Evangelicals on Evolution, Women, and the Future

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life surveyed 2,196 evangelical leaders from 166 countries and territories at the Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization last October. The results of this survey are now available at pewforum.org: Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders. There are many interesting bits to pull out of this survey and think over.

Evangelical leaders from the global south are more optimistic about the future of evangelicalism than those from the global north. The global north includes Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the global south includes sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia. The graph to the right represents a comparison of the impression of the current state of evangelicalism in each respondent’s home country with that expected five years in the future using data from questions 1 to 3 in the survey.

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.

It would do us in the United States a world of good to develop a more global perspective. I will look at a few more of the questions and responses after the jump.

Does the difference in perspective surprise you?

Creation. On the issue of creation Question 41 asked the leaders which statement came closest to their own views: Humans and other living things have evolved over time due to natural processes such as natural selection; A supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today; Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

Roughly 44% of those surveyed were comfortable with some form of evolution although the vast majority of these held that God guided the evolutionary process. This is not surprising, but will no doubt cause consternation among some adamant materialists. Although I would want to define what I meant by God-guided (surveys never allow enough nuance) I would choose this option from the answers provided. The result of the survey provides some encouragement for the future.

On a related question 64% of those surveyed felt that there is a natural conflict between being an evangelical Christian and living in a modern society while 33% felt there was no natural conflict (3% gave no answer).

Threats to Evangelicalism. The leaders at the congress were asked about threats to evangelicalism. Among the factors included in the survey were the influence of secularism, emphasis on consumerism and material goods, sex and violence in popular culture, and theological divisions among evangelicals. The largest threat perceived by those at the congress was secularism; 71% felt this was a major threat while 20 % felt it was a minor threat.

The Role of Women. Finally on another issue often discussed on this blog – the role of women and women in ministry. Question 42 asked a number of gender related questions and Question 43 asked “Do you think women should be allowed to serve as pastors, or don’t you think so?” The general sense of those at the Congress was that men have a responsibility to be spiritual leaders in the home. However there were a few surprises.

Of those at the Lausanne Congress 75% felt that women should be allowed to serve as pastors, 20% answered no and 5% did not answer.  The large majority in favor was found in both the global north (73%) and the global south (77%).

The statement “Women should stay at home and raise the children in the family” also gave a result worth some thought and discussion.

The US had the largest percentage of agreement (44%) – larger than Europe (28% – no surprise) but also significantly larger than the global south (31%). The culture of a stay-at-home mom is local and a luxury.

Any thoughts on the survey in general? How would you answer the questions?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If you have comments please visit Evangelicals on Evolution, Women, and the Future at Jesus Creed.

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