When I was in college, I attended a Sunday School class for young adults, and the usual teacher was out of town. The fill-in teacher passed out a survey that asked our views on several controversial questions.
We anonymously circled “True” or “False” for each question and then he took them up. Then, just like in high school, he passed the surveys out for us to “grade,” making sure no one got to grade his own paper.
We were sitting in a large circle, and as he read each question, he had the students with “True” answers raise their hands. And we were all astonished! Each one of us assumed that our own views were nearly universal. If anyone had disagreed with us in a previous class, we assumed that person was in the distinct minority. After all, how could anyone disagree with what I believe?
But as he went through the questions, we found there was very little consensus on any point. With the protection of anonymity, a majority of our class actually declared instrumental music to be no sin at all!
We disagreed about all kinds of stuff, and I walked out of the class shaken, thrilled, and befuddled. I liked the fact that I now knew how the class as a whole felt about these things. I hated the fact that I was often in the minority. And I couldn’t understand how so many people could have taken such wrong positions!
It was years later that I taught my first class on grace. It was part of a Wednesday night class on the Restoration Movement. I prepared a survey, passed it out, and then we compared answers. The class was shaken, thrilled, and befuddled.
I discovered that in a class of 30 or so, no two students answered all the questions the same. In fact, I’ve done this several times, sometimes in larger classes, and I’ve yet to get two surveys that are the same. Now, I only use controversial questions, of course, but they are all the kinds of questions we study in church all the time. I don’t ask about Pelagianism. I ask about wearing hats in the building.
In fact, I also always find there are very few questions on which everyone agrees—except whether Jesus is the Son of God and whether it’s a sin to have a kitchen in the building (we have a commercial-grade kitchen). And, amazingly enough, I find the split on a controversial question averages about 1:2, that is, 1/3rd of the class answers one way, while 2/3rds go the other way.
Now, when I’m in a particularly feisty mood, I add a second column to the questions. As to each true-false question, I ask the students to state whether this question is, in the mind of God, a salvation issue. The results can be very, very interesting.
For the benefit of the teachers among my readers, I attach a couple of specimen survey forms.