A new survey reveals that pastors of nondenominational churches are more likely to hold a biblical worldview than pastors belonging to all other denominations.
The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University released the seventh installment of its American Worldview Inventory Tuesday. The latest wave of research released builds on previous data that found only 37% of pastors hold a biblical worldview and analyzes the views of pastors by denomination.
The survey is based on responses from 1,000 Christian pastors to 54 questions collected in February and March 2022. It examined the frequency with which 75% or more of pastors in a particular denomination agreed with 17 statements outlining beliefs that either embrace or reject a biblical worldview. Findings reveal that at least 75% of pastors leading nondenominational Christian and Christian independent denominations held biblical views on 12 of the matters addressed in the statements.
Even in the five cases where more than 75% of nondenominational pastors did not subscribe to a biblical worldview on a particular issue, the share of pastors who adhered to a biblical worldview on a particular teaching never dropped below 50%. The same is true for Evangelical pastors, although leaders in this denomination only held biblical views on just four of the 17 issues.
While at least 75% of mainline Protestant pastors abided to a biblical worldview on two of the 17 matters they were asked about, at least 50% of the remaining 15 subscribed to a biblical worldview on all matters presented before them. At least 75% of Pentecostal/Charismatic and Catholic pastors possessed biblical views regarding two of the beliefs they were queried about.
Between 50% and 74% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors held biblical beliefs on 12 of the 17 matters examined in the survey, while less than half of pastors affiliated with this denomination maintained biblical beliefs on the remaining three. Less than 50% of Catholic pastors held biblical beliefs on 10 of the items they were questioned about, while between 50% and 74% of Catholic pastors held biblical views on the other five.
The share of pastors of traditionally black churches and Holiness congregations who held biblical beliefs never reached 75% for any particular statement. Fifty percent to 74% of pastors affiliated with the traditionally black tradition had biblical beliefs on six of the 17 statements presented before them, while less than 50% subscribed to a biblical worldview on the remaining 11. The inverse was true for pastors belonging to a Holiness denomination.
Compared to their counterparts in other denominations, a far higher share of non-denominational pastors (90%) agreed that human life is sacred. Just 68% of mainline Protestant pastors, 62% of Evangelical pastors, 55% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors, 40% of pastors leading traditionally black churches, 35% of pastors leading Holiness denominations and 34% of Catholic pastors said the same.
This pattern also applied to the belief that “the personal accumulation of money and other forms of wealth are entrusted to a person by God to manage for His purpose.” Seventy-one percent of nondenominational pastors expressed agreement with that statement, along with 62% of mainline Protestant pastors, 57% of Evangelical pastors, 46% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors, 38% of pastors leading Holiness congregations, 33% of Catholic pastors and 30% of pastors shepherding traditionally black churches.
Sixty-seven percent of nondenominational pastors believed that “success in life is consistent obedience to God,” followed by 60% of Evangelical pastors, 53% of mainline Protestant pastors, 45% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors, 40% of pastors of traditionally black churches, 37% of Holiness pastors and 35% of Catholic pastors.
While many of the statements in the survey asked pastors to react to outlined biblical teachings, others described beliefs at odds with a biblical worldview. For example, one statement declared that “determining moral truth is up to each individual; there are no moral absolutes that apply to every one, all the time.” Just 15% of nondenominational pastors agreed with that statement.
Majorities of Catholic pastors (79%), leaders of traditionally black churches (76%), pastors of Holiness congregations (62%) and Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors (54%) actually agreed with that statement along with sizable minorities of Evangelicals (39%) and mainline Protestants (37%).
At the same time, 15% of nondenominational pastors expressed agreement with a statement asserting that “The Bible is ambiguous regarding abortion; it is possible to make a compelling biblical argument either for or against abortion.” Majorities of Catholic pastors (61%) and traditionally black pastors (51%) took the opposite view on that matter, along with 49% of mainline Protestant pastors, 40% of Holiness pastors, 35% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors and 26% of Evangelical pastors.
An overwhelming minority of nondenominational pastors (21%) believed that “having faith matters more than which faith you have,” in contrast to 37% of Evangelical pastors, 39% of mainline Protestant pastors, 45% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors, 55% of Holiness pastors and 68% of pastors of traditionally black churches. Similarly, just 21% of nondenominational pastors thought that “a person who is generally good, or does enough good things for others, will earn a place in Heaven.”
Thirty percent of mainline Protestant pastors, 34% of Evangelical pastors, 47% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors, 55% of Holiness pastors, 66% of traditionally black pastors and 77% of Catholic pastors subscribed to a belief that doing good alone constitutes enough to secure a place in Heaven.
However, 71% of nondenominational pastors subscribed to the biblical view that “When you die you will go to heaven only because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior.”
Seventy percent of Evangelical pastors also believed that accepting Jesus as the savior is a prerequisite for going to Heaven, along with 64% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors, 51% of mainline Protestant pastors, 49% of pastors leading Holiness congregations, 47% of pastors leading traditionally black churches and 44% of Catholic pastors.
Similar numbers of nondenominational (33%), Evangelical (33%) and mainline Protestant pastors (32%) saw reincarnation as a real possibility, along with majorities of leaders of traditionally black churches (70%) and Holiness congregations (52%). Forty-seven percent of Catholic pastors and 43% of Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors also expressed belief in the possibility of reincarnation.
The Cultural Research Center did not elaborate on the remaining questions that it asked pastors to reflect on.