John Wesley wrote and preached about the need to continually preach the doctrine of salvation by faith. His experience was that it was almost always greeted as a new or novel doctrine, one that people often resisted because it did not fit with their understanding of faith.
The new Pew survey on religious knowledge that is getting lots of headlines for the finding that atheists know more about religion than religious people has a little noticed finding that confirms John Wesley’s concerns.
One of the questions on the survey was whether salvation by faith alone is a doctrine traditionally taught by Protestants, Catholics, both, or neither. Among Mainline Protestants – that would be us United Methodists – 14% of respondents got the question right. The numbers are not much higher for evangelicals and even worse for many other strains of Christianity.
In other words, the doctrine is still not clearly understood by most Christians.
Does that mean we should preach it more – as Wesley would – or that we seem to get by with 8 in 10 having little idea why Protestants exist at all and should therefore not trouble ourselves with it?