Christians and Religious Knowledge

Have you seen the news lately about a Pew Forum survey on religious knowledge? Apparently Christians did not fare well. I took the survey online this morning and scored 80%. (Hey, it was really early, before my first cup of coffee.) Christian haters on the Internet and TV are using this as a “gotcha.” Some Christians are doing the same, pointing out that we need to become much more religiously literate.

I’m scratching my head. Is religious knowledge the hallmark of Christianity? The people in the Bible who were known for their knowledge were the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees (I got that one right, I think). The earliest church leaders, on the other hand, the ones who had been with Jesus for three years, were still known as “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). A false teaching prevalent in the times of the first-century church was called gnosticism, and part of that teaching is that knowledge is supreme. The apostle Paul fought this teaching in several of his letters, especially Colossians.

Our command as Christians is to love. Paul made it strikingly clear for us:

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1; see also 1 Cor. 13:2, 8; Eph. 3:19).

Don’t get me wrong. We need to understand the basics of our faith. We should be able to explain what and why we believe when asked. And we should all be growing in our knowledge and depth of insight.

But knowledge is not what we should be known for. Knowledge puffs up. (A friend took the Pew Forum quiz and actually bragged that he got 100%.)

Christians should be known for their capacity to love. So for me, let the skeptics and modern-day religious people babble on about knowledge. I’m sticking with Paul. I’m choosing love. Love builds up. Love never fails.

Author: Michael Mack

Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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