USA (MNN) — A new study shows
that many Americans are religiously illiterate. By that, we mean to say that many who call
themselves "Christians" are very unfamiliar with the tenets of their faith.
A recent survey released by the
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life revealed that there are large gaps in
America's knowledge. Evangelist Sammy Tippit says one of the
questions in the survey asked participants what the first book of the Bible
was. "A lot of people–Protestants, evangelicals–who are supposed to know the
Bible didn't know that it was Genesis. That's incredible."
Over half of Protestants in the
U.S. are unable to identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and
actions inspired the Protestant Reformation. Forty-five percent of Catholics polled in the forum's nationwide
survey did not know the Catholic Church teaches that the bread and wine
used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body
and blood of Christ.
Almost nine out of ten Americans believe in God or a higher
power, so their faith is not in doubt. But something else is painfully obvious,
Tippet notes. "We need to be relevant in
talking about the issues today, but we've got to have the Scriptures as our
roots. So we've got to go back to preaching, teaching and training biblical
principles that meet the needs of the culture and the people that we're trying
to minister to."
The survey revealed another
discomforting statistic: atheists and
agnostics are apparently better educated about other religions than the people
claiming that faith. The poll, which was only 32 questions, covered a broad range of
religious topics and covered questions about the birthday of Jesus, what
Ramadan was, and what religion the Dali Llama was. The highest average scores
were from those who are not religious.
While the report did not
examine the root causes of biblical illiteracy, Tippit says there are others who have also noticed the variances in
theological understanding. "We've been
seeing reports similar to this gradually coming out and growing each time. So,
I think it's a wake-up call for the church today. We desperately need a
spiritual awakening in this generation."
There is another statistic
oft quoted that indicates the majority of Christians have never read the Bible
cover-to-cover. Ministry leaders agree
there is a need for more "Discipleship 101" teaching in churches. Tippit says, "There's a great need for
revival. And we find that part of that is an education and renewal. Revival must come to our country and our churches because it's obvious
that we who are Bible-believing Christians, or at least form that background,
have lost our moorings."
Tippit also points out that Evangelical
Christians have not really understood what has happened to the United States within
the scope of the growing multiculturalism. While not opposed to it, the opportunity has been ignored for the
Gospel. Tippet explains, "We've never really looked at it and said,
‘How can we reach these people with the love of Jesus Christ?' This means
educating ourselves to who they are, what they believe, and bringing our faith
to the table."
gives way to lost souls for eternity. "Business as usual" is not an acceptable option. Tippit says, "We're no longer
able even to articulate what we believe, or where we come from, or what the
world around us believes. There's a great need for spiritual awakening that
would cause us to come back to get into the Word of God and learn more about
others, that we might reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "
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