Claiming something is evangelicalism’s biggest challenge is sport for some. I’ve heard a number of items, including complementarianism, the Second Coming, and socialism. I want to register my suggestion, and I believe this idea erodes the very core of evangelicalism. It’s universalism.
Evangelicalism is marked by four features: the centrality of the Bible, the cross as atoning, the necessity of personal conversion and the personal active faith of the Christian. Universalism is an assault on three of these: universalism suggests personal conversion is not finally necessary, it calls into question the importance and even necessity of evangelism as a form of Christian activism, and it weakens the atoning significance of the death of Jesus if it is understood as that which separates the believer from the non-believer.
And I want to point to the facts that indicate universalism is on the rise. The facts come from Rodney Stark, What Americans Really Believe
, and they say this:
1. Since 1957, somewhere between 70 and 80% of the American public has believed in life after death/heaven with some level of confidence.
2. The Baylor study shows that about 66% of Americans are somewhat certain to certain that they will go to heaven.
Now here’s the indicator of growing universalism:
3. In 1964 52% said that one had to receive Christ to go to heaven.
4. In the Baylor study … we get the following, and I’m wondering how you read this chart?
“If you believe in heaven, how many of the following people do you think will get into heaven?”
Here it goes: Of Americans who believe in heaven, % below think half or more of them think the following will enter into heaven. That is, 29% think half or more of nonreligious people will enter heaven.
Average Americans 54%
Nonreligious people 29%
Only 21% of Americans who believe in heaven think no irreligious people will enter into heaven. In other words, one could say 21% of Americans who believe in heaven are exclusivists — believe only Christians will enter into heaven.