In a previous post, I cited evidence from the Bible Engagement Survey that shows Canadians in general, and Christians in particular, are becoming increasing disengaged from the Bible.
There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this decline, but the Canadian Bible Engagement Study highlights one of the major causes: loss of confidence in the Bible.
Confidence in the Bible has taken a big hit in the past two decades. The number of Canadians who are convinced the Bible is the Word of God has declined from 35% in 1996 to 18% in 2013. Seven out of ten Canadians (and one out of four Evangelicals) believe the Bible has “irreconcilable contradictions.”
When confidence in the Bible dips—even a bit—engagement with the Bible plummets. Among Evangelicals who “strongly agree that the Bible is God’s Word”, 61% read it at least several times a week. By contrast, only 3% of Evangelicals who “moderately agree the Bible is God’s Word” read it more than once a week.
Stop for a moment and let that sink in: 61% of Christians who have “strong” confidence in the Bible read it more than once a week. But only 3% of those who have “moderate” confidence in the Bible read it at least weekly.
“Canadians who frequently read the Bible are confident that it is the reliable word of God, with a message that is unique among world religions and relevant to their lives. Those who strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God are far more likely to read and reflect on it and attend religious services than those who only moderately agree” (Canadian Bible Engagement Survey Report, page 12).
While there has always been an assault on the reliability of the Bible, we live in a day when the attack has become high profile and wide spread. Not only is this attack coming from skeptical professors at secular universities, it is coming from professors who claim Christian loyalties. For example, Peter Enns, who teaches at a Christian university, recently published a book that contends the Bible is riddled with internal contradictions and historical inaccuracies. Yet he still encourages people to read the Bible for spiritual benefit.
If Enns would read the results of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study, he’d be hit with a harsh truth. His viewpoint, which undermines confidence in the Bible’s reliability, is certain to cause a demise in the Bible’s readability. The subtitle on his book’s cover says, “Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it.” Actually, the sobering truth turns out to be that undermining confidence in Scripture makes us unwilling to read it.
So what can we do to strengthen confidence in the Bible among believers? How can we seek to reverse the downward slide towards disengagement from God’s Word? In the upcoming posts, I’ll put forward a number of practical steps we can take as individuals, church leaders and local congregations.