Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, groups that consider themselves Christians but are labeled by many as cults, differ vastly from the born-again population when it comes to core Christian doctrines, according to a new survey released Monday.
The only belief that Witnesses share in the same degree with born-again Christians is that their religious faith is very important in their life, reported The Barna Group. Nine out of 10 people from both groups held this view.
But beyond this commonality, the two groups parted ways and differed on all the other criteria for being born-again. Only seven percent of Jehovah's Witnesses meet the requirements, according to the survey.
Born-again Christians are defined by Barna as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
Most Witnesses say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life, but only one out of every 10 of those adults base their hope of salvation on a confession of sins and acceptance of Christ as their savior. But Witnesses are also significantly more likely than born-again adults to reject the idea of salvation earned through good works.
Additionally, 61 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses, compared to 42 percent of born-agains, strongly believe that Satan exists. They are also more likely than born-again adults to argue that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth (77 percent versus 63 percent).
In comparison, Mormons have more similar views with born-again Christians. One-third of Mormons meet the born-again criteria, but some evangelical leaders argue that Mormons' refusal to trust wholly on God's grace and forgiveness through Christ as the only means to salvation disqualifies them from being born-again. A majority of Mormons believes that a good person can earn their way into heaven.
More than nine out of 10 Mormons have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they describe as being important in their life; nine out of 10 say their religious faith is very important in their life; two-thirds affirm the sinless life of Christ on earth; and more than half believe that Satan exists.
"All three of these groups claim to be Christian, uphold the importance of faith and spirituality, are active in their churches, generally believe in the same God, and accept the holiness of Jesus Christ," George Barna, director of the survey, commented. "Beyond that, there are huge differences related to central doctrines such as the means to eternal salvation or the reliability and authority of the Bible."
In other findings, 74 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses and 64 percent of Mormons say they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others have a strong conviction that witnessing with others is a personal responsibility while 54 percent of all born-agains share that same conviction. Also, 88 percent of Witnesses believe that the Bible is completely accurate in all of its teachings compared to 71 percent of born-agains. Relatively few Mormons believe that the Bible is totally accurate (32 percent).
In terms of faith practices, Jehovah's Witnesses are twice as likely to gather in small groups during the week (75 percent) and significantly more likely to read the Bible during the week (83 percent) than born-again Christians. At the same time, they are also more than twice as likely to be unchurched at the moment (28 percent).
Mormons are more likely than born-again Christians to attend church services in a given week (73 percent) and to volunteer at their church.
The report is based on telephone interviews from a nationwide random sample of adults. Interviews with 323 Mormons and 186 Jehovah's Witnesses were isolated for analysis.