Saturday, March 24, 2007

Religious Illiteracy

There was an article in the newspaper today about religious illiteracy. Stephen Prothero is publishing a book about our lack of knowledge in America about religion; not just other religions, but our own. He particularly focused on Evangelicals who, though the loudest, tend to be the least knowledgeable. He says:

"Ironically,the United States became a nation of forgetters at the same time it became a nation of evangelicals. Believing in Christ became more important than knowing about Christ. To evangelicalism, therefore, we owe both the vitality of religion in contemporary America and our impoverished understanding of it."

A perfect example of this was shown on a blog that I frequent. There was a discussion going on about a teaching given with the topic "Finding God in the Other". In it, one of the writers proclaims their ignorance of theology, then attempts to present a theological argument. The rebuttal that came afterwards was stinging, but spot on. Here is that snippet:


Feb 24, 07:30 AM
Hi! I don't know a lot about theology or doctrine. But I can say this! Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God, He is God,(for those who want to debate what this would mean…. I am not really into strong theological debate!!! The basis of the Gospel is simple!! Jesus, who is God, came down to live on earth, became human, lived among us and died to bring us back to God! He is alive today and we can know Him!!! That is it… FINITO! I know He is alive.. I know Him deeper than I know even my own family!!! THE GOSPEL IS NOT MEANT TO BE INTELLECTUALISED, THEOLOGICALLY DEBATED!!!! Jesus, who He is, His divinity, ... is the one unquestionable. undebatable fact!!! You either say He is the Only Way to God or you don't!!! It is that simple!!!!

Feb 25, 12:59 AM

This thread is such a great example of why Christianity gets a bad wrap. How do you expect anyone to take our collective faith seriously when our discussions are filled with people that are “confident” that these doctrines are bullet proof but then they start their defense with some comment like “I don’t know much about the subject but I’m sure I’m right”. That is harmful. The only people that talk that way are people that have not put in the time to study our religion and our sacred scripture. Spouting cliche phrases doesn’t help our cause here. Renouncing wisdom is rejecting the LOGOS that the author of John’s gospel tells us was “in the beginning… and became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus”. Rejecting wisdom is rejecting the aspect of God that was incarnated in Jesus.

If you are going to discuss theology then read a few books from various points of view so that you have the language at your disposal to help the conversation. If you are not here to add to the conversation then why are you here? Let’s work together to “flesh out the wisdom of God just as Jesus did”. Let’s not make our faith a religion for dummies.


I believe people can have a simple faith. I don't think faith has to be complicated. However, when you take it out to the public square I believe it is time to step up to the plate or stay home. As was shown in the exchange above, there are many Christians who have absolute faith and certainty about something of which they know very little. Unfortunately, it is often those who lack knowledge who are the loudest. Those who proclaim "the Truth" most sternly rarely have more than a few scriptures at their command.

I think this lack of education about our own religion is an example of how our Church (universal) has been shaped by culture rather than the other way around. In our present culture, education is something to be avoided. People often seem to take a sense of pride in how little they know. Our culture is into working longer hours to buy boats, RVs, vacation homes, gadgets and gizmos. As a nation, the sky is the limit as to how much we will spend on our entertainment. Our places of learning must fight for every dime they get. The Church has absorbed this mentality into its ethos. If the salt loses its saltiness........

Timothy 2:15 (Amplified Bible)

15 Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.


DaNutz said...

Andrew, thanks for picking up on my comments there. I'm trying to be less abrasive in these public dialogues, but I think the issue was worth making that point.

Fundamentalism is a problem. One of reasons I blog and frequent the EV blog site is to learn how to have these types of conversations. I've had converstations that were not healthy. They often devolve to hate, but I think it is our responsibility to learn how to have debate in a healthy respectful way. I have tremendous hope that the conversations we have in emerging circles will save christianity for later generations.

marie said...

Hi Great post! I agree totally--especially how culture has driven christianity instead of vice versa. Just look at christian music--there is little or no creativity or talent (might just be my opinion)--you should watch the South Park episode when the boys start a Christian band--it's a classic!

But anyway, I agree about a need for knowledge. I used to be a Christian and recently deconverted. I want to have faith, but I am unable to be convinced in an intellectual way--I WANT christians to know what they believe so they can help me and others understand. Sadly, I am becoming less confident that that will ever happen...

again great post

Andrew said...

Yes, that may be the funniest SP. They are all so good, it is hard to rate. I suppose I get extra chuckles out of that episode because of my exposure to the "Christian" subculture. Do others find it as funny?

DaNutz said...

I was actually in a Christian rock band so I can definately relate. That show was so real it was scary. Cartman may be the best frontman ever. What a great episode! I can't say the phrase "the body of Christ" without imagining Cartman singing it.

Jeremiah said...

Great post. It's sad how people so blindly people rely on their own faith and how they expect others to do so also. Even stranger, though, is when people are looked down upon for rationalizing their faith.

The rebuttal was well needed and on the spot like you said. But what translation was he quoting: "in the beginning… and became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus"?

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