NASHVILLE, Tenn., 6/27/08 – In the second major release from their U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Forum states that "70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation say that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life." The detailed findings (available at: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports) indicate that 57 percent of those attending evangelical churches also agree that many religions can lead to eternal life. Only 36 percent chose the alternative, "My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life."
However, some have expressed concerns about the way the question was asked. "The Pew Forum accurately reported the question they asked and accurately reported the responses they received, but I do not think that led to an accurate portrayal of evangelicals," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Terry Mattingly of the Scripps Howard News Service and the GetReligion.org blog wrote, "I am being a bit picky here, but I suspect that if you asked a lot of people that Pew Forum question today, they would think of the great world religions. But many Christians would think more narrowly than that. Not all. Not many, perhaps. But some. What is your religion? I’m a Baptist, a Nazarene, an Episcopalian, a Catholic. Can people outside of your religion be saved? Of course. This is not the same thing, for many, as saying that they believe that salvation is found outside faith in Jesus Christ."
"I believe the Pew study is directionally right in pointing out that a surprisingly small number of self-identified American Christians believe in the exclusivity of Christ as a means of salvation, and therefore, getting into heaven," explained Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research.
"But the way they worded their question may have had some impact; many people think of ‘denomination’ when they hear ‘religion,’ so it isn’t that surprising that a Lutheran could think a Methodist would also go to heaven or a Catholic could think that a Protestant would go to heaven," said McConnell.
Stetzer cautioned, "When we define evangelicals as not just those who sit in pews but who agree with certain evangelical beliefs, we find a different picture than was widely reported in the news about the recent Pew study."
Read the full press release: Are Evangelicals Really Universalists