No Christian left behind! [Educationally, not rapture related]
January 10, 2009, 17:09
Filed under: Uncategorized, What would you do?

This is not about the Rapture, or Rapture Ready Christians.  That would be a completely different post.  I am not a fan of the “Left Behind” series for my own reasons.  This is about the amazing lack of educational substance in most Christians I have met.  For the purpose of this post I will not be defining Christian, I will let anybody who claims the title have it.  All denominations or lack thereof, may apply.  Here comes the thesis statement.

Most Christians are ignorant of their own beliefs.  It might be more accurate to say they are ignorant of what they should believe in if they are Christians.  This is not to say a PhD is needed, but how can you be saved from sin if you do not know what sin is?  Would it not be good to know we are saved by Faith through Grace?  What is grace?   What is faith?  Atonement?  Sanctification, Justification?  I do not mean a theological treatise,  just a working definition.

I make this scathing comment as I live in the world.  Few people I meet go to any church and many people who do go to church have little knowledge of the Faith.  I read a book about the guards at Gitmo.  The Islamists often said, “You Christians do not know what you believe!”.  I fear in most cases they were right.   The level of ignorance makes the job of false doctrine teachers quite easy.   Most people I meet have no right idea of Jesus!  My cousin once sent me a forward that broke my heart.  I guess it was meant to be humorous.  The gist was this,  ” I went to a young man’s funeral.  I didn’t know what to do.  I asked myself, ‘What would Jesus do?’m  so I condemned him to hell and left.”  I missed the joke.  Everyone, everywhere, should know that Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save.  

There are thousands of such examples.  Many people seem to have mixed in some of their own ideas, or used the Chinese menu approach, one from column A,  two from column B and the hot tea please.  I meet people who are Christians,  but will tell you Christ certainly was not God,  or was  a nice guy but must have sinned a little bit somewhere.

SOLUTION:  We need to start Preaching to the Test.  My public school teacher friends have complained about teaching to the test for a while now,  but I see no other solution.  Teach and Preach to the Test, as none of us will get out of this world with out some severe testing.  Preach to it!

So of what should the test consist ?  This is a theoretical exercise of course,  but what do you think someone should know before they get their Learner ‘s permit.  We test people to drive, to hunt, to work in the trades,  so what, I ask, is the minimum requirements of knowledge to get a card in the Christian union? Feel free to opine.


17 Comments so far
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I have mixed thoughts about this.
I agree that folk, especially here in North America, should know much, much more than we do about our faith and what it means.
Look at all the resources at hand!
Of course, that may be part of the problem an information overload.
The fault of not know what being a Christian or the basic tenets of Christianity are lie with each individual.
But, this is one area where I think the old mainlines and Catholics do a much better job.
Not the liberal churches who have fallen into apostasy but the older churches who still teach catechisms and creeds.
Willoh has posed a very big question that would be hard to answer completely here.
On the other hand I can say that this is what a person who is saved needs to know.
That he/she is somehow deficient in their own power and that Someone has paid that price for them. I would agree with C.S. Lewis in this regard. It answers the rhetorical question.”What about the savage who has never heard the gospel?'”.
So that would be the minimum.
More than that is a blessing and grace.

Comment by Rob

Rob, I am with you at the end, but here in North East Pa. I am surrounded with Roman Catholics, and with rare exception, they are really empty of any doctrine at all! Most stop any sort of formal learning process after First Holy Communion and Confirmation classes. Many are what Barna calls mosaic Christians. They take from the menu what they wish and leave the rest. Very few agree with the teachings of the Roman Church on birth control, abortion, and proved it in the last election. The rare Roman Catholic who is “into it” is easily more informed than most.
Bob, did you ever run into some one who could mouth a creed and have no idea of the meaning?
You are right about some of the liberal groups. I think they avoid doctrine, cuts down on the controversy!
Thanks for a well thought out reply. Deficient on their own power, Amen! Leaves out the legalists.

Comment by willohroots

You preachers need to preach the gospel and leave the self esteem to Oprah.

Comment by Rob

advice taken, thanks for it too!

Comment by willohroots

By the way, I think the “Left Behind” series is ridiculous and not for any eschatological reasons.
It’s just bad writing. Like most “Christian” literature.

Comment by Rob

Rob: On ‘Left Behind”
Yeah that too, but my major objection is that so many churches now have it as the 67th book.

Comment by willohroots

Good topic! Something I may have to chew on…and while I agree with you in principle I also don’t want to denigrate to being a Pharisee or Gnostic. I think the real basics are “I’m a sinner (I fall short of God’s standards for right and wrong) and I need someone to pay that penalty for me. Jesus is the only one capable of doing that because he is the sinless, Son of God. So I trust in His atonement, sacrifice, redemption of me. Because of who He is, I want to emulate my life after him, to follow him so that I might learn his priorities and attitudes. I also seek to learn not only more about His life but about His Bride, the church, for which He died. And what it means to grow in my faith.” That’s where I would start!

Comment by Marcus

What a start! If I could get a few others to start there I am sure it would be a great race! How do you, if you do, figure out if the guy next to you is on the same page?

Comment by willohroots

IMHO, “Christian” does not equal “saved”. So, with that starting point…

There are two “Christians” in my mind: 1) the ethnic Christian, and 2) the religious Christian. I assume you mean the religious one with the further assumption, for the sake of this discussion, of a Christian being “saved” (whatever that means). I base my answer on (at least) three stories in the Gospels.

The Syrophoenecian Woman had to believe some minimum things before she could beg Jesus to heal her daughter, but being a Gentile, I doubt she had any of the knowledge of God and his Messiah that a typical Jew would have. She knew enough to know Jews (including Jesus) would call her a “dog”, and knew enough about Jesus to call him “Lord” and and know of his power. As a result of what I would say is very limited knowledge, she put her faith and trust in Jesus–I’d say she was a “Christian”.

The Gerasene Demoniac knew nothing of Jesus, that is until he heard Legion cry out to him as “Son of the Most High God”. Then he watched as this Jesus threw the demons out, giving him back his right mind. Those two facts alone were enough for him to put his trust in him and want to follow, and eventually tell his whole city what Jesus had done for him–I’d say he was a “Christian”.

Finally, the Thief on the Cross may have actually, being a Jew, known quite a bit about the Messiah. He knew enough to recognize him on the cross next to him, to rebuke the other thief, and beg Jesus to remember him, putting his trust in him for his eternity–I’d say he was a “Christian”.

I’d say a person who knows enough to recognize Jesus when he comes into their life, and responds by putting faith in him, is a Christian. Paul says in 1Cor8 that “knowledge puffs up”. So, this all leads me to believe that very little is required of us by God to be considered faithful… a Christian.

The kicker is, what exactly is “enough to recognize Jesus when he comes”? I’d say a belief in a benevolent God and a feeling of “wrongness” (be that sin, or evil, or inadequacy of some sort) in the world and your own life before that benevolent God–however that manifests itself–is a bare minimum before one will search for a savior–knowledge of something we need to be saved from.

I think that may be different for different people, and I think is is much different than what systematic theology, creeds, Councils, and confessions would have us believe–and much less.

As to whether or not people need to believe in things like TULIP, 6-day creation, baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation, or the virgin birth… well… if someone doesn’t recognize Jesus from those, what good are they? In the same way, if someone does recognize Jesus from such as those, they are infinitely valuable, but not exhaustive or comprehensive, or minimal.

I believe God takes the mustard seed faith of the spiritually unknowing and
grows great bushes and moves big mountains into the sea. Like Samuel told Jesse, “The LORD looks at the heart.”

Comment by Justin

I would love to know the ratio of “ethnic” Christians [I Call them social Christians, same thing] to “religious Christians”. I see a need to break down “religious Christians ” into a couple groups. Religious could mean a bad thing,as there are Social Christians who are very “religious” in the way of the Pharisees, as in empty ritualists and
Legalists who seek to save themselves by their behavior.
The ones you refer to as religious Christians, could we come up with another name? True believer sounds haughty, help me out here.
You have given good direction on the issue, lets go a little further. Thank you Bro. Justin

Comment by willohroots

In some of the posts it appears you are having a one-sided converstion.

Rob: If you have an other side, bring it. I respect what you post.
[Or you could be referring to my struggle with content moderation.]

Comment by Rob

I am a huge believer in giving people freedom and ability to encounter God in ways that speak to them. That means we have to recognise we are all at different stages of our spiritual journey. By having “requirements” to become a Christian we are going to block people from building their relationship with God. I’m not saying there isn’t basic fundemantals of what we believe, we just need to recognize that we aren’t all on the same spot in our journey. I believe we need to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work and use our time encouraging people along. After all, it’s the Spirit that draws people to God, not us.

I’m looking for extra denominational characteristics, or something like a layman’s guide.
I agree that Sanctification is a process, and for many faith itself develops.

Denominations have done very well at setting up parameters for becoming Christian. I don’t think it gives us all a well rounded faith. I value what others think, I don’t need to agree, but I can still get some good nuggets of faith.

It really comes down to relationships. That’s what Jesus did with his disciples. He didn’t really spend time laying down “rules” but instead encouraging and walking with people. Jesus, it appears to me, focused on community over structure.

Great post, thank you.

Comment by Geoff

Religious could mean a bad thing…

I know, but I could not think of another way to describe what I meant. These words are so full of baggage and presumptions (religious, Christian, believer, etc.), it’s hard to be clear. I meant religious in the most basic sense, meaning a person who is sincerely attempting to rebind him/herself with God.

… could we come up with another name?

The problem I have is that by coming up with some sort of label/name, we are making a judgment and setting a default criteria as to what makes up who we are describing, making a judgment on the heart and intents of who we’re labeling “__________-Christian”. So, choose your poison: disciple, follower, Jesus freak, infidel… No matter what we pick, someone who is sincere in their search and faith in Jesus will be left out, and some faker will be included.

I tend to, no matter what group I’m with, try to let the tares and wheat be… fine, label them “wheat” and “tares”. That’s scriptural.

delinquent miner:
Fine wheat and tares it is, at least we will know what we are talking about.

Comment by delinquentminer


The older I get (I’m not there yet!) the more I tend to look at this question a bit differently. I understand from a human point of view why this question is asked. But to frame it a bit differently…

Jesus said, “my sheep hear my voice.” Justin noted some examples of simple faith that wasn’t rooted in much knowledge. I would add the blind man in John 9. At a minimum – and this is from God’s point of view – a true Christian is one who hears Christ’s voice. From man’s point of view, I would say that a least common denominator isn’t what we’re supposed to strive for. (I’m not saying that you’re doing that here in this post) We are taught in the Great Commission to make disciples, teaching them to do ALL that Christ commanded. So…

A “minimum” to us shouldn’t be acceptable, but rather we should all seek to be learning more and teaching others more. Disciples should be fully made. We should strive to improve those who seem to have a minimalistic level of knowledge. God alone sees who is really His.

Willoh Replies: Amen on minimum is not acceptable. If guys and gals like us could only communicate the endless depths of faith and knowledge in which to plunge. Americans often view Christianity as a simple thing and Eastern Religions as deep and mysterious. I guess we have been preaching simple, and shallow.
I still am trying to get a “shiboleth” of sorts. Some basic core beliefs that could be used to establish a starting point of fellowship or belief. Something someone could say that would be a good start.

Comment by Steve Scott

I can’t agree with you more about Christian ignorance. This is a widespread problem, I believe, because we in church leadership assume too much. We may assume that people who worship expressively and are involved in church activity have knowledge of the Bible. Oh not the case in many instances. I remember being active in church for years and then realizing that I had never accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Now my main mission when I disciple a group of women is to question them on the basics: salvation and the other basic tenets of Christianity. We can’t take too much for granted when we see people who come to church often and are active in the ministry. We can’t assume salvation and can’t assume they know the basics about the faith.

Comment by musingsofastrongblackwoman

I agree that ther is not enough education about the details of what Christianity teaches. I would go further and say that this lack of teaching is part of why there is so much irreligiosity these days. In the last ten years I have attended five different churches regularly, and only one of them was able to provide some genuine spritual guidance and growth– and that one was only because I happened to have a particularly good relationship with the pastor. I am about ready to give up on churches because they do little more than inconvenience my Sunday morning. I am looking for intensity of knowledge and experience, but the most intense experience most churches have to offer is the occasional bake sale. I want very badly to learn about things like Atonement and Sanctification and Justification. That kind of knowledge is exactly what I am looking for. (By the way, I’ve learned about something called the Revised Common Lectionary–would you be able to tell me how that thing was developed? I’d really like to know.) But I am not finding knowledge or intensity at our Sunday morning Christian social clubs. As things stand right now, one expedition into the mountains will teach me more about God than a year at church.

On another point, the comment above by Steve Scott hits on somethng important. An accepted minimum standard should not be acceptable; there will always be more to learn. That being the case, does talk of a minimum standard even make sense? A theme common to many of the posts of this blog is the question of who is a real Christian. I see little point in having an answer. Are we going to love someone less if they are not a Christian? Are we going to treat them differently? Are we going to refuse fellowship with them? I would certainly hope not– imagine if God turned His back on all of those who fell short of the standards He has established. Who “really” is or is not a Christian is not for us humans to decide, nor is it relevant to the work we are called to do.

Comment by Alamanach

My point is, as a leader of a group of believers, I want to do my job properly and instill them with what is needed to be a Christian, a working, active viable Christian. I am uplifted by your desire to learn of Justification, Sanctification and Atonement. These are things i feel we all should study.
Unlike some people I am not concerned with what is a “real Christian” as far as who is saved, but what do you need to do the job. What is the basic skill set needed to function, grow and share. I am seeking to provide a place for people similar to you in thought, a place where the intellect is fed. I have rebelled from the “check your brain at the door” school.
Often I have been told that there is something faulty in my faith, that I am not saved, not a true believer. I seek to stimulate the conversation not to judge, but to see what others have been taught, what their experiences have been.
The question of who to fellowship with and who to avoid has been relevant to me , as I have been on the other side of the fence, i have been one who “church ” people were told to disassociate.
I do question, however, what is Christian and what is a cult, and are there those who have damaging doctrine that must be avoided.
Can’t help you with the RCL.
Merry Christmas, and please continue to opine, your thoughts are a great help to me.

Comment by willohroots

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