I wrote a post recently about my encounter with a local Church kid [two posts down]. I had the opportunity to speak to him about his faith and about the gospel, and he made a mess of things. In response to this story, one of my commenters wrote this
“The reality is that the MAJORITY of the adults that attend these Institutional Churches have no real understanding of the Gospel or the Cross.
I challenge any of your readers with this: Ask 5 grown adults in ANY Institutional Church, it wont matter what denomination it is, to clearly articulate and lay out for you the basics Tenants of the Faith.”
I think that’s a pretty bold challenge, and one I’ve often thought about. While we know that having an intellectual knowledge of Christian doctrines does not necessarily translate into having a love for God or of having a saved soul, it’s also true that having that intellectual understanding often is a mark of a deep love for God and for his Word. I think it’s a sign of sanctification and maturity that people know at least the basics- otherwise what on earth are they being taught?
I wrote in a previous post “mush before milk before meat” that it seems that many churches will spend 10 weeks preaching on leadership, or 4 weeks on a sex series sermon, or 12 weeks on finances and 8 weeks on interpersonal relationships, all the while three quarters of their church members are theologically and doctrinally ignorant.
They can tell you all sorts of mystical, magical things about listening to the still, silent voice of God, but they have no conception of how to answer a basic apologetic question, like “where did we get the Bible from, how do we know it’s true, and who decided what books should be in it?”
They can probably tell you about the amazing way they felt during worship, and how God “showed up” this one time, but couldn’t tell you how the Old Testament relates to the New, couldn’t name a single church father, and couldn’t tell you anything about the first 400 years of Church history.
They can tell you about how to narcissistically insert themselves in the Biblical stories as if somehow these stories are about them, but they would run for their lives if asked to explain the Trinity, or God forbid offer even a basic refutation to the theistic challenges of a Muslim, Oneness Pentecostal, or a Jehovah witness.
They can tell you about the awesomeness of the latest books from Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers, and any other spiritual lunatic that comes around, but they can’t speak with authority on what the five solas [Fide, Gratie, Scriptura, Christus, Deo Gloria] are, why they matter, and how the relate to each other.
They can tell you about a lot of things, but can they articualte a clear presentation of the Gospel? And how many of them would not only not know, but rather would actively argue against fundamental Christian doctrines like the exclusivity of faith in Christ for salvation, issues of biblical sexuality, the nature of God, the nature of sin and mankind, and a host of other things? How many of them, when pressed, would reveal to have some really bizarre and idolatrous views of Christ and his work and his means?
Its a good question, and speaking from my experience alone, one worthy of deep thought and reflection.
That comment does reveal a pretty good question- namely how many pastors in the local Fort McMurray area would feel confident and comfortable that if they asked ten of their churchgoers five or six questions on very basic doctrinal issues, that their members would give clear, biblically sound responses? How much more so if we asked the teens?
If you’re not a pastor- how do you think your peers and the teens in your own church youth group would do?