by Mike Pyatt
Secular progressives and atheists salivate at this question. Their ilk have bloviated in similar terms for centuries about the falsehood of Christianity’s claims from every conceivable platform. In recent years a notable astrophysicist, PBS credentialed, avowed atheist, claimed that early pioneering scientists who were Christians, were hampered and compromised by their “Christian worldview.” Such recrudescent opinions underscore their bias-not based on empirical evidence. Who can dismiss the notable “Tinsel Town theologian,” Jennifer Lawrence, recently speaking ex-cathedra, in an attempt to distance herself from her Kentucky “bible thumping” roots, besmirched those wearing Crucifixes, may as well be wearing pitchforks. That once broad line between theism and atheism has narrowed.
The American Bible Society and the Barna Group conducted a survey recently, commissioned by Pennsylvania based Ligonier Ministries, asked 3000 participants a set of 47 questions about “foundational Christian beliefs,” according to author Eric Metaxas. He maintains that the answers revealed a “mishmash of heresy and confusion about Christianity’s most basic doctrines.” Ignorance may be lack of knowledge or exposure to a body of truth. It may also be self-imposed-willingly ignorant of a vital truth. This survey may be described as an attempt to find out who could pass “basic theology” or “Christian doctrine 101.” Participants faired not so well overall. An axis of confusion.
Of the 3000 participants, 586 identified themselves as Evangelicals, who describe themselves believing in the Bible as their highest authority, sharing that message with others is important, and that trust in Jesus’ death on the cross as the only way to salvation. Most claimed to be Christians-absent clear parameters as to what that meant. Without getting too deep in a theological quagmire, there were some notable and bizarre contradictions. More than 60% believe the Bible cannot err, and God is the author of the Bible. Yet less than half claim that it is “100% accurate in all it teaches.” Two-thirds admit, “everyone sins,” yet insist that most people are by nature good. Confusingly, half polled believed only those “who accept Jesus,” will go to heaven, yet 60% also claim everyone will eventually make it to heaven. Onlookers protest, “Who cares, as long as you believe something.” Therein lies the rub.
Nearly any relationship one enters requires a minimum level of knowledge. With the alarming divorce rate, some suggest the current arrangement is missing something. Courtships served a pivotal purpose once upon a time. With eternity at stake, perhaps one should invest sufficient time and effort into a relationship of unending consequences. In an era of immediate gratification, it must seem counter intuitive. The term doctrine petrifies some. In the mid 60’s and 70’s the “Jesus people movement” prompted many churches to jettison doctrine, relying only on a “personal validation.” Doctrine when applied to religion is a body of knowledge, or principles, applied to establishing truth. It’s teaching. It helps us to see God doesn’t grade on a curve as we whimsical mortals.
We find individuals claiming to “know Jesus” yet knowing literally nothing about Him, or the truths He proclaimed in His word. This recent survey found more than half denied that Jesus was God, as He claimed, but was nothing more than a “good teacher.” Which was He? It’s vital to know. He can’t claim to be God if He isn’t, and be a good teacher. C.S. Lewis said, “Jesus Christ was either a liar, lunatic, or He was who He said He was.”
In this survey, a large percentage of the participants affirmed some major tenets of major heresies, like Arianism-that Jesus wasn’t Divine-with 70% saying Jesus was a created being, and 55% said the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, “is a divine force, but not a personal being.” Nearly two-thirds of Evangelicals claimed that they believe Heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with loved ones-despite historical Christianity dismissing “universal salvation.” Most disconcerting is the departure from historic Biblical doctrines of Scripture, and the corollary contrary answers. It demonstrates not only do Americans in general, but Evangelicals in particular, have wrong answers on basic Christian doctrine, and they apparently don’t understand the concept and role of doctrine itself.
Roman Catholicism Catechism inculcated their faithful for centuries. Evangelicals must continue to emphasize the historic 4th Century Nicene Creed, and not abandon theological education that’s solidly Biblical. Evangelicals did better on the survey. However, there was still a paucity of doctrinal understanding reflected in inaccurate responses to “basic Christian understanding.” The church of Jesus Christ mustn’t prepare the faithful to just pass a test; but to boldly confess, along with Christians down through the ages, “the faith once delivered to the saints.” Doctrinal corruption’s pernicious.
That bromide “ignorance is bliss” is an anathema to those taking Biblical Christianity seriously. A vast majority of Americans still consider themselves Christians. How deep does their Christianity run? Is it based on sound Biblical underpinnings? Experience alone is too flimsy a base on which to rest one’s soul. Has it transformed our lives? One needn’t know the original languages as some early Reformers. However, a staid reliance on inerrant Scripture is required for spiritual vitality. Sadly, many of those in this study with a “mishmash” of doctrinal views are prime candidates for the predatory wiles of the cults. Unwarranted confidence in human nature’s a product of man’s Fallen state. It has crept into the Evangelical church.
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Casper, Pastor Sam McCracken, commented, regarding doctrinal understanding, that the current church, broadly speaking, “Is a mile wide and an inch deep.” He maintains, “That the lack of faithful preaching of the Word, our one sure foundation,” contributes to this predicament. Where man is the sole arbiter of truth, with a morally warped soul, should we expect the church to be less sullied? Is such ignorance a moment in time-or a way of life? Have we Evangelicals exchanged solid doctrine rooted in history, for an existential “faith in faith?” Too provocative? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org