Survey of Evangelical Leaders on Evolution, Abortion & The Second Coming
Evangelical Protestant leaders who live in the Global South (sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia) generally are optimistic about the prospects for evangelicalism in their countries. But those who live in the Global North (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) tend to be more pessimistic.
Seven-in-ten evangelical leaders who live in the Global South (71%) expect that five years from now the state of evangelicalism in their countries will be better than it is today. But a majority of evangelical leaders in the Global North expect that the state of evangelicalism in their countries will either stay about the same (21%) or worsen (33%) over the next five years.
In addition, most leaders in the Global South (58%) say that evangelical Christians are gaining influence on life in their countries. By contrast, most leaders in the Global North (66%) say that, in the societies in which they live, evangelicals are losing influence. U.S. evangelical leaders are especially downbeat about the prospects for evangelical Christianity in their society; 82% say evangelicals are losing influence in the United States today, while only 17% think evangelicals are gaining influence.
These are among the key findings of a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life of 2,196 evangelical leaders from 166 countries and territories who were invited to attend the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization, a 10-day gathering of ministers and lay leaders held in Cape Town, South Africa.
The survey finds nearly unanimous agreement among the global evangelical leaders on some key beliefs, such as that Christianity is the one, true faith leading to eternal life. They also hold traditional views on family and social issues. For example, more than nine-in-ten say abortion is usually wrong (45%) or always wrong (51%). About eight-in-ten say that society should discourage homosexuality (84%) and that men should serve as the religious leaders in the marriage and family (79%).
Virtually all the leaders surveyed (98%) also agree that the Bible is the word of God. But they are almost evenly divided between those who say the Bible should be read literally, word for word (50%), and those who do not think that everything in the Bible should be taken literally (48%). They are similarly split on whether it is necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person (49% yes, 49% no), and whether drinking alcohol is compatible with being a good evangelical (42% yes, 52% no).
In a number of ways, leaders in the Global South are more conservative than those in the Global North. For instance, leaders in the Global South are more likely than those in the Global North to read the Bible literally (58% vs. 40%) and to favor making the Bible the official law of the land in their countries (58% vs. 28%). More evangelical leaders in the Global South than in the Global North take the position that abortion is always wrong (59% vs. 41%), and more say that a wife must always obey her husband (67% vs. 39%). Leaders in the Global South are also much more inclined than those in the Global North to say that consuming alcohol is incompatible with being a good evangelical (75% vs. 23%).
Overall, evangelical leaders around the world view secularism, consumerism and popular culture as the greatest threats they face today. More of the leaders express concern about these aspects of modern life than express concern about other religions, internal disagree-ments among evangelicals or government restrictions on religion.
Of the nearly 2,200 evangelical leaders surveyed by the Pew Forum, about seven-in-ten (71%) see the influence of secularism as a major threat to evangelical Christianity in the countries where they live. Two-thirds (67%) also cite “too much emphasis on consumerism and material goods” as a major threat to evangelicalism, and nearly six-in-ten (59%) put “sex and violence in popular culture” into the same category. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the global evangelical leaders (64%) say there is a “natural conflict” between being an evangelical and living in a modern society.
Conflict between religious groups, by contrast, does not loom as a particularly large concern for most of the evangelical leaders surveyed. A majority says that conflict between religious groups is either a small problem (41%) or not a problem at all (14%) in their countries – though a sizeable minority considers it either a moderately big problem (27%) or a very big problem (17%). Those who live in the Middle East and North Africa are especially inclined to see inter-religious conflict as a moderately big (37%) or very big problem (35%). Nine-in-ten evangelical leaders (90%) who live in Muslim-majority countries say the influence of Islam is a major threat, compared with 41% of leaders who live elsewhere.
On the whole, the evangelical Protestant leaders express favorable opinions of adherents of other faiths in the Judeo-Christian tradition, including Judaism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. But of those who express an opinion, solid majorities express unfavorable views of Buddhists (65%), Hindus (65%), Muslims (67%) and atheists (70%). Interestingly, the leaders who live in Muslim-majority countries generally are more positive in their assessments of Muslims than are the evangelical leaders overall.
In addition, the survey finds:
Evangelical leaders in both the Global North and the Global South agree that their colleagues in Africa, Asia and Latin America have “too little influence” on global Christianity; in fact, leaders from the Global North are even more inclined than those from the Global South to say this.
The leaders are divided on evolution. Slightly more reject the idea of evolution (47%) than believe in theistic evolution, the notion that God has used evolution for the purpose of creating humans and other life (41%). Few (3%) believe that human life has evolved solely by natural processes with no involvement from a supreme being.
A slight majority of the leaders surveyed believe that the Second Coming of Jesus probably (44%) or definitely (8%) will occur in their lifetimes.
Nine-in-ten of the leaders (90%) reject the so-called prosperity gospel, the notion that God will grant wealth and good health to those who have enough faith.
The evangelical leaders overwhelmingly express positive views of Pentecostal Christians (92% favorable, 8% unfavorable), Catholics (76% favorable, 24% unfavorable) and Jews (75% favorable, 25% unfavorable).
More of the leaders say they sympathize with Israel (34%) than with the Palestinians (11%), but a small majority says they sympathize either with both sides equally (39%) or with neither side (13%).
Nearly three-quarters of the evangelical leaders (73%) say it is a “top priority” to evangelize among non-religious people. Fewer say it is a top priority to evangelize among Muslims (59%), Buddhists (39%), Hindus (39%), Jews (27%), non-evangelical Christians (26%) and Catholics (20%).
Most say that men should be the religious leaders in the marriage and family (79%) and the main financial providers for the family (53%). But most do not think that women must stay home and raise children (63%). And a solid majority favors allowing women to serve as pastors (75%).
The global evangelical leaders are strongly inclined to participate in politics; 84% say religious leaders should express their views on political matters, and 56% say that to be a good evangelical, it is essential to take a public stand on social and political issues when they conflict with moral and biblical principles.