52 Percent of Americans Say Jesus Isn't God but Was a Great Teacher, Survey Says

A slight majority of American adults say Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more during his lifetime, which several Christian leaders say is evidence today's faithful are "drifting away" from traditional evangelist teachings.

As earlier reported by The Christian Post, the 2020 survey conducted by Ligonier Ministries, a Florida-based Reform Church nonprofit, found 52 percent of U.S. adults say they believe Jesus Christ is not God — a belief that contradicts traditional teachings of the Bible through the Christian church, which state Jesus was both man and God.

Nearly one-third of evangelicals in the survey agreed that Jesus isn't God, compared to 65 percent who said "Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God."

The findings of the survey were collected from 3,000 Americans, including 630 self-described evangelicals, and has prompted a call for more arduous modern study of Scripture.

"Statistics like these from the State of Theology survey can give us quite a shock, but they also shed light on the concerns that many American Christians and churches have expressed for decades. As the culture around us increasingly abandons its moral compass, professing evangelicals are sadly drifting away from God's absolute standard in Scripture," Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries and president of Reformation Bible College, said in a statement.

"It's clear that the church does not have the luxury of idly standing by. This is a time for Christians to study Scripture diligently, engage confidently with people in our culture, and witness fearlessly to the identity and saving work of Jesus Christ in the gospel," Nichols continued, issuing a warning to today's evangelical leaders.

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The debate of whether Jesus is God hones in on differing Christian interpretations of the Bible and from nuances between "Historical Jesus" — the crucified peasant from 1st Century Nazareth — and Jesus Christ as one of three parts of a Holy Trinity. Christian doctrine holds that God is one God, but three coeternal figures — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — are all the same divine spirit.

About 44 percent of respondents in the survey agreed that because Jesus was simultaneously a man and God, he committed sins like any other mortal being — a controversial stance within Christian theological teachings.

New Testament scholar and author Bart Ehrman has highlighted the historical aspect of how Jesus' perception among Christians affects the faith overall: "If Jesus had not been declared God by his followers, his followers would have remained a sect within Judaism — a small, Jewish sect," wrote Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.

But Ligonier Ministries, which helped conduct the survey alongside LifeWay Research, sees it different: "If Jesus' claim to be God is false, then He was either delusional or deceptive, but He could not have been a great teacher," the nonprofit wrote in a statement last week.

Newsweek reached out to Ligonier Ministries Sunday afternoon for additional remarks on the survey.

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A majority of Americans say Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more during his lifetime, which several Christian leaders say is evidence today's faithful are "drifting away" from traditional evangelist teachings. PATRIC ROBERT - CORBIS / Contributor/Getty Images
52 Percent of Americans Say Jesus Isn't God but Was a Great Teacher, Survey Says | U.S.