Christians from Which Denomination Have the Most Thorough Knowledge of the Bible?
by Rich Deem

Abstract

An online Basic Christian Theology Quiz was used to assess whether there are differences in Bible literacy among parishioners of various Christian denominations. The results showed that non-denominational and Baptist believers exhibited significantly higher Bible knowledge than Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists.

Introduction

Ninety-three percent of U.S. Americans have a Bible in their home.1 So, we would expect most Americans to be familiar with basic Christian biblical principles, right? However, according to a Gallup poll, only 59% of Americans read the Bible even "occasionally."2 Only 21% read the Bible weekly.2 So, it would not be surprising if the average American had a poor understanding of basic biblical principles. However, many Christians get their Bible teaching through their local church. Denominational churches that teach more from the Bible are more likely to have Bible-educated followers. A Gallup survey showed large differences in church attendance among denominations, with Baptist, non-denominational, Pentecostal and LDS churches securing more attendees.3 Since individual Bible study is sporadic, it seems that those denominations that regularly teach from the Bible and have larger attendance would have parishioners who were more Bible literate. This hypothesis has been tested through an online "Basic Christian Theology Quiz."

Materials and Methods

Software

The "Basic Christian Theology Quiz" has been online since January, 2001. In October, 2010 the quiz was changed from a JavaScript format to the Perl/CGI QuizTest script (Scripts for Educators, www.tesol.net/scripts/), which allowed recording of quiz results. Besides individual results, the software was setup to record the participant's religion and denomination. The Bible quiz consisted of 25 5-possible-answer multiple choice questions related to basic biblical theology (see appendix). For this study, results were accumulated for the time period October 8, 2010 through June 27, 2012.

Participant Recruitment

Participants were recruited online through the website Evidence for God from Science (www.GodAndScience.org), a Christian apologetics website. Participant recruitment was accomplished through links scattered mostly throughout the "theology" pages of the website, along with some search engine traffic:

Table 1. Bible quiz referral links
Referral Page Number of Referrals
Internal Links 12,135
   Christian Theology and Doctrine 6,893
   Why Does This Site Quote So Many Bible Verses? 1,361
   Atheism Test Question 1 1,156
   Who Is Satan? 619 
   Evidence for God from Science Quizzes 282
   Basic Christian Theology Quiz 170
   What Will Heaven be Like? 148
   Have Christians Already Overcome Satan? 150
   Discovery Bible Study Manual 75
   Eternal Security of the Believer 73
   Other 1,226
External Links 2,703
   Google 1938
   Yahoo 151
   Bing 135
   Others 479
TOTAL 14,838

An average of 9.8 participants per day completed the quiz for a total of 6,051 participants out of 14,838 referrals. The number of Quiz visitors and completed quizzes over the duration of the study are shown in Figure 1.

Site Statistical Analysis

Analysis of site statistics was done using Deep Log Analyzer (www.deep-software.com).

Results

Demographics

Figure 2 shows the religious demographics of Bible quiz participants. The data shows that the vast majority of quiz takers came from non-denominational churches. In contrast, the majority of the U.S. population attends either Roman Catholic or some form of Baptist church.4 So, all denominations are under-represented in recruited Bible quiz participants.

Although Evidence for God from Science is an international ministry, most quiz participants were recruited from the United States:

Table 2. Bible quiz participants country of origin
Country # Visitors  
United States 9,537   (72%)
United Kingdom (Great Britain) 684   (5%)
Canada 564   (4%)
Philippines 339   (3%)
Australia 300   (2%)
India 251   (2%)
South Africa 133   (1%)
China 100   (1%)
New Zealand 92   (1%)
Germany 74   (1%)
Others (132 other countries) 1,209   (9%)

Scoring

Figure 3 shows the scoring percentage based upon denomination/religious preference. Since the quiz was designed to be difficult, scoring was spread across a wide range (0-100%), with the average being 61%. As expected, there were significant differences in Bible knowledge across denominations and religious belief. Christian denominations that tend not to emphasize biblical teaching, such as Roman Catholics (45%), Lutherans (53%), and Methodists (52%), scored below the statistical average. Those denominations that do place an emphasis on Bible teaching, such as Baptists (64%, although did not reach statistical significance) and non-denominational churches (65%), scored higher than average. A significant number of atheists and agnostic participants (79) took the Bible quiz. Since, for the most part, members of these groups do not study the Bible, they scored significantly below average (at 46%)—only slightly above Roman Catholics (at 45%).

The distributions of test scores are shown in Figure 4. All distributions are approximately normally distributed.

Discussion

The hypothesis that certain Christian denominations have better understanding of basic Christian Bible knowledge is confirmed by results of an online Bible quiz. Because of large sample sizes involved in the study, it is unlikely that the result is due to sampling bias. Individuals belonging to Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist denominations scored significantly lower than the general population. Christians attending non-denominational churches scored significantly higher than average. For the most part, scoring on the quiz was indirectly proportional to the relative church attendance percentages found in the 2006 Gallup survey of church attendance.

Is it possible that the selection method has somehow skewed the demographics such that certain groups have excess numbers of Bible-proficient/nonproficient individuals? The website, Evidence for God from Science tends to attract individuals who are interested in Christian apologetics, making it more likely that those individuals would be more serious about their Bible knowledge. This probably explains why non-denominational believers are highly over-represented among Bible quiz participants. In order to test whether individuals from certain denominations have general deficits or proficiency in knowledge, a more generalized religious knowledge quiz, modeled after the Pew Forum U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,5 was instituted. The results from this study showed that no particular denomination scored above or below the mean result (Figure 5, p > 0.05). Not only were the results equal across denominations, participants of the Pew Forum quiz scored much higher than those who participated in the Pew Forum U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey (83% correct answers compared to 50% correct answers). Therefore, differences in biblical knowledge among participants of various denominations are probably not due to a deficit in general religious knowledge, but more likely due to a specific defect in knowledge of the Bible.

Conclusion Top of page

Knowledge of basic biblical principles has been shown to vary across Christian denominations, with non-denominational and Baptist believers exhibiting significantly higher Bible knowledge than Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists.

PDF Version PDF File\ (730 KB)



References Top of page

  1. Cindy Wooden. 2008. Not an easy read: Survey indicates Bible hard to understand. Catholic News Service.
  2. Alec Gallup and Wendy W. Simmons. 2000. Six in Ten Americans Read Bible at Least Occasionally Gallup, Inc.
  3. Frank Newport. 2006. Mormons, Evangelical Protestants, Baptists Top Church Attendance List. Gallup, Inc.
  4. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, Pew Forum, February, 2008.
  5. U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, Pew Forum, September, 2010.

Appendix

Basic Christian Theology Quiz

Select the true statement.
A. The Bible consists of edited writings, collected and put together at one point in history.
B. Part of the Bible is wise instruction from men, and part is from God.
C. The entire Bible is inspired.
D. A and B.
E. All of the above.
2: Select the true statement
A. We find the writings of John in the Old Testament.
B. The four Gospels are Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Daniel.
C. The New Testament has no relation to the Old Testament.
D. Many books in the New Testament were letters to different Churches and groups.
E. All of the above.
3: God's record of the creation of the world is found in the Book of:
A. Genesis.
B. Jeremiah.
C. Psalms.
D. Job.
E. All of the above.
4: Select the true statement.
A. The only people who can truly understand the Bible are those who attend seminary.
B. There is no need to study the Bible because God can teach us through our experiences.
C. The most important thing we can achieve from our study of the Bible is the large amount of facts that come in handy in debates.
D. Memorizing God's Word enables us to use the sword of the Spirit to overcome Satan.
E. A and B.
5: Select the true statement.
A. Scripture is the Christian's most powerful tool in sharing Christ.
B. God uses pastors to teach us truths they have found in Scripture.
C. It is important to establish regular habits and times for your study of the Bible.
D. Reading the Bible gives us an overall picture of God's Word.
E. All of the above.
6: The Bible describes Jesus as
A. A man.
B. Messiah.
C. God.
D. An angel.
E. All of the above.
7: While on Earth, Jesus
A. Grew tired.
B. Was hungry.
C. Lied.
D. A and B.
E. All of the above.
8: Which statement below is false?
A. Jesus Christ could forgive men their sins.
B. Following conception, Jesus Christ was born, grew and developed as all other men.
C. Others who knew Jesus Christ believed that He was God.
D. Jesus Christ was half God and half man.
E. B and D.
9: Which statement below is false?
A. Jesus fulfilled all the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
B. Jesus claimed to be the only way to God.
C. Jesus created the universe.
D. Jesus died.
E. All of the above.
10: Jesus
A. Is fully human.
B. Is fully God.
C. Visited Sarah, the wife of Abraham in the Old Testament.
D. A and B.
E. All of the above.
11: Select the true statement.
A. Jesus Christ was only a good example for us to pattern our lives after.
B. Men can reach God without having to come to Jesus Christ.
C. Jesus Christ's death took place in history and has no effect for us today.
D. God offers the gift of eternal life to all men.
E. None of the above.
12: Select the true statement.
A. God is just, therefore He must punish people for their sins.
B. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, God saw His death as the payment for the sins of all people.
C. Faith is simply believing intellectually that Jesus Christ is God.
D. One need not repent of his sins to make a commitment of his life to Jesus Christ.
E. A and B.
13: Select the true statement.
A. In order to keep our salvation, it is necessary to continually do good.
B. God loves all people and wishes they all could be saved.
C. One can acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior apart from the Holy Spirit’s working his heart.
D. A and B.
E. All of the above.
14: Select the true statement.
A. The believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
B. It is the work of the Spirit to convict the world of sin.
C. The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit had a part in the creation of the world.
D. A and B.
E. All of the above.
15: Select the true statement.
A. The natural man understands the things of the Spirit of God.
B. The believer is filled with the Spirit by yielding himself wholly to God.
C. Believers are first filled with the Holy Spirit when they are baptized.
D. The Holy Spirit has a body, since He is part of the Body of Christ.
E. All of the above.
16: Select the true statement.
A. The fruit of the Spirit is the outward sign of one’s claim to the indwelling and filling by the Spirit.
B. Grieving the Spirit will cause the believer to lose the sense of the Holy Spirit’s blessing.
C. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer.
D. A and C.
E. All of the above.
17: Select the true statement.
A. God is limited to working within time.
B. God changed His goals He had for mankind after they rejected His Son and crucified Him.
C. Every person of the Godhead has every divine attribute common to the others.
D. The Holy Spirit is less powerful than Christ, just as Christ is less powerful than God the Father.
E. None of the above.
18: Select the true statement.
A. Satan is equal to God.
B. Satan is equal to Jesus.
C. God does not always know what we are thinking or what we might do next.
D. The universe and everything in it could exist without God.
E. None of the above.
19: Select the true statement.
A. God is not interested in our personal lives, therefore does not listen to our prayers.
B. The only effective prayer is given when a person is alone on his knees.
C. Prayer is communicating with God.
D. We pray in Christ's name because the words trigger God's reply.
E. C and D.
20: Select the true statement.
A. God answers our prayers when we pray according to His will.
B. God will not answer the prayers of the one who harbors unconfessed sin.
C. God is glorified when we pray according to His will.
D. God does not always give everything one asks for.
E. All of the above.
21: Select the true statement.
A. God’s forgiveness depends upon what we do to deserve it.
B. Sin is breaking a set of rules established by man.
C. We confess our sins so that God will forgive us.
D. Repentance is feeling sorry about your sin.
E. None of the above.
22: Select the true statement.
A. If we fail to confess our sins, we can lose our salvation.
B. Though the believer may feel unclean, he has been cleansed, purified and washed clean of sin.
C. We can be assured of eternal life if we continue to behave righteously.
D. There is a limit on God’s forgiveness of our sins (e.g., mortal sins).
E. All of the above.
23: Select the true statement.
A. The justified believer stands before God not just as a forgiven sinless man, but as a righteous man.
B. Redemption refers to the price Jesus Christ paid for our sins.
C. The unbeliever is enslaved to Satan.
D. God justifies us on the basis of our best efforts to live the Christian life.
E. A, B, and C.
24: Select the true statement.
A. A Christian finds it easy to do what is right.
B. All Christians have the same ability to resist temptation.
C. Our heart is described as being purely motivated and righteous.
D. Our desires are a major source of temptation.
E. All desires are evil.
25: Select the true statement.
A. The Church is a building utilized for religious purposes.
B. Fellowship with a local group of believers is optional.
C. Formal ministry is more important than informal ministry.
D. Ministry is receiving.
E. None of the above.

Reflections
We are what we think.

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http://godandscience.org/doctrine/bible_knowledge_denominations.html
Last Modified July 5, 2012

 

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