There was and interesting article today at Time.com (via Yahoo News) focusing on a recent survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. [Update: See more detailed survey results here and here] Here are some excerpts:
Americans of every religious stripe are considerably more tolerant of the beliefs of others than most of us might have assumed, according to a new poll released Monday. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last year surveyed 35,000 American, and found that 70% of respondents agreed with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even more remarkable was the fact that 57% of Evangelical Christians were willing to accept that theirs might not be the only path to salvation, since most Christians historically have embraced the words of Jesus, in the Gospel of John, that “no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Quizzed on the breadth of the poll’s definition of “Evangelical,” Pew pollster John Green said the 296-page survey made use of self-identification by the respondents’ churches, denominations or fellowships, whose variety is the report’s overriding theme. However, he said, if one isolates the most “traditionalist” members of the white Evangelical group, 50% still agreed that other faiths might offer a path to eternal life. In fact, of the dozens of denominations covered by the Pew survey, it was only Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who answered in the majority that their own faith was the only way to eternal life. (Italics mine)
That sentence about Mormons makes me skeptical of the survey results. The problem with most of these religious surveys is that the religious terms are not clearly defined before the questions are asked. For instance, Mormonism is nearly a Universalist religion in the sense that D&C 76 clearly teaches that all but the (likely very few) sons of perdition will be “heirs of salvation”. Yet the sentence above would lead one to think that Mormons believe only Mormons avoid an endless hell. The gradation of heaven taught in Mormonism, combined with the fact that Mormons generally equate “eternal life” with “exaltation”, or becoming like God, explains the results of the survey. And when you combine that with the fact that Mormons believe everyone will have a chance to accept the “fulness of the gospel” after this life this sentence is even more misleading.
So if the survey misconstrues that result what else did it botch? Did 57% of evangelicals surveyed really mean non-Christians could/would be saved or were they just referring to non-evangelical Christians? I’m too lazy to find out but maybe some of your aren’t so feel free to report back to us on that if you want. And the rest of you feel free to sound off on the survey results.
Associated song: Remy Zero – Save Me