Pew Survey Reveals Basic Ignorance Of Christian Belief -- By: Gary Bates

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 24:4 (Fall 2011)
Article: Pew Survey Reveals Basic Ignorance Of Christian Belief
Author: Gary Bates


Pew Survey Reveals Basic Ignorance Of Christian Belief

Gary Bates

Lita Cosner

Can you name the four Gospels in order? If you can, you’re doing better than the over-half of Americans who can’t—only 45% of the participants in the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey1 could. They surveyed Protestant and Catholic Christians, Mormons, Jews, and atheists/agnostics to measure rudimentary religious knowledge among those groups. This included rudimentary questions about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, and Eastern religions.

The average Christian respondent to the survey answered 16 out of 32 questions correctly, including 6 out of 12 questions pertaining to Christianity. White evangelicals were the most knowledgeable group, answering 7.3 questions correctly, but still not measuring up to the Mormons, who could answer 7.9 questions. For instance, only ¼ of white evangelicals knew that Protestants uniquely teach that salvation is by faith alone (somewhat of a mistake—the actual teaching is by grace through faith—Eph 2:8-9).

The good news is that the media hype about this survey is somewhat overblown—no group really scored very well on this survey. The bad news is that religious knowledge in general, including knowledge of one’s own religion, is abysmal. This includes ignorance of some very basic teachings, and as such, it is obviously a major contributor to the decline of Christianity as the dominant or prevailing worldview that it once was in most Western countries. This is simply because as a church—as individuals—we are not addressing the questions that the culture is asking. If one asks street evangelists2, for example, what are the major reasons people reject the Christian faith, most will advise that in the ensuing conversations that follow, it ultimately can be boiled down to doubts about the authority of Scripture. In short, most people don’t believe the Bible to be authoritative; they believe that it contains errors; and evolution, which causes most of them to reject the Bible’s account of origins, is where the doubts start.

What Is The Church Supposed To Do For Its People?

This indicates that among other things, the church simply isn’t teaching its members basic knowledge about the Bible and Christian doctrine. Forget about complicated topics such as the Trinity as three hypostases, one ousia;3 most can’t even articulate very basic, different views of communion and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). The average churchgoer...

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