Skip links

The Pew Religious Survey that No One is Talking About

No doubt to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the Pew Research Center released a study on U.S. and European Catholic-Protestant relations. And I must say, this was a rare instance where I discovered a Pew religious survey without first being tipped off by the Catholic internet world. Perhaps the reason this flew under the radar is because of the predictable punchline: Catholic and Protestant acrimony is at an all-time low, with most Protestants and Catholics viewing each other as fellow Christian brothers and sisters. That’s undoubtedly a great thing but is nothing new, as other surveys over the past decade gave us similar results. Yet, within the study were a few statistics that completely blew me away:

  • About half of U.S. Protestants (52%) adopt a Catholic view of justification, saying both good works and faith are needed for salvation rather than the “faith alone” (sola fide) Protestant position. The same percentage acknowledges Christianity’s sacred traditions and rejects the other main feature of Protestantism: the “bible alone” (sola scriptura).
  • Combining the two, just 30% of all U.S. Protestants affirm both sola fide and sola scriptura.
  • Even among weekly church-going evangelicals, a substantial minority (41%) rejects either sola fide or sola scriptura.
  • In nearly all of the European countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities of Protestants adhere to the traditionally Catholic view that both faith and good works are necessary to attain salvation.

Thus, the vast majority of Protestants have adopted the Catholic position on at least one of the two (and often both) principal theological controversies of the Reformation. Does this mean that Protestants are becoming more Catholic? It’s a loaded question, and one that dovetails with the Word on Fire Show’s recent discussion of a Stanley Hauerwas article in TheWashington Post. Hauerwas, a Protestant theologian, argues that Vatican II effectively extinguished the last vestiges of Catholic practice to which Protestants protested. Thus, Hauerwas believes “Protestants won.” But for Hauerwas, this is not Protestant triumphalism. Instead, it is the starting point to ask: if there is nothing left to protest, should Protestants return to Mother Church?

Read more at Word on Fire. 

Share with Friends: