The Barna Group, a Christian research and polling organization, and The American Bible Society offer a yearly study on how Americans view the Bible. Repeated every year for the past six, they identify trends both large and small in the direction of the country and its churches.
This year, in an article called “Bible Engagement in a New World,” they reveal several challenges and some encouragement. First, a growing skepticism about Christianity and the Bible bring more hostility to the idea of faith. Also, in the eyes of the culture, self-fulfillment offers the highest moral good.
In other words, morality no longer comes from some place outside the individual, but from each of us. Our moral compass points not to any civic or spiritual “North,” but moves with the whims of magnets of desire found in us and the culture. Finally, the explosive growth of technological access to the Bible open it to almost everyone. However, with that comes the commentary and misinformation of an international, interdenominational, and un-curated social media tsunami.
So, while the Bible is more available than ever, people value it less due a rationale limited to scientific and “enlightened” thinking, and a general loss of respect in all authorities outside themselves (except science?).
While this might sound bad, their research suggests some optimistic possibilities. In a post-Christian America, general interest in the Bible may be growing. Loyalty and fidelity to the Scriptures by practicing Christians is strong. Some two-thirds of Americans hold the idea the Bible is the inspired word of God (this is what makes us use “Holy” as a descriptor).
As the world continues to follow a path of darkness, with terrorism, ignorance, greed, and hedonism taking center stage, the revelation of God will become more important to those who claim faith in God, even as it becomes an afterthought to a growing and vocal minority. A backlash toward “political correctness” might be our opportunity to demonstrate the love God has for people which is revealed in this “eclectic assortment of ancient stories, poems, sermons, prophecies and letters, written and compiled over the course of 3,000 years, (that) is somehow the sacred “word of God.” The church’s mission involves making disciples of Jesus Christ, the living Word, revealed in the written word.
We are a “holy” people who serve a “holy” God, and we possess the “holy” book, that the world should know about real (holy and unconditional) Love.