Knowing what I believe and believing what I know

You may have noticed the controversy about the poll from the Richard Dawkins Foundation

Basically the premise is that many of those who self-identify as Christian lack even a basic knowledge of the faith they claim to hold. Giles Fraser on Radio 4 Today did as good a job as anyone has in dealing with Dawkins when he showed that he in turn was unable to quote the full title of the Origin of Species.

So I thought a bit about gaps in my knowledge …

Anything to do with accounts, cash flow projections, balance sheets, etc. I sign them trusting to the integrity and professionalism of those who prepare them. But I have no intuitive ability to understand them


The doctrine of the Atonement

Most things to do with feelings and human relationships

But more seriously, the conversation reminded me of something which I learnt early on in ministry. People in congregations may not have degrees in theology. But they have an instant and intuitive recognition of two things. They know if you are ‘going through the motions’ – if the embers aren’t glowing as they should. And they know if you are preaching – well not heresy – but just stuff which is not orthodox.

And there’s more. Any pastor who has spent time with people at crisis moments of their lives will know that what matters is whether one is sustained by faith – not that one is articulate about it.


  1. I agree, Tim, that subscribing to beliefs is less important than it is sometimes made out to be. But I must demur on the church attendance point. Personally, I wouldn’t survive long as a Christian if I didn’t regularly keep in touch with the experience of belonging to a faithful and worshipping community – the communion of saints, if you will. I learned early in my own faith journey that one’s faith can be/needs to be? strengthened by experiencing the faith and the love of others.

  2. Uhhuh. Statistics.. and then some statements based on them. I’d like to have seen the poll itself, really; after all, if there are only a finite number of options for answering “why do you consider yourself a Christian?” then the chances are they’re missing some vital ones – for example, the approach that beliefs themselves are less than wholly important and it’s choice to identify with Biblical stories that makes one `a Christian’. Certainly some of the options, such as regular church attendance, are of limited worth even if you do consider beliefs particularly important.

  3. He will fail because the market and human rights ethics trounce even militant atheism. It’s the issues even the church has to have alternatives to ! As you say. They distrust bankers and judges who let dangerous folk go free!

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