Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Some time back 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 the National Catholic Register’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.
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.