Do you know what you know?
There’s this saying I’ve heard many times in black churches that goes like this: “When you know what you know what you know …”
It is often uttered as a joyful testimony of trials-may-come-but-I-know- a-Savior-who-will-see-me-through kind of faith. It’s a declaration that’s rooted in the assurance that God is at work in the believer’s life and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.
The saying popped into my mind today after reading this Los Angeles Times story, which began, “If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.” Not! The article used the catchy but misleading lead to draw readers into a story about a new study about religious life in this country that was released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey “shows that large numbers of Americans are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions – including their own,” Pew reported.
Respondents were asked 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, world religions, religion in public life, and atheism and agnosticism. Atheists and agnostics, followed closely by Jews and Mormons, were the top scorers out of nine groups listed in the survey.
Black Protestants scored lower than every other group except Hispanic Catholics, correctly answering 13.4 questions. It seems we know what we know, but we don’t know much about other religions or the role of religion in public life. How important is such information is to your faith? (I almost wanted to say ‘so what’ when I read this. But I know ignorance is not bliss, and I do believe God wants us to be informed believers.)
The first sentence of the LA Times story grabbed me because it is alarming to think that atheists and agnostics have a greater knowledge about God than those of us who say we love Him. What person can really know about God if they don’t believe in His existence or deny His deity. Getting to know God is a spiritual pursuit, not an intellectual one. It’s a heart thing that transforms the mind. To know about God as a believer is to know about his love for you. The more you know about God, in the spiritual sense, the closer you are drawn to Him.
This study, as I read it, addresses the information-gathering side of religion more than the internal knowledge of God. It misses the experiential side of knowing God, as it measures what’s in the head and not the heart. But it does speak to our need to do more studying of God’s word and learning about other religions so that without a doubt we “know what we know.”
Take the Religious Knowledge quiz and see how you measure up. There are fewer questions here than in the survey, and I did pretty well.
How thoroughly do you read the Bible? Where do you get your information about other religions?
“The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His presence.” A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God