October 23, 2014—Much has been made of the growing post-Christian sentiment among America’s youngest generation of adults. But how has this well-documented turn away from religion affected Millennials’ views of Christianity’s most sacred text?
Has the “brand” of the Bible suffered or significantly shifted among young adults?
In a recent study among Millennials, conducted in partnership with American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Barna Group sought to discover how changing ideas about Christianity might be affecting perceptions of the Bible. This study—the largest Barna Group has ever done on a single generation’s view of the Bible—looked at Millennials’ beliefs, perceptions and practices surrounding Scripture. Three significant—and surprising—insights emerged. 1) Practicing Christian young adults maintain a traditional, high view of Scripture. 2) In contrast, non-Christian Millennials hold ambivalent and sometimes extremely negative perceptions of the Bible and of those who read it. 3) And while the screen age has impacted Bible engagement, print remains Millennials’ favored format for Bible reading.
1. Practicing Christian Millennials Maintain a High View of Scripture
When it comes to Scripture, practicing Christian Millennials—self-identified Christians who attend church at least once a month and who describe their religious faith as very important to their life—are quite orthodox and continue to hold the Bible in very high regard. In fact, nearly all of them believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life (96%). The same proportion claim the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God (96%). Among these young adults, a plurality say, “The Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word” (46%); an additional four in 10 agree it is divinely inspired and has no errors, though “some verses are meant to be symbolic rather than literal” (39%); and 11% say the Bible is the inspired word of God, “but has some factual or historical errors.”
Additionally, practicing Christian Millennials cite the Bible as their greatest source for moral truth. Of the practicing Christian Millennials who believe in absolute moral truth (71%), four in 10 point to the Bible as the main source from which they have learned or discovered absolute moral truths and standards (39%). This far outpaces any other source, with church coming in second at only 16%, followed by parents at 14%.
The survey also sought to discover how Millennials prioritize Bible reading among their faith practices. Respondents were asked whether Bible reading is more important, less important or of equal importance to a variety of other spiritual disciplines. While Millennials as a whole say reading the Bible is of equal importance to the other spiritual disciplines assessed by the survey, practicing Christian Millennials consistently rank Bible reading as more important than other disciplines. For example, practicing Christian Millennials rank Bible reading as more important than church attendance (55% say Bible reading is more important), silence/solitude (50%), prayer (49%), worship (51%), acts of service (48%), communion (44%) and evangelism (42%).
Among practicing Christian Millennials, the Bible still holds a high—if not the highest—priority in their faith life.
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