Research: Majority of Americans Believe Works Are the Key to Salvation

A majority of Americans, a new survey finds, no longer believe that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal salvation. Faith (generally) and good works, they say, will do the trick. Newly-released findings from Dr. George Barna and the Cultural Research Center’s inaugural American Worldview Inventory reveal that almost two out of every three adults […]

A majority of Americans, a new survey finds, no longer believe that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal salvation. Faith (generally) and good works, they say, will do the trick.

Newly-released findings from Dr. George Barna and the Cultural Research Center’s inaugural American Worldview Inventory reveal that almost two out of every three adults (63%) believe that having some type of religious faith is more important than which type of faith a person aligns with.

Shockingly, the research reveals that a large majority (68%) of those that embrace the idea are those who describe themselves as Christians, including those who attend evangelical (56%) and Pentecostal (62%) churches. The percentages are even higher among those attending mainline Protestant (67%) and Catholic (77%) churches.

Equally as startling, it was found that a majority of people who describe themselves as Christian (52%) believe that a person can gain eternal salvation by “being or doing good.” That includes close to half of all adults associated with Pentecostal (46%), mainline Protestant (44%), and evangelical (41%) churches. As expected, a much larger share of Catholics (70%) embrace that point of view.

This salvation-can-be-earned perspective, Barna says, fits well with other widely held views identified in the American Worldview Inventory 2020 that are at odds with biblical teaching.

Those have included:

• There is no absolute moral truth (58%)
• Basis of truth are factors or sources other than God (58%)
• Right/wrong determined by factors other than the Bible (77%)
• The Bible is not the authoritative and true word of God (59%)
• People are basically good (69%)

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“If you look at some of the dominant elements in the American mind and heart today, as illuminated by the Inventory, most people believe that the purpose of life is feeling good about yourself,” Barna says. “Most people contend that all faiths are of equal value, that entry into God’s eternal presence is determined by one’s personal means of choice and that there are no absolutes to guide or grow us morally.”

He continued, “That philosophy of life contradicts a fundamental basis of what may be the two most significant documents to the longevity and success of America—the Bible and the Constitution of the United States. Those documents agree that this nation will only be healthy and fruitful if it is populated by moral people. By abandoning our moral standards and traditions, and replacing them with inclusive and conditional preferences, we’re losing the foundations that have enabled the ‘American experiment’ to succeed for more than two centuries. We can only hope that our critical moral institutions—particularly the family and the church—will wake up and help the nation to get back on track.”