Aye, Christians, let’s have a chat.
I’m talking a Religious Diversity class this semester. The professor is great; she is really challenging me and my beliefs. These classes are ones I’d love to record and post everywhere I can, because it’s good stuff.
But did you catch that? My professor is challenging my beliefs. She herself is a Christian, so she’s not challenging me to stand up for my faith. No, she’s challenging my ignorance.
I pride myself in the fact that I’m not totally illiterate when it comes to my faith, or other faiths. I know what Mecca is, why it’s important, and to what religion it belongs. I know the differentiations between Hinduism and Buddhism. I’ve been to a Jewish synagogue, and have a general understanding of that religion. Now, I took a World Religions class last fall, so I admit I don’t remember as much as I should. But I know of the Four Nobles Truths of Buddhism. I can name more than half of the Five Pillars of Islam. I have general knowledge of Vishnu and Krishna and Brahman, and have a basic understanding of their individual stories and importance.
I like learning about religions. But apart from the sugar-coated Sunday School material, when confronted, I truly know very little about the Bible or about Christianity. That scares me.
When asked, many Christians claim they aren’t as bold about their faith as they should be because they are terrified of not knowing enough. Put plainly, I think I can generalize when I say that modern Christians don’t speak about their faith for fear of showing their ignorance.
One of the textbooks I am required to read is Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero. In the first couple of chapters, he presents a small religious literacy quiz to the reader. The questions consist of information from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the US Constitution, etc. I answered roughly twelve of the fifteen questions, but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t answer them all correctly.
Christians, I challenge you.
How many of the people that attend your church know, and can name, all ten of the Ten Commandments?
In terms of the Old Testament, how many people can name the three men often named with the Lord God? (Example: “The God of , , and ?”)
How many people know the name of the Promised Land, and why this was important to the Pilgrims?
How many people know the true Biblical stories apart from the watered-down Sunday School versions?
As a Christian of the Brethren in Christ denomination, how many people know what differentiates their denomination from the others? Or even, in a more obvious example, what’s the difference between Old Order Mennonites and the Amish? Or even between Protestants and Catholics?
How many people know of the significant religious places and lands in America? And how many people know of the international places important to Christianity?
How many people know the importance of the First Amendment, and its two important clauses?
How many people know what the Dead Sea scrolls are, and why they are important? Likewise, whether or not it is legitimate, how many people know what the Shroud of Turin is, and why it has the potential to be considered important?
How many people know, generally, what religion the Founding Fathers prescribed to, and how that impacted the founding of America?
How many people know of the connections between Christianity, and the multitude of other religions? What about the connection of Ishmael to Islam? Or the Hebrew Bible to the Torah? Or why Jesus Christ isn’t accepted as the *historically true* Messiah in Judaism?
How many people know the historical context of the Bible, and its references, stories, and claims? And how many people can use sources other than the Bible to prove its validity?
How many people know and understand the complex relationship religion, particularly Christianity, has on history, particularly American history?
How many people don’t care about the importance of religious literacy, caring only that “Jesus is in their hearts”?
Christians, I have a question for you. Why am I more challenged in this religion class at school than I am at the church I’ve been attending since I was born? Why am I growing more at school, in a class that is highlighting my ignorance, that at church, a place designed to help my faith grow?
My church recently did a series targeted at the hard questions non-believers pose to Christians. (If I’m being honest, I felt the information presented to answer these questions wouldn’t have truly satisfied a non-believer, or someone who was questioning. But that’s beside the point.) My complaint with this series was, when the question turned to whether or not we could trust the Bible as true, the Bible itself was used to answer this question, saving only a few minutes at the end for outside information.
But Christians, why are we content with a surface-level understanding of the Bible, the Christian faith, and our God? When has Bible studies become more about life application, than pure studying the Bible?
This may seem bold, but sometimes I think that Christians who don’t know the doctrine and theology of the Christian faith, are as ridiculous as Muslims who can’t recite the Qur’an or don’t know the Five Pillars of Islam.
Christians, I want to know God. I want to be filled to the brim with knowledge of Him, and His Word. I want to be unstoppable in the face of questions and doubts and challenges.
I just finished Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias (who happens to be one of my favorite speakers, by the way.) While reading this book, working my way through it’s tough comparisons of other religions against Jesus, I was struck by this thought: The power of Christianity is lost when not coupled with historical context, religious education, biblical knowledge, and an understanding of the world and its religions.
How can we aim to bring people to Christ, and expand the Kingdom of Heaven, when we are ignorant to the people we are trying to minister to? How can we approach atheists and agnostics in a loving dialog, when we are admittedly ignorant of the very things we claim to believe? (I have found, that those that are against religious beliefs, are vastly more educated about it than those that support it.)
I’m part of a young adult group at my church. Sadly, no one seems interested (except for me, my boyfriend, and a friend of mine) in diving into the Bible. Also, we are the only three that bring a physical Bible on a regular basis. My peers seem completed disinterested in having deep, theological discussions, aimed at challenging and growing their beliefs. While the church was doing the sermon series on tough questions, this group aimed to do something similar. They were reading The Problem of God by Mark Clark. Clark was a former skeptic, and so this book addresses legit questions I sometimes even struggle to answer, like “The Problem of Science”, “The Problem of Hypocrisy”, “The Problem of the Bible”, “The Problem of Hell”, and “The Problem of Evil and Suffering”. This book has the potential to seriously challenge believers and equip them with the answers to hard questions. But. Several people in this group are adamant against book studies. They don’t want to have to spend the money to buy the book, and would rather do a video study series. (Note: I was unable to be at the chapter discussions for this book because I was at school, so I can’t really speak to what those discussions were like. I hope they were fantastic.). But when I was at the group this past week, we started a video series on Jonah, and during the discussion time, several people were on their phones instead of engaging in the conversations.
Christians. If something isn’t important to you when you take time out of your day or week to focus on it, then it really must not be that important to you.
I guess what I’m trying to say in all of this, is I long to see a revival in the Christian faith; a revival towards passionate perusal of God and His teachings and His Word, and to move away from the surface-level introductory stories and teachings. Maybe I just desire a deeper level of intellect in terms of my faith and discussions. I long to have my faith challenged. I long to find the answers to deep theological questions. I long to not be stagnant anymore.
But the sad fact is, I’m not equipped to do that by myself. I don’t know the things I want to know, and I don’t know where to start in learning .
Let me be honest. In writing this, I’m afraid I will be told that my concerns aren’t a big deal. I’m afraid that I’ll be told I shouldn’t try to change things. I’m both terrified and exhilarated by the idea that this post has the potential to really shake things up. I feel passionate about posting this. But I’m scared of what the results could be.