Education and Religious Beliefs


Witness, Mercy, Life TogetherThe Aug. 4 USA Today contains the results of an interesting survey of 1,800 American adults conducted by sociology professor Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The survey studied the impact of the amount of education people receive upon religious views they hold. The old adage was “the more educated a person is, the less religious they are likely to be.”

This survey discredits the old adage. In fact, the survey concluded that “For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:

•15% more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.

•14% more likely to say they believe in a “higher power” than in a personal God. “More than 90% believe in some sort of divinity,” Schwadel says.

•13% more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is ‘less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life’ than their childhood religion.

•13% less likely to say the Bible is the ‘actual word of God.’ The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the ‘inspired word’ of God, Schwadel says.”

So, we might conclude that education does not tend to drive Americans away from religious convictions and practice, just toward more liberal religious convictions and practice.

What does this mean for a conservative, confessional church body such as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod? Several thoughts come to mind:

1.       The importance and necessity of substantive catechesis at all levels within our congregations. Many teens and adults have a hunger for a more in-depth study of God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. In addition to equipping them for discussions with peers, substantive study such as this also demonstrates the intellectual integrity of biblically conservative, confessional theology.

2.       The blessing of our ten Concordia University System schools that demonstrate on a daily basis that higher education and the Christian faith are wonderfully compatible.

3.       The need for added emphasis upon “living the Christian life in relation to the Word of God.”

4.       The need to reiterate the “ministerial” use of reason as opposed to the “magisterial” use of reason in the Christian faith.

What are your thoughts? Do your observations of educated Americans confirm the survey’s results? What would you suggest for a biblically conservative, confessional church such as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as it seeks to do the work of the Kingdom in the United States?