview Inventory 2020. 

"With American adults increasingly rejecting biblical answers to key questions of life—from meaning and purpose, to understanding the intrinsic value of human life, to the existence of objective truth—it is little surprise that current views of sin and salvation are increasingly void of biblical understanding," the report says.

The research sheds light on other aspects of faith, including evangelism. 

Around half of all respondents (49%) said they feel a "personal responsibility" to share their religious beliefs, a figure that rose to nearly three quarters of evangelicals and Pentecostals (74% each). Levels of commitment were much lower among those who attend Catholic (54%) or mainline Protestant (48%) churches. 

The findings also suggested a tendency to regard all faiths as equal, with nearly two thirds (63%) agreeing that "having faith matters more than which faith you have".

Dr George Barna, who led the research, said that churches need to wake up and "help the nation get back on track". 

"If you step back and look at the big picture painted by all of the outcomes in this research project it seems to suggest that people are in an 'anything goes' mindset when it comes to faith, morals, values, and lifestyle," he said.

"Americans appear to be creating unique, highly customized worldviews based on feelings, experiences and opportunities rather than working within the boundaries of a comprehensive, time-tested, consistent worldview."

He added: "By abandoning our moral standards and traditions, and replacing them with inclusive and conditional preferences, we are losing the foundations that have enabled the 'American experiment' to succeed for more than two centuries."