"We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." Written in 1939, George Orwell's words might well be addressed to the leaders of today's biblically illiterate church.
The most obvious thing to be said about Christianity is that it rests on historic facts: the Creation, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection. Since our doctrines are truth claims, they cannot be mere symbolism. This is important to remember as we celebrate the Resurrection, which is often clouded by the pageantry of Easter.
It is obvious to me that doctrine matters. Some years ago, I visited Sri Lanka, just after Anglican Bishop David Jenkins was reported to have dismissed the Resurrection as a "conjuring trick with bones." (It was later revealed that he had been misquoted.) Our ministry leader, who escorted me through the country's prisons, told me the news had cost many conversions, because Buddhists and Hindus used it to convince people that Christianity is based on a mere trick.
Clearly, when we stop taking seriously the historical truths of the church, we undermine our witness, often with far-reaching consequences. For example, Muslim student groups today proselytize with pamphlets asserting that Christians worship three Gods: Father, Mother, and Son. Where did they get that idea? From seventh-century Egyptian Christians who gave up on the Bible and embraced this heresy.
Last June, a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey found rampant doctrinal ignorance among American Christians. Fifty-seven percent of evangelicals believed people who follow religions other than their own can enjoy eternal life. The results were so unexpected that Pew repeated the survey, ...