(Photo: Ambassador International)
In a U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey conducted in 2010 by the Pew Forum, Christians managed to correctly answer only half of the questions pertaining to the Bible and their faith. In addition, poll after poll continues to reveal that Christians are growing more divided over what they believe the Bible actually teaches about the tenets of their faith. Canadian minister John Murray hopes his recently published book, Real Faith: What's at the Heart of the Gospel, can bring some clarity where there appears to be much confusion about what and why Christians believe.
Real Faith, published Sept. 2012 by Ambassador International, was inspired by Murray's own faith journey, with the author telling The Christian Post that it isn't uncommon for recent converts and young Christians to be left to their own devices in figuring out their new-found faith. Divided into 11 chapters with suggested ideas for group study, Real Faith asks questions such as "Why do we believe?", "Who is God the Father?" and "What is Christian conversion?"
Aiming to expose the heart of evangelical Christianity, Murray presents a catechism of sorts on subjects such as the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture and God's character. The author rounds out Real Faith by examining what is expected of those who believe in Jesus Christ and desire to be mature and credible witnesses.
Murray recently spoke with The Christian Post about his book, sharing that many churches have already picked up Real Faith and are using it in their small groups. One pastor recently wrote the minister to thank him for Real Talk and called it a "breath of fresh air" in a time when some churches seem "to have misplaced the attraction of the Gospel with a desire to entertain"
Below is an edited transcript of Murray's interview with The Christian Post.
CP: Real Faith is primarily targeted toward believers, but how might your book speak to those who know nothing about Christianity?
Murray: It is in fact being read by non-Christians which is very encouraging because I did primarily have [in mind] young Christians, new believers and those within the Church who really wanted to know a little bit more, or even have a first-hand knowledge of the situation. I think a lot of people within the Church have just learned stuff by what I would call "spiritual osmosis," and yet if you ask them to define their faith and to define various aspects of the Christian Gospel, some find it a little difficult.
CP: Why do you think some Christians aren't very knowledgeable about the faith, or aren't equipped to articulate that knowledge?
Murray: I think there has been a sense, particularly in the evangelical world -- and I look at my own background -- that you were almost expected to know without necessarily being taught. I think we were almost expected to pick it up from other people, by osmosis. In latter days, I think there has been the discipleship or the training available which wasn't available earlier. However, what it's done is, I believe, it's left a lot of people thinking that they know, and believing it absolutely implicitly [the Gospel]. But if you try to ask somebody to explain the Gospel, there's an awful lot of people who tell you a little bit of the Gospel -- they'll give you one phrase, two phrases, but it doesn't necessarily explain the total, full Gospel. I've written [Real Faith] in the hope that people can get a good overview of what the Christian faith is about.
When we were younger, I felt that I was brought into the Christian faith and just left to my own devices to learn. And really, we felt almost - I don't know whether the word is "ashamed" -- but we were certainly reticent to ask questions, because it was assumed that we had the answers. That's the thing that really motivated me. I thought if there are other young believers, new believers... even older Christians who are in that situation where they just accepted everything by faith without questioning -- that's the essence.
I think there's been a reluctance on the part of evangelicals to actually ask open and honest questions, things they do have queries about, we all have queries -- none of us understand totally every aspect of theology and the Christian faith, and what it's all about. I think to a degree evangelicals in general have been reluctant to ask those hard questions.
CP: Whose responsibility is it? Should the believer take the initiative to find out the aspects of the Christian faith? Or is it up to the pastor to find out what his flock knows?
Murray: I think leadership in general of the church should really be keen to take new believers and give them a proper understanding.
CP: You state in Real Faith that you are not a theologian. What are you qualifications in addition to your experience?
Murray: I did spend a few years in the pastorate [but] my main function was in fact in missions as Executive Director for Eurovangelism, that's a British mission, working in Eastern Europe, all the former Communist countries. I spent over 20 years doing that, and some of the background of my first book [If We Only Knew…Remarkable True Stories of God's Intervention], primarily was stories from Eastern Europe. It has been 50 years of ministry, so I think there is a certain amount of experience that comes with the territory, so I feel I can talk to young believers fairly well.
CP: Throughout years working in evangelism and missions, are there any trends or issues you've noticed in the landscape of Christianity?
Murray: My experience of course in working in missions related a lot to how we saw things moving in the former Communist countries and the collapse of the [Berlin] Wall, and the influx of missions into Eastern Europe and the initial acceptance -- the vacuum that was created by Communism -- the initial acceptance there of the Gospel. They were wide open for bibles, they were wide open to hear the Gospel. Once it was opened up to the West, then the general trend was 'why can't we have what the West has?' which of course was materialism. Materialism came in in full force, and then it was a question of not wanting bibles, but they wanted VCRs and things like that. That's in Eastern Europe.
What I see generally in the Christian Church today is that there has been, unfortunately, I think there's been a slight moving away from… I said we as young Christians were very reluctant to ask the hard questions, [but] you almost feel when read today's Christian literature that things have gone the other way insofar as they have created so many questions, and I don't just mean questions, I mean questioning the Christian faith and evangelicalism particularly. It is somewhat disturbing to read how some of the Neo-Liberals are still calling themselves Christian and yet at the same time they are questioning some of the foundation doctrines of evangelicalism.
Murray, who lives in the West Coast of Canada with his wife, Rita, has primarily worshiped and worked within Baptist circles. Real Faith: What's at the Heart of the Gospel is available on Amazon, with more information offered about the book in addition to supporting material available on Murray's website, http://jmurray.ca.