What Religious Beliefs are Shaping American Christians Today?

“People seem to want to customize their religious lives and draw on many sources to do so.”

Paul Gritz, the editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology writes in the edition’s introduction column about the “trend” among American Christians today.

“Americans and others ... do not appear to be single store shoppers,” Gritz writes. “A more subtle challenge for evangelical Christians arises from the ‘mixing and matching’ of religious beliefs from several stores.”

"The journal, published by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, focuses on four of the most prominent non-Christian religious movements today -- Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wicca and the “Pop Psychology” movement," reports Baptist Press.

Gritz, professor of church history at Southwestern, cites a 2002 Barna Research Group study which notes that Christians have adopted spiritual views from Islam, secular humanism, Eastern religions and even Wicca. Barna cites biblical illiteracy as the reason for the trend.

The journal features an article written by Cky Carrigan, national interfaith evangelism missionary with the North American Mission Board and visiting professor of missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. on the theology of Mormonism, one of the nation’s fastest-growing religious groups.

Carrigan’s article focuses on the Christology of Mormonism, which includes the atonement and the belief that Jesus Christ was born as the result of sexual intercourse between Elohim and Mary.

In addition, the article cites claims made by a number of Mormon leaders and “apostles” in contradiction to 2,000 years of historical and biblical Christianity, according to Baptist Press.

Kevin Kennedy, assistant professor of theology at Southwestern, expounds the teachings of the ancient heretic Arius, comparing it to the modern teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“The presumption and impiety of Arius and his associates are echoed in the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed, from the earliest days of their history, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have viewed Arius as one of the great champions of the ‘true’ faith because he rejected the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the trinity,” Kennedy writes.

He further states that “Christology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is analogous to that of Arius. Jesus in his pre-human state was a creature. Before the Father created him, he did not exist. The Son alone was created directly by the Father, while the Son brought into being all other created reality.”

Such beliefs, he contends, “lead to further “absurdities” in theological thought.”

Meanwhile, William E. Gordon Jr., an associate with the interfaith evangelism team of the North American Mission Board, discusses a movement that is more contemporary, Wicca. He mentions the witches’ present claim to be the nation’s fastest-growing religious movement of 5 million, which shows just how rapidly such occult has been developing since its appearance in the previous century.

Gordon then explores the roots of Wicca in animism, polytheism and pantheism and also investigates the various rituals practiced by Wiccan groups called “covens.” Furthermore, he provides the possible methods of sharing the gospel with Wiccans.

The “Pop Psychology” examined by W. Michael McGuire, professor of psychology and counseling at Southwestern, featuring two prominent “pop psychologists” that are “competing with the church’s role as a place of hope and counseling.”

McGuire writes that Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Dr. Phil McGraw have become the guiding light for many Americans when their advice really amounts to anecdotes and a fair dose of common sense.

“Schlessinger’s earlier works reflect her secularism and her last is distinctively Jewish. McGraw, who professes Christianity but admits no theological expertise, promotes a number of speculative ideas that are difficult if not impossible to reconcile with Scripture.”

Doug Blount, the journal’s managing editor, expressed his hopes in the journal to be a “useful tool for people who are ministering in a context where they will be rubbing elbows with people in non-Christian traditions and especially those with a particularly American cultural origin.”