Friday, October 06, 2023

What America Thinks About the Bible

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

American Bible Society's 13th annual "State of the Bible" report found that Americans who are hostile toward God's word still value biblical behavior.

"Our research shows that even those Americans who are most hostile toward the Bible value biblical behaviors like loving your neighbor, caring for creation, and welcoming the stranger,"  the American Bible Society said in a statement.

The study also revealed a conflict in beliefs about the Bible, which provides an opportunity to share Christ with the conflicted.

Be informed, not misled.

"Americans Are Turning to the Bible."

Dr. John Plake, with the American Bible Society, says in a commentary:

When the American Bible Society was founded in 1816, millions of people around the world were experiencing what historians have come to call "the year without a summer." Severe climate abnormalities caused lower temperatures that led to food shortages and failing crops. People's livelihoods were on the verge of collapse. 

More than two hundred years later, in 2020, we experienced another "year without a summer"—this time a year marked by social distance, uncertainty, and loss. But the news isn't all bad; new research shows that more Americans than ever are turning to the Bible as a result. 

American Bible Society's 11th annual State of the Bible report found that over 181 million Americans opened a Bible in the past year, compared to 169 million adults in 2020. This year marks the sharpest rise in Bible engagement that we have seen since beginning reporting in 2011.

One in six U.S. adults (16 percent) now reads the Bible most days during the week—up from one in eight (12 percent) in 2020. Why are these Americans turning to God's Word? The data suggests they want to be "closer to God." They reported seeking "comfort" and "wisdom." As they read, the majority say they feel "comforted," "peaceful," "encouraged," and "hopeful."

Encouragingly, 95 million Americans are "test-driving the Bible" as well. We call this group the "Movable Middle." These Bible Users are either friendly or neutral towards the Bible, but they are not yet committed. This middle group has jumped from 26 percent of the population to 37 percent in the past year. 

Some Americans are conflicted in their view of the Bible, which provides an opportunity to share the Good News.

"Our research shows that even those Americans who are most hostile toward the Bible value biblical behaviors like loving your neighbor, caring for creation, and welcoming the stranger," Dr. John Farquhar Plake, chief ministry insights officer at the American Bible Society, said in a statement.

So these folks don't necessarily like the Bible, but they embrace the behaviors it teaches---with exceptions.

"This shared passion for neighborly behavior is a new avenue for ministry leaders to start conversations about the values Americans share and their ultimate source in Jesus and his Word," he said.

Meanwhile, the "Moveable Middle," people who are identified as appreciating Christianity but not being active participants, were also found to be apathetic to biblical values.

"This group is more likely to consider the biblical behaviors surveyed — including welcoming immigrants, befriending people of other races or religions, or advocating for the oppressed — as only 'somewhat' important," the press release explains. "In contrast, both Scripture-engaged Americans and Americans who do not engage with Scripture are more likely to count these behaviors as 'important' or 'very important.'"

Other parts of the survey found:

  • Scripture engagement has fallen to just 19 percent of American adults.
  • One-third of non-Bible users said they were "extremely" or "very" curious about the Bible.
  • A quarter of Bible users said one of their greatest frustrations with reading Scripture was that they "never seem to have enough time."
  • Nearly half of American adults agree that the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life.

America and the Bible

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures provided the American Founders with intellectual and spiritual resources that would shape the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. The Bible advanced the ideas that would form the bedrock of the American Founding: natural law, natural rights, human equality, and human freedom.

David Barton, a deeply committed Christian, and leading historian, has done extensive research on the relationship of America's Founders to biblical teaching.

He says:

For decades accusations against the Founding Fathers have abounded. One of the common criticisms is that the Founding Fathers were a collective group of atheists, agnostics, and or deists who wanted a strict separation of church and state, resulting in a secular government and public square. Some go as far as foolishly writing that these allegations are so evident that no actual evidence or proof is needed to substantiate their claims. While these charges are blatantly false, it can likewise be acknowledged that not every Founding Father or early American leader would fit in the category of born-again Christian (although most of them would). However, the overwhelming majority of Founding Fathers and early leaders wrote openly, and often about the influence of Christianity, the Bible and Jesus on their lives. While the following examples do not give the complete story of the faith journey of the individuals included in this list, these quotes and excerpts do give a glimpse into the thinking of these men. We encourage you to follow the footnotes and dig deeper into the writings of the Founding Fathers!

I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes, follow the link above, and see for yourself what our Founding Fathers actually believed and said.

From among the many quotes, I'll leave you with these quotes from Patrick Henry:

Being a Christian… is a character which I prize far above all this world has or can boast.

The Bible… is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.

Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation…Whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.

The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.

This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Bee Bold. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.