Pew Research Center Says Reformation Theology is Waning Among Protestants

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Five hundred years after the start of the Protestant Reformation, a majority of U.S. Protestants reportedly reject the Reformation doctrines of sola fide (the belief men and women are saved by faith alone) and sola scriptura (the belief Scripture is the only infallible guide for faith and practice).

That’s the finding of the Pew Research Center, which also found a majority of western European Protestants reject sola fide and that theological differences between Protestants and Catholics seem to be narrowing in many cases.

“The result of the survey … in America and Europe is not particularly surprising,” said Paige Patterson, a participant during the 1990s in a five-year theological dialogue between eight Southern Baptist leaders and eight representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Although such surveys have little relevance on the vitality of faith and are often skewed in various ways, there is a sense in which both groups surveyed are correct. Certainly, Catholicism and Protestantism are more alike than any other expressions of religion in the world in their confidence that the Bible is in some sense the Word of God, that Jesus of Nazareth is the center of the Christian faith, in their confidence in the doctrine of the Trinity … and in their general concept of sin defined as rebellion against God,” Patterson told Baptist Press in written comments.

“On the other hand, the survey also demonstrates the extent of biblical illiteracy,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Regarding salvation, two separate Pew surveys conducted in the U.S. and Europe and released Aug. 31 found:

— Less than half (46%) of U.S. Protestants hold the Reformation doctrine that faith alone is needed to attain salvation. More than half (52%) espouse the historically Catholic doctrine that good deeds and faith are required to get into heaven.

— A full 81 percent of U.S. Catholics say good deeds and faith are required to get into heaven. Just 17 percent of Catholics say salvation comes by faith alone.

— In Europe, 29 percent of Protestants and 26 percent of Catholics espouse belief in salvation by faith alone.

Contrary to the majority of Protestants in the U.S. and Europe, the Augsburg Confession of Faith — a classic 1530 Lutheran confession of faith — stated, “Men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith.”

In contrast, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that while “no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification,” humans can “merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for … the attainment of eternal life.”

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Source: Baptist Press