The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) surveyed 2,500 randomly chosen Americans about our country, and the majority flunked the 33-question test. Twice as many knew that Paula Abdul was a judge on “American Idol” than knew that the quote “government of the people, by the people, for the people” was said by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. Forty-three percent of those who hold elected office don’t know that the Electoral College elects the President. One fifth of them think it “trains those aspiring to higher office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.” 

While it’s amazing what so many Americans don’t know, my guess is that the same people who flunked the test also insist that they love America and are highly patriotic. Yes, it is possible to be a good American even with ignorance.

It’s also amazing what Americans, including lots of evangelicals, don’t know about the Bible and Christian doctrine. Although my next guess is that these same Christians who flunk their Bible and Theology quiz insist that they love Jesus and are loyal to the Christian faith. They are Christians who need to know more.

It really is amazing what we don’t know. We should know better.

We can criticize the ignorance of others and be proud we are so knowledgeable, or we can increase Bible literacy and theological knowledge by improving our teaching and preaching. Let’s be known as those who bless with the Light rather than those who just curse the darkness. Encourage continuing theological education of pastors. Celebrate teachers who are doctrinal as well as interesting. Promote pastors who major on Bible teaching rather than politics and current events. Give books as presents that are fascinating to read and make the reader more knowledgeable about God’s truth by the end of the last chapter. Help turn believers into knowers.

Leith Anderson

Leith Anderson has been president of the National Association of Evangelicals since 2006, and was the senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for 35 years before retiring in 2011. He regularly teaches in seminaries, addresses evangelical concerns with elected officials, and provides theological and cultural commentary to leading news outlets. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Bradley University and Denver Seminary.