Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life put out a quiz in which atheists did better than Christians in answering some basic questions about such matters as “Which Bible figure is most closely associated with leading the exodus from Egypt?” (In case you were wondering, the correct answer was “Charlton Heston”. And if you believe that, odds are you are Christian and not an atheist—at least according to the Pew poll.) The reason atheists did better is that, being at war with all mankind about the thing that matters to it most, they oppose all theists and are wary of the whole broad spectrum of religious belief (though with a particular focus on Christ, to be sure). Christians, in contrast, can hold up their end when talking about Christianity, but have never boned up on Jewish, Mormon, Islamic, or Hindu teachings since, well, they’re Christian.
Anyway, not to be outdone by our atheist cross-town rivals, I thought it would be a good thing to offer our own quiz and see if we can’t increase our batting average with a second try. However, since OSV’s readers are largely Catholic, I thought we should focus on our knowledge of the Catholic Faith and not spend time on Mormonism, Shinto, ancestor worship, Zoroastrianism, or the Seventh Seed in the Spirit Peculiar Baptists. Best to have one’s own house in order before minding others’.
Accordingly, give this quiz a shot and see what your Catholic Theological Knowledge Quotient (TKQ) is!
1. According to Scripture, the universe was created
A) because God was lonely and needed somebody to talk to
B) from nothing by the word of God
C) because God needed a laboratory in which to learn new things
D) by Stephen Hawking.
2. Which answer is false? The Immaculate Conception is
A) the conception of Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary
B) the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother
C) the term to refer to the fact that Mary was preserved from all sin from the moment of her conception.
D) a dogma proclaimed by the Church in 1854.
3. The two greatest commandments are
A) “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make any graven image”
B) “Don’t judge” and “Be tolerant”
C) “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
D) “Don’t shoplift” and “Be Kind. Rewind”
4. Catholic teaching about sex includes the proposition that
A) sex is okay if you really and truly love each other and that’s all that matters
B) artificial contraception is fine if you mean well
C) if you have a really good reason, such as economic ruin or disgrace, abortion is okay
D) sex is a blessing intended solely for the sacrament of marriage between one man and one woman, and is intended to make them one flesh and to be open to the getting of children.
5. Catholic Just War Doctrine teaches
A) all’s fair in love and war
B) it is legitimate to deliberately target civilians if that’s what it takes to win
C) the ends justify the means
D) the Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.”
6. The Holy Spirit is
A) that sense of warmth and family we all feel toward one another as we gather at the altar or on Christmas morning
B) an idea created by the New Testament writers since nobody mentions it in the Old Testament
C) an angel who got promoted to membership in the Trinity because God the Father liked him
D) God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, who exists from all eternity and who is, with the Father and the Son, worshiped and glorified by the angels and saints.
7. The Incarnation refers to
A) when Jesus was “born again” at Bethlehem after a previous life in another body
B) when an ordinary man named Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and God chose to adopt him and turn him into the Son of God because of his good character
C) the moment when God the Father turned into God the Son in the womb of Mary
D) the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son taking on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin and being born at Bethlehem.
8. The Bible is
A) the inspired and inerrant word of God teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.
B) a collection of Bronze Age myths and fables, but no serious theologian takes it as “the word of God” anymore.
C) the Big Book of Everything, given to us by God in order to determine the age of the universe, all knowledge of science, and the date of important world events like the establishment of the state of Israel and the assassination of JFK
D) a baffling patchwork of confusing and dull source materials that nobody but a professional can understand, so the Church says not to read it because it will just get you all mixed up.
9. The Eucharist is
A) a beautiful symbol of our togetherness which we invest with the spirit of Love and thereby transform into the “body” and “blood” of Jesus in a process called “transsignification”
B) whatever you believe it in your heart to be
C) merely a reminder of something that happened a long time ago when Jesus suffered
D) the true body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ fully present under the appearance of bread and wine and offered in sacrifice to God the Father. It is also a meal whereby we feed on Jesus and become participants in his divinized human life and are graced to live as members of his one body. Finally, it is a living participation in his ongoing work of salvation whereby we “make present” the one sacrificial offering of his passion, death, resurrection and ascension.
10. The Resurrection is
A) a wish fulfillment fantasy that early Christians gradually incorporated into the story of a gentle rabbi they loved and missed
B) the reality of the Christian faith, without which absolutely none of Christianity makes sense, founded on the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead in a glorified body on the third day and seen by many witnesses until his glorious Ascension. Virtually all these witnesses went to violent deaths after lives of extreme hardship, bearing witness to the Resurrection
C) a hallucination experienced by over 500 people at once, on multiple occasions, involving hearing, sight, taste and touch
D) a blunder due to the fact that Jesus merely swooned on the cross, then woke up three days later in a freezing tomb dressed in winding bandages welded to his skin by his countless scourging wounds. Then he stumbled over to a multi-ton rock on his wounded feet, shoved it aside with his wounded hands and, gasping in agony from the wound to his heart, overpowered the sleeping guard and staggered through Jerusalem unnoticed till he banged on the door of the apostles and, bleeding from almost every pore and in desperate need of immediate medical attention, convinced them he was the Conqueror of Death.
11. The Church is
A) a purely human institution standing between man and his Savior
B) the invention of the Emperor Constantine, who took an obscure religion that honored the memory of a dead rabbi, and turned it into a tool of Empire by proclaiming the dead rabbi to be a “god” at Council of Nicaea.
C) a collection of celibate old men who want to tell us what to do.
D) me and my like-minded friends
E) the body of Christ, founded by Jesus himself to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, made of baptized Christians as of living stones, in union with one another through faith and the sacraments and built on the Rock who is Peter and on the apostles as the foundation, visible in the world and in union with the bishops and Pope, particularly in the celebration of the Mass.
12. Mary is
A) Mother of God
C) Immaculately Conceived
D) Assumed into Heaven
E) All of the above
F) None of the above.
13. Limbo is
A) a dogma the Church discontinued at Vatican II due to popular demand
B) a theological theory that is currently in eclipse among most Catholic theologians
C) a doctrine all true Catholics are bound to hold
D) an invention of Dante Alighieri that illiterate medieval Catholics came to believe because they don’t know anything about the Bible.
14. The doctrine of the Trinity means
A) that we believe in three Gods
B) that we believe in the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier
C) that we believe in one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
D) that we believe God was called the Father before the Incarnation, then became the Son during the lifetime of Jesus, then turned into the Holy Spirit when he went back to Heaven.
E) that the Father created the Son and the Holy Spirit.
15. Concerning the afterlife, Catholics believe
A) that the dead are asleep and have no consciousness of things on earth
B) that the goal of the Christian life is to strip off our sinful bodies and become angels
C) that people who go to Hell can work hard and get out of it, and that’s what Purgatory is
D) in life after life after death: that is, that the goal of the Christian life is not to be a disembodied spirit in some empty void, but (on the Last Day) a resurrected human being with a glorified body like Jesus’ in a new heaven and new earth.
1. B. (Although D might work if you are not Catholic and define “Scripture” as “the writings of Stephen Hawking”, as, for instance, some Stephen Hawking devotees appear to.)
2. A is incorrect. It’s also something a huge number of Catholics mistakenly believe, which is why this question is included—to correct that. The doctrine that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit by the Virgin Mary is called the Virgin Birth.
3. C is correct. A is a trick answer since these are the first two of the Ten Commandments, but not the two greatest commandments. B refers to the two greatest commandments of secular liberalism. D refers to the two greatest commandments of secular pagan suburbanites as discovered by archeologists exploring the ruins of ancient “Blockbuster” temples.
4. D. The first three answers are all species of the condemned moral theory known as “consequentialism”. We may never do evil in order to achieve some good end.
5. D. The first three answers are all species of the condemned moral theory known as “consequentialism”. We may never do evil in order to achieve some good end.
6. D. The Holy Spirit is not a warm feeling, but a person. He was not created by anybody since he is God. The New Testament writers merely report the full revelation Jesus made of God’s Trinitarian nature. Similarly, he is not a creature like an angel, because angels are created and God the Holy Spirit is the Creator.
7. D. A, B, and C refer, respectively to Reincarnation, Adoptionism, and Sabellianism—all heresies the Church has long rejected. God the Son became incarnate only once. Jesus is not an ordinary man who was “adopted” and made into the Son of God. And the Son, not the Father, became incarnate.
8. A. The other answers, while popular, reflect views of Scripture that B) reduce it to a purely human work; C) exalt it to a Divine Codebook that is no longer about revealing Christ but merely God’s Puzzle Book for Divination of the Future; and D) remove it from Christian life rather than making it the source of revelation and wisdom God intends it to be in the life of the Church.
9. D. A and B essentially reduce the Eucharist to a form of psychological projection on our part, not a miracle on God’s part. C reduces it to a mere audio-visual aid.
10. B. Alternative explanations for the Resurrection are easy to invent. Good alternative explanations are extremely hard to invent.
11. E. A through D, while popular myths, are false. The Church is a window, not a barrier. It was founded by Jesus, who was raised from the dead and proclaimed to be so from the start of the Church on Pentecost. The bishops, while celibate and generally older, do not constitute the entirety of the Church and are commanded by Jesus to teach the faith, so they can hardly be blamed for doing so. Similarly, the Church is more than you and your friends. It also includes all the rest of the baptized who hold the Catholic faith, including that guy you can’t stand and that woman who you find so irksome.
12. E. These are, by the way, the only dogmas the Church has about Mary.
13. B. Limbo is basically a theory that attempts to wrestle with the question of what becomes of unbaptized babies who die, never having committed an actual sin, but without having received the sacrament of Baptism. It has never been a doctrine of the Church, but neither has it ever been condemned. So Catholics can speculate about it if they like, though most theologians (including Benedict XVI) are skeptical about it. And no. Dante didn’t invent it.
14. C. A, B, D, and E are all popular heresies that suppress, exaggerate, or distort the record of the New Testament in various ways. So, for instance, Jesus himself is adamant that there is one God. Similarly, all the Persons of the Godhead are involved in creation, redemption and sanctification. Likewise, all the Persons of the Godhead exist from all eternity, so God does not evolve from Father to Son to Spirit over time, nor does the Father create the other two Persons.
15. D. The faith does not teach that the dead are asleep but instead insists that we remain in communion with those who have died in Christ, both praying for them and asking their prayers. It also denies that we become angels (since angels are a different species than humans) and teaches that our final destiny is to be embodied as Christ is, in a glorified body. Additionally, the Church teaches that Hell is the “definitive self-exclusion” of a soul from the society of God and his saints. As such, there is no escape from Hell because the damned soul does not want to escape from Hell. Purgatory is not Hell by another name, but is the process whereby a soul finishes cooperating with grace in order to be fully conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. We can help the souls in Purgatory with our prayers and sacrifices in union with Christ.