PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Barna Group and the American Bible Society recently released their 11th annual study on The State of the Bible 2021. The initial report contains two chapters, “The Bible in America” and “The New Normal.” The American Bible Society plans to release seven additional reports based on their survey throughout the balance of 2021.
The first chapter leans toward the positive in reporting observations that include:
- Most Americans love and revere the Bible.
- Over half of U.S. adults believe that America would be worse off without the Bible.
- Seven in ten Americans claim a view that regards Scripture as the Word of God.
- Over 181 million Americans opened a Bible in the past year, up 7% from 2020.
A closer check of the chapter content, however, reveals some less favorable data that not only reflect the realities of our “Christian culture” but that is also more copasetic with the Cultural Research Council’s Biblical Worldview Report for this year. The accuracy of the data is unquestionable. The interpretation of any analyses, however, can be skewed by the filters through which the results are viewed. Some of the encouraging conclusions may not seem quite so favorable when viewed through a different lens.
Is the Bible unique?
The Bible in America asked whether those surveyed agreed, “The Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths.” Responses were divided into groups that Agree Strongly (13%), Agree Somewhat (28%), Disagree Somewhat (13%), or Disagree Strongly (19%). The report divided between the “Somewhats” to conclude that 32% “see the Bible as unique or distinct.”
If the line of distinction were to be drawn between Disagree Somewhat and Disagree Strongly, it would eliminate all respondents with any doubts. Only 19% of Americans could then be described as believing the Bible is unique or distinct.
Is the Bible the actual word of God?
The survey sought an agreement with one of five belief positions.
- The Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word. (26%)
- The Bible is the inspired word of God and has no errors, although some verses are meant to be symbolic rather than literal. (29%)
- The Bible is the inspired word of God but has some factual or historical errors. (15%)
- The Bible is not inspired by God but tells how the writers of the Bible understood the ways and principles of God. (9%)
- The Bible is just another book of teachings written by people that contains stories and advice. (13%)
The report analysis draws the conclusion that 55% (group #1 plus group #2) “hold what is known as a high view of Scripture.” That summation allows that nearly one-third of Americans who question the literal interpretation of the Bible have a high view of Scripture. Drawing the line following those who hold to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible reveals that only slightly more than 25% of Americans hold a high and proper view of Scripture.
How often do you use the Bible on your own?
The report subtly defines “Bible Users” as those persons who “interact with the Bible at least 3-4 times a year on their own.” The sum total of “Bible Users” nets out at 50% – somewhat reassuring news.
A shadow falls on that summation when that 50% is parsed by the reported frequency of use.
- 11% read the Bible daily.
- 5% read the Bible 4-6 times a week.
- 9% read the Bible 2-3 times a week.
- 9% read the Bible once a week.
- 8% read the Bible once a month.
- 8% read the Bible 3 or 4 times a year.
By comparison, it is not likely that a person would self-identify as a computer user if they used a computer only once a week or less. With that same reasoning, only 25% of respondents could be classified as “Bible Users.”
Great value may be gleaned from surveys such as The State of the Bible with regard to understanding the use of the Bible in America. The American Bible Society and the Barna Group have done a commendable job in the preparation of The State of the Bible 2021. In fact, we encourage you to download the entire first two chapters so that you can dig for the nuggets that lie below the surface. Determine for yourself what the data says.
Above all, pray that the people of this great nation will seek the Lord and draw closer to Him.
- Barna Group, State of the Bible 2021: Five Key Findings
- American Bible Society, State of the Bible 2021
- PR Newswire, American Bible Society Releases 11th Annual State of the Bible Report
- State of the Bible.org, Research from American Bible Society