This Your Church?

These are the newest numbers about Bible engagement from Barna:

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Wade Burleson And Paige Patterson

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  • Maybe I am reading this wrong. But does Barna automatically categorize someone as rarely reading the bible based on how they come down on inerrency? Shouldn’t they have to have at least two questions? How often do you read the bible? What is your view of scripture?

  • Agreed with Adam above. My first reaction was that it is too simplistic to assume that just because someone doesn’t find the Bible to be inerrant, it does not necessarily mean that they do not read the Bible. In fact, my experience is just the opposite: those who have a theoretically “high” view of the Bible tend to actually read the Bible less. But, I don’t think most Christians will be honest on a survey like this.

  • Ditto with #1 and #2 above. I read the Bible daily but don’t affirm inerrancy. It’s never good to confuse categories with a survey.

  • I’ll join the chorus. This is either a very, very poorly designed infographic or very, very poorly designed research. Either way Barna should be ashamed.

  • I had the same thought as the above posts. I am a biblical studies student and don’t think I could affirm inerrancy. I do think the text is inspired but this does not make it invulnerable to error. This does not prevent me from reading the text regularly though as it is still inspired in my view. I would say that there is likely some correlation between people’s views on inerrancy and the amount they read the bible, but it is not fair to assume that this would be a universal correlation among members of this group.

  • Ditto those above. I personally reject inerrancy, yet spend at least an hour daily in devotional study plus more in work-related reading/study. I know quite a number of people who similarly reject inerrancy yet spend a great deal of time with their Bibles.

  • Same as above. Living in a 5th choice.

  • LBT

    Who is being surveyed? If it is all of American, then Barna’s “antagonistic” seems much too passive to be classified as antagonistic. I would only use Barna’s definition of “antagonistic” for those in the general population who view the bible as false and dangerous, something from which people should be protected. Also, I would be quite interested to see *those* numbers. If this were a church-only survey, then I could accept Barna’s definition of antagonistic.

  • Adam

    Seven comments in a row all agreeing to the same thing? Is that enough to say debunked study?

  • Jeremy

    It’s interesting that they chose “engaged” for a very narrow group which is also the only group they talk about how often they read their bible. The implication being that the only people who read their bible are hardline inerrantists. They might have well had two categories – “Engaged” and “Uneducated Heretic.”

  • Jeremy

    Oh excuse me, they say “rarely or never read their bible” for the two groups…soft inerrantist is a no remark.

  • Barb

    I looked at the link–to me they are confusing worshipping the Bible with the Gospel.

  • James Dowden

    Yes, I agree with everyone else. I love the Bible, read it most days, and think it is a wonderfully errant collection of inspired-but-very-human literature. And I expect that most people who read the Bible frequently would think something similar.

    This graphic does, however, show an interesting phenomenon, viz that many inerrantists presume that those who don’t subscribe to that peculiar innovation cannot possibly like the Bible, let alone consider it inspired. In a graphic like this one, it has its amusement value; but what if some inerrantists were to make an excellent scholarly version of the Bible, based on the Tyndale-KJV-RSV tradition, and having a clear and reasonably consistent policy on gender-inclusive language that avoided painfully contorted language, but then imposed licensing conditions on its API to prevent use by those whom they considered would use it irreverently or abusively? Unfortunately, that is not an hypothetical situation.

  • Robert Theaker

    Having spent most of my 37 years of work in research. I question the comments above as critical of the study. Without knowing the “statistics” surrounding the study or the selection model, statistical model etc. It is very difficult from the graph to make a “judgement” as to its reports accuracy. At this moment it is just information which may or may not apply to me personally unless I use the categories identified. Nothing is perfect in social science research so may I caution judgmental care for my research brethren.

  • scotmcknight

    One thing about this chart, in spite of what some are seeing, is that how the Bible is viewed is changing and more are antagonistic toward it and fewer are friendly or neutral. Those numbers matter to me… how about you?

  • Scot, I don’t know you can make any judgement about growing antagonism without accepting the original assumptions that those that do not view the scripture as inerrent are against the scripture.

    It is a worldview issue with the authors. It may be that people actually are much more interested in scripture, but less likely to view it as inerrent. If that is the case then the ‘antagonism’ is not antagonism against scripture, but against the idea of inerrency.

    Or it may be that people that don’t believe in inerrency actually don’t read the scripture. And are antagonist toward scripture as the infograph is suggesting.

    The problem is that the authors are collapsing pieces of information together that may or may not be correlating and/or dependent.

    This is increasingly the problem of Barna (and why I have stopped paying attention to them). They have become an advocacy group and are no longer research focused.

  • scotmcknight

    Adam, they do spell inerrancy right though.

  • I can’t get my spell checks to ever recognize is and never do.

  • Nick

    I agree with everyone. I dont fit any of those categories. Horrible study.

  • John Bassett

    Maybe the reason that so many people are in the “Antagonistic” category is because they were raised by people in the “Engaged” category. I think that Bible’s worst enemies are the people who think they are its biggest fans.

  • RJS


    I would agree with others – the push back isn’t against the survey as much as it is against the way the infographic is framed.

    I do think that more are viewing the Bible as nothing more than human stories and teachings. Interesting – in the same way that Plutarch, Plato, and Confucius are interesting; up there with The Iliad or The Tale of Genji. This isn’t particularly “antagonistic” except for some who are antagonistic towards those who claim the Bible is more than a human book.

    More than this though – I find the drop in their “friendly” category intriguing. This is a short time frame (2011-2013), so I am not sure how valid the trends are. That said – is it possible that the kind of agenda that seems behind the labels Barna uses actually drives the move from friendly toward antagonism?

  • nate s.

    yeah, ditto everyone else. the categories are terrible.

  • Tom

    It seems that this post hit on a touchy subject for most of the commentors above and that is probably the problem. I doubt that most of the respondents of the survey even think about the various nuances in views of scripture. And even Barna didn’t read as much into it as some are doing here.

    I wonder how many have clicked to the actual article and actually read it. I thought the chart showing that mosaics want biblical wisdom at a higher percentage then the adult population as a whole was interesting. For instance, it says 35% of mosaics are interested in biblical wisdom about dating and relationships compared to 16% of the whole adult population.

  • Scot, you said “how the Bible is viewed is changing and more are antagonistic toward it and fewer are friendly or neutral.”

    I just think this assumes way too much. Just because someone fills out a survey saying they’re “friendly” about the Bible, or that they actually read it, doesn’t really mean anything. Unless someone is going to spy on people, I don’t know how much this information helps anything.

    This is connected to the idea of “biblical illiteracy,” a phrase which, from my perspective, has next to no meaning. Biblically illiterate according to whom? If someone is coming from a more conservative perspective, they could easily claim that someone who thinks the Bible is all about “love” is biblically illiterate. And the inverse. Who’s right? What kind of information would suffice to come up with an objective understanding of what should constitute biblical literacy?

    I keep hearing two loud messages from, loosely defined, the right and the left:
    From the right: the culture is becoming “less Christian” and “more secular,” and this is a “bad” thing. People don’t like religion or church, but they’re more interested in “spirituality.”
    From the left: this shift is a good thing. People don’t like religion or church, but they’re cool with Jesus.

    I know that is oversimplifying things, but, from my perspective, I’m all for the culture shifting away from institutionalized religion while holding onto Jesus. It just might not be the same Jesus that institutionalized religion has Decided is acceptable.