Shifts in Bible Perceptions Fuel Changes in Morals and Life Choices in the General Public

Responses to questions from the public about the role of the Bible in daily life show that the perceptions are no longer broadly accepted

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — A new two-dimensional nationwide survey by the non-profit, non-partisan Presidential Prayer Team suggests that America’s general public is uncertain about how to integrate the Bible into their lives – or even if they should. In fact, the responses to questions about the role of the Bible in daily life show that what were once commonly held beliefs about the influence of the Bible in everyday decision-making and social boundaries are perspectives no longer broadly accepted by the public.

Nature of the Bible

Nearly six out of ten adults (59%) believe that the Bible is the actual or the inspired word of God. Eight out of ten adults who attend Protestant churches described the Bible in that way, compared to six out of ten Catholics, just one out of three adults who align with a non-Christian faith, and one out of seven Americans who have no faith connections.

Bible Basics of the General Public

Source: survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, on behalf of the Presidential Prayer Team; N = 1,000 adults 18 or older, nationwide sample, data collected in April 2020.

The general public segment most likely to believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God is SAGE Cons: 93% of those who are Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians hold that view. Almost three-quarters of those associated with the Republican Party (72%) or who possess conservative political views (72%) embrace the Bible as the actual or inspired word of God compared to only about half of those who are politically moderate (54%), or associated with the Democrat Party (54%) or are independent of a party affiliation (55%). Liberals were by far the least likely to view the Bible as the actual or inspired word of God (41%).

Slightly fewer adults (53%) across the country believe that the Bible is the only true and authentic word of God. About three out of four adults attending an evangelical church (77%) accept the Bible as God’s true and authentic word, compared to two out of three (66%) who attend a mainline Protestant church, roughly half of those associated with a Catholic church (55%), and less than one out of three adults aligned with a non-Christian faith (31%) or with no faith at all (13%). Adults under the age of 30 were also notably less likely to accept the Bible as the only true and authentic word of God (45%) than were adults 30 or older (55%).

Politically, conservatives (66%) were nearly twice as likely as liberals (35%) to declare the Bible to be the only true and authentic word of God. Voters who identified as Republican (69%) were far more likely than either those who identified as Democrats (48%) or independents (42%) to embrace such thinking.

Adults were less united in their view as to whether the Bible contains errors. A plurality (47%) believe it is error-free, while nearly as many (43%) believe the Bible does contain errors, and 10% do not know what to think about that possibility.

A majority of people from several people groups believe the Bible contains no errors. Those segments included SAGE Cons (85%); people who attend Evangelical churches (73%), Pentecostal churches (72%), and mainline Protestant churches (55%); political conservatives (60%); and voters who identify as Republican (59%).

General Public Bible Views by Political Leaning

Source: survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, on behalf of the Presidential Prayer Team; N = 1,000 adults 18 or older, nationwide sample, data collected in April 2020. Abbreviation: SAGE = Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians

General Public: Relevance and Role of the Bible

Six out of ten adults (62%) in the general public said the Bible is relevant to life these days, with only two out of ten (22%) citing it as not relevant and the remaining one-sixth admitting they do not know if the Bible is relevant these days. Views on the relevance of the Bible varied by the type of church attended: more than four out of five Protestants said the Bible is relevant, compared to two out of three Catholics, and a minority of people who are not associated with the Christian faith. Nine out of ten SAGE Cons and born again Christians, as well as three-fourths of all political conservatives, argued the Bible is relevant while only half of liberals joined in that view.

The younger a person was the less likely they were to describe the Bible as relevant to life these days. Also, Hispanics emerged as the ethnic group least likely to see the relevance of the Bible (52%), while just four out of ten LGBTQ adults assigned relevance to the Bible.

Source: survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, on behalf of the Presidential Prayer Team; N = 1,000 adults 18 or older, nationwide sample, data collected in April 2020.

A plurality of all adults (44%) claimed that it is hard to obey the Bible because it is open to interpretation. A somewhat smaller portion of the population (39%) resisted that perspective, while about one out of six adults (17%) said they did not know.

Citing difficulty obeying the Bible because it is open to interpretation was most prolific among LGBTQ adults (68%); liberals (63%); people with no religious faith or affiliations (53%); adults under the age of 30 (53%); notional Christians (i.e., those who self-identify as Christian but do not trust Christ alone for their salvation – 53%); and people from households making over $100,000 annually (52%).

Equal proportions of the public believe that the holy books of religions other than Christianity are just as reliable as the Bible. Overall, 36% agreed with that view, 37% disagreed, and a large share (27%) did not know. (The survey discovered that 70% of the nation’s adults claim to have been raised as a Christian, diminishing the likelihood of their familiarity with the holy books of other faiths.)

As expected, the people most likely to dismiss the reliability of holy books from non-Christian faiths were SAGE Cons, born again Christians, adults who attend Protestant churches, and political conservatives. Those who were most likely to embrace the reliability of alternative holy books included liberals, people associated with non-Christian faiths or no faith, and self-identified Democrats.

General Public: Political Views and Bible Views

Source: survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, on behalf of the Presidential Prayer Team; N = 1,000 adults 18 or older, nationwide sample, data collected in April 2020. Abbreviation: SAGE = Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians

New Moral Strategy

Despite the widely perceived relevance of the Bible, less than half of all adults in the general public (48%) contended that the Bible is the “final and ultimate moral authority.” The people most likely to embrace the Bible as such a guidepost for life were SAGE Cons (92%), born again Christians (79%), and people who attend Evangelical churches (74%). Those who were least likely to accept the Bible as such a moral authority included spiritual skeptics (10%) and political liberals (29%).

General Public: The Bible and Morality

Source: survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, on behalf of the Presidential Prayer Team; N = 1,000 adults 18 or older, nationwide sample, data collected in April 2020.

In concert with the widespread comfort with moral ambiguity, the survey revealed that six out of ten adults (61%) also admitted that they believe there are no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time. While the deterioration of absolute moral truth has been in progress for several decades, the survey found that the dismissal of moral absolutes is even championed by a majority of people associated with the Christian faith these days. For instance, majorities of all but one of the Christian segments studied embraced the demise of absolute moral truth. (The exception was SAGE Cons.)

Shockingly, the frequency with which a person reads the Bible showed no relationship to their views about absolute moral truth, and adults who attend a Christian church weekly or several times a month are actually more likely than those who never attend church services to embrace moral relativism!

Given the rejection of the existence of absolute moral truth, it is not surprising that the survey found nearly two-thirds of American adults (62%) contend that “you can be a moral person without following biblical principles.” Once again, a majority of all but one of the Christian segments evaluated embraced the idea of being moral without following biblical principles – and, once again, the single exception was SAGE Cons.

Oddly, three-quarters of those who attend Evangelical churches claim that the Bible is the final and ultimate moral authority – even though most of them do not believe that it contains any moral absolutes or that its principles are necessary to foster moral behavior.

General Public: The Bible, Politics and Morality

Source: survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, on behalf of the Presidential Prayer Team; N = 1,000 adults 18 or older, nationwide sample, data collected in April 2020. Abbreviation: SAGE = Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians

Given some of these outcomes, it is not a surprise that nearly half of all adults in the general public (42%) said that most Christian churches are not focused enough on teaching the Bible. That perspective was particularly common among SAGE Cons (82%), people who read the Bible every week (69%), adults who attend church every week (65%), adults who pray for the president (63%), attenders of Evangelical or Pentecostal churches (63%), and born again Christians (62%).

Praying for Revelation

“While, it was initially perplexing when this study revealed how few there were in the general public who believed the Bible to be a source of moral authority,” noted James Bolthouse, president of The Presidential Prayer Team, “as we look around, it becomes more obvious due to the strong opposition to the Bible in modern culture.” He continued, “Yet we were encouraged to find that 6 in 10 Americans believe the Bible to be the Word of God and we pray that more will read it and that they will hear the Holy Spirit speak to them through it. For us, the Bible is God’s Word, precious and holy. We know it. We believe it. It is truth.”

About the Research

The research was developed and implemented by George Barna, Director of Research of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. The survey was conducted among a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults associated with an online survey panel managed by Braun Research. The data were collected in April 2020. The demographic profile of the survey results reflects that of the adult population of the U.S., as determined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

The two-dimensional study was commissioned by The Presidential Prayer Team (PPT), a non-partisan, non-profit organization as part of their national prayer initiative, Pray the Vote 2020. Their national headquarters is located in Scottsdale, AZ. The information in this release was gathered from the general public and does not represent the responses from The Presidential Prayer Team’s membership.

The second study will be an inward dimension. The focus will be on prayer team membership in order to learn ways to better encourage their members, provide helpful prayer resources, and to improve their prayer life during the upcoming election season and into the future.


About The Presidential Prayer Team

Since its inception in 2001, The Presidential Prayer Team has become the nation’s largest intercessory prayer movement. Regardless of party politics and ideology, PPT is dedicated to encouraging and facilitating prayer for the nation’s president, political leaders, and military leaders. It seeks to ignite a lifestyle characterized by robust prayer based on its belief that prayer will transform the nation, one heart at a time.

More information about The Presidential Prayer Team and the national survey can be accessed at www.presidentialprayerteam.org or www.praythevote.org.

Interviews with President James Bolthouse available.

CONTACT: Teresa Corelli, 866-433-7729, teresa.corelli@presidentialprayerteam.org


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