I’m partly sympathetic with your objection, Glipsnort. It’s true that religious belief and practice can exist prior to being systematized by theologians. On the other hand, there is such a thing as “historical Christianity”, i.e., what most Christians have believed for centuries, at least since the fourth century, in the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. communions. The article references beliefs popular among current Christians which are out of tune with that historical Christianity:
According to the summary, “A majority of evangelicals said (1) that most people are basically good, (2) that God accepts the worship of all religions, and (3) that Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father. However, all these beliefs are contrary to the historic Christian faith.”
Let’s just take point 3. None of the denominations mentioned above would say that Jesus was “created”, since the Son is co-eternal with the Father, and Jesus is the Incarnation of the Son. So it’s not just a question of “theologians” or “authorities” defining something for everyday folks; the everyday folks themselves, by their own assent (and remember many Protestant churches are congregational, and nothing gets by there without popular assent), have said that Jesus was divine, not a created being as mountains, elephants and oak trees are created.
I’m not raising the question whether traditional Christian faith is adequate, true, false, good, bad, etc. I’m merely pointing out that it is not merely theologians or authorities, but the whole body of the church, which has affirmed the divinity of Jesus, the need to come to God through Jesus, and the reality of the Fall (which means that human beings are not any longer “basically good” as that term is meant in post-Enlightenment parlance).
So sure, it can be arrogant for particular theologians to try to impose their own private view of Christianity on everyone else – I’ve protested against that myself when TEs have tried to impose the views of Barth, Newman and Pascal regarding natural theology on the whole Christian church – but I don’t think that this is what the article, in context, is about. I think it’s about a tendency of modern Christians to pay very little attention to the actual statements of the Bible or to centuries of tradition underlying their own denominational and confessional traditions.
Of course, that is nothing new if one is a member of the United Church of Christ or the Episcopalians, who have been steadily diverging from classical Christianity for several decades now – and not just the lay folks, but the theologians and authority figures in those denominations (in fact, in those denominations it has been the theologians and the authority figures who have led the departure away from tradition, often against the kicking and screaming of the plain lay folks who think the theologians and leaders are too liberal); but it is new for evangelicals not to know their Bibles and base their faith on a careful reading of it. So if I were an evangelical, I’d be concerned about developments along this line.