This week's edition of "The 3" includes another thought-provoking survey from the Pew organization, this time regarding how well we know religious history and teachings. Also, President Obama makes more faith statements. Plus, Christians around the world stand together with Jerusalem.
3 - New Pew survey highlights religious knowledge
I include this item just simply because it has generated so much discussion about the knowledge of faith issues and information. This week, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a survey which was intended to indicate Americans' knowledge of religion in general, including information on world religious history, and perhaps the teachings of some churches in specific. Here is the overview of the study from the Pew website.
Probably one of the most notable discussion points is that atheists and agnostics performed the best on the 32-question quiz. Jews and Mormons outdistanced Protestants with their performance on the test. This shouldn't surprise us, because I would think that those who espouse either no belief or an ambivalent set of beliefs would at least have studied some aspects of religion, at the very least to be able to counter religious arguments.
I think also we should not place too much credence on the results, since it is a relatively small group of questions on a wide range of belief systems. You would hope that people would be able to answer questions about their faith and its history, although church leaders might be concerned about that. Take, for instance, the pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio (where Max Lucado pastored for years and still serves on staff). He highlighted, in this Christian Post article, his concern about what he calls, "Biblical illiteracy".
Finally, we can use these survey results to provide a springboard for personal introspection: What do we believe? What do we know about the history and teachings of our own church? And, so importantly, can we defend our faith in the marketplace of ideas that run counter to a Christian worldview perspective? If we know what we believe and even why we believe it, then we have a firm foundation for our lives and for the application of God's truth. Why are YOU a Christian?...that's a question President Obama was asked this week.
2 - Obama's faith under scrutiny...again!
It wasn't too long ago that another Pew survey was focused on President Obama's faith, with about a third of respondents agreeing with him when he states that he is a Christian. Another 18% or so indicated they believed he is a Muslim. Well, as I said at that time, I think it's odd that we are having a rather public discussion evaluating whether or not the President is a Christian. It is, however, certainly a Biblical role that we as Christians are given to look at the fruit of someone who says he or she is a Christian. The end result of that burst of discussion was that Obama is a Christian, but that perhaps his Muslim upbringing makes him more sympathetic to the teachings and practices of Islam.
So, this past week, Mr. Obama was asked why he is a Christian. He gave a fairly detailed (for a backyard political meeting) explanation of his faith. Here is the Associated Press story on what he said.
While he laid out the basic Christian belief of Jesus' dying for our sins, he also seemed to indicate that people of other faiths have their own path to grace. While I agree with him that we should be respectful of other beliefs, it should motivate us as Christians to reach out and share Christ with people of other faiths, as we recognize that Jesus said that He is the way, truth, and life.
When I read the account, I also thought of Terry Jeffrey's column on CNSNews.com recently about Obama's insistence of recognizing people of "no faith", which comprises a very small percentage of the population. It is apparent to me that there was a strong foundation of faith (I believe that was Christian faith) that drove the founders to establish this nation, and while, again, we're respectful of those with whom we disagree, we can't deny the strong religious component of our history. Here is Terry's column.
Also, there are many in evangelical Christianity that do not see Obama's policies as consistent with our perspective. This is especially apparent with the abortion issue - in that same meeting, Obama echoed Bill Clinton's statements that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare". However, pro-life groups have recognized the current Administration as the most pro-abortion in history. Here is the perspective of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council regarding the President's recent faith statements.
So, when the President talks about faith, it seems to generate quite a bit of discussion. He is certainly capable of discussing some of the basics of the Christian faith, but does go out of his way to temper what might be perceived as strong Christian statements with a deference to other faiths. In doing so, it becomes difficult to define his personal theology, which I still say is basically a mix of Christianity, with some Islamic teaching thrown in, with a hefty dose of liberation theology, expressed in his policies that provide for confiscation of wealth through taxation, and a redistribution of that wealth in order to bring about economic and social justice.
1 - Christians pray for peace of Jerusalem
On the first Sunday of October, Christians around the world are called to participate in the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. Christian leaders from Jack Hayford (a co-founder) to Ravi Zacharias to Kay Arthur to Gary Bauer are among some 1000 Christian leaders who endorse the day, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness for Christians to stand in solidarity with Israel, believing that God continues to have a strategic call and purpose for the Jewish people. More information can be found at the website, www.daytopray.com.
Perhaps as many as 300 million Christians from some 175 nations could be taking part in this significant outreach of prayer, sponsored by Eagles' Wings Ministries, under the direction of Rev. Robert Stearns. CBN has an excellent overview of this day and its implications.
Current events in modern-day Israel have prophetic implications in the fulfillment of God's plan in the earth, as Israel is a barometer of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Now, its political leadership is not necessarily a God-ordained institution, but the creation of the nation within its Biblical borders is a seismic event on the landscape of God's plan in the earth, and I believe that as Christians stand together with the Jewish people and the Jewish nation, that God will work His will in the earth. And we remember, the Bible does tell us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6).
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