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The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – Commentary: Flunking the religious knowledge test

Gene Edward Veith–

“…It is regrettable when people are ignorant about other people’s religion.  But it is even worse when they are ignorant about their own religion.  Roman Catholics believe that the bread and wine of Communion become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Only 40 percent of Americans realize that.  But only 55 percent of Roman Catholics are aware that this is what their church teaches, meaning that 45 percent do not!

But the most disturbing news from the Religious Knowledge Survey is how few Christians are aware that Protestants believe that salvation is through faith alone.  Only 16 percent of the general public is aware of that teaching, which is the same percentage (16 percent) of Christians who are aware of that teaching!  Only 9 percent of Catholics realize that Protestants believe that.

It gets worse.  Among Protestants, only 19 percent were aware that Protestants believe that salvation is through faith alone.  That includes 14 percent of the mainliners and 9 percent of black Protestants.  Among Evangelicals, whose name suggests an emphasis on the Gospel, only 28 percent know that Protestants believe in salvation through faith alone, which means that 72 percent do not…”

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – Commentary: Flunking the religious knowledge test.

2 Responses

  1. I probably agree with the overall point, but there is a problem with the wording of the survey. (I don’t have the actual questions but I think I can see what they were like from the article.)
    Once you get out Protestant statements of faith and start unpacking the language you don’t get what you think you get. First, define “Protestant.” Second, define “salvation, saved, grace, faith.” Define “sin” and “conversion.” You’ll find that almost all American Protestants are works righteous, though they won’t claim to be so up front. If someone asked me the question, “Do protestants believe in salvation by faith alone?” I either would not answer the question or I would have to say, “Not if you mean the typical American Evangelical non-Lutheran Protestant.” Other than Calvinists, non-Lutherans do not believe in original sin as a total corruption, but they are Pelagians. And then Calvinists think they have to do good works to assure themselves that they are part of the elect even if they don’t credit their works for salvation.
    On the other hand, Roman Catholics also claim that they teach they man is saved by grace through faith alone. But again, unpack the language and you’ll find they mean different things than we do. If you ask a Catholic, “Are you saved by grace alone through faith?” They will answer “yes,” not because they are ignorant about what their church teaches (that may be true of many of them) but because their church really uses those same words to describe justification.

    And I just hate it when Lutherans are lumped in with Protestants, and when Protestants are presented as being non works-righteous. They all take a part in their own salvation.

    • Katie,

      I hear what you’re saying. Distinctions need to be maintained, even with that of the name “Lutheran.” Generally speaking, many think if the ELCA (“Evangelical Lutheran Church” of America) when hearing about “Lutheran.” They, too, speak of grace, but not according to how Holy Scripture uses the term. Historically speaking, the words protestant, evangelical, and reformers describe well the early Lutherans of the Reformation. Yet today, such words have very different meanings. One of my hopes for this very humble blog is to clarify some of those distinctions. Thank you for your comments!

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