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bibleinpewBy John D. Pierce

Most Americans still hold a pretty high view of the Bible. At least that’s what they say.

More than half (54 percent) rated as “Bible engaged” or “Bible friendly” as opposed to 46 percent categorized as “Bible neutral” or “Bible skeptic,” according to a recently released six-year study.

This research by the American Bible Society and Barna Group revealed that millennials, by percentage, read and trust the Bible less than other Americans. Yet those Christian youth who practice their faith, as Christianity Today noted, read and believe the Bible perhaps more so than older generations.

So it’s mixed news about the well-studied millennial generation and their perspectives on the Bible.

Skepticism about the Bible has increased a bit among Americans of all ages. However, such studies often reveal a growing rejection of biblical literalism rather than a wholesale disregard for Christian scriptures. Descriptive terminology used in such surveys impacts the results.

There is much to dissect from studies like this — but the “Why?” question always arises when there is slippage to any degree away from bold affirmations of the Bible as holy and trusted — even while acknowledging that many Americans’ survey answers may be good ol’ lip service not supported in practice.

But assuming Americans now hold a “lesser” view of the Bible than in the past, what might be the reasons? Several possibilities come to mind.

It is more socially acceptable now to express doubt about one’s belief in God and the Bible and religion in general. So more truth telling is likely at work.

Growing religious pluralism is surely a factor — including the higher number of self-confessing “nones” and “dones.”

Some will surely place the blame on the familiar targets of liberalism and secularism — or, perhaps, the Internet, rap music or Harry Potter.

But there seems to be another good possibility: Could it be because so much of the anger, fear, hostility and injustice seen and heard in the public arena today comes from those who claim to uphold biblical truth?

Perhaps millennials (and others) notice that those who claim the highest allegiance to the Bible are leading the way in pushing discriminatory legislation, showing hostility toward persons of other ethnic and religious backgrounds, and resisting social change that doesn’t fit their familiar, comfortable ways. It’s hard to miss such spouting off from Franklin Graham, et al.

Just maybe it’s the resulting abuse of bad biblical interpretation — built on a long past of misusing isolated scriptures to justify slavery, racial and gender discrimination, eye-for-an-eye retribution, civil religion, and more — that is soiling the reputation of the Bible.

Maybe it’s this messed-up “biblical worldview” that’s being rejected. If so, good!

John Pierce

About John Pierce

John D. Pierce is editor of Nurturing Faith Journal — the signature publication of Baptists Today, Inc. He is also publisher of Nurturing Faith Books and Resources. Previously he served as managing editor of The Christian Index and as Baptist campus minister at Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University. A native of Ringgold, Ga., he is a graduate of Berry College (B.A.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min.). He speaks frequently in churches, consults with congregations concerning communications and holds interim pastorates.