Generations' Changing Views on the Bible

on November 7, 2009

Barna Group: “New Research Explores How Different Generations View and Use the BibleResults compiled from Barna Group surveys reveal an unsurprising result: younger generations are less likely to consider the Bible sacred or accurate.

The Barna Group study, done on behalf of the American Bible Society, compiles information collected from nationwide surveys conducted in the last three years. The study grouped respondents into four “generations”: Mosaic (age 18 to 25), Buster (age 26 to 44), Boomer (age 45 to 63), and Elder (age 64 and older).

“There is often more that unites the various generations in American culture than divides them.”

According to the Barna report, “There is often more that unites the various generations in American culture than divides them,” and attitudes toward Scripture are no different: majorities of each of the four generations believe that Bible is sacred, according to the surveys. Nonetheless, that perspective is on the decline. The results show that while ninety percent of Boomers and Elders agree that the Bible is sacred, that figure drops to less than seventy percent for the Mosaic generation. Only thirty percent of Mosaics and just under forty percent of Busters believe the Bible is “totally accurate,” compared to almost sixty percent of Elders. Mosaics were also the only group for which a majority of respondents believe the Bible, Koran, and Book of Mormon all offer the same spiritual truths.

Interestingly, the proportion of respondents expressing the strongest and weakest views on the proposition that the Bible is the “actual word of God” was similar across the board: roughly a quarter of all four generations adheres to the strongest view, and roughly a fifth of each generation adheres to the weakest view.

We must be careful interpreting the results of this survey, as with any. Some of the differences across generations may, hypothetically, be attributed not to declining Christianity in the U.S., but rather to increasing focus on faith as one grows older. Of course, we do strongly think declining Christianity is a major factor; but it is good to keep other partial explanations in mind.

One point of possible encouragement is that more Mosaics than any other group expressed interest in improving Bible knowledge. While this result may be partially suspect, it certainly shows that many young people are still very interested in hearing what the Bible is all about, and thus they will be exposed to the true history of the world and may experience the power of God’s Word.*

The Barna study did not examine how beliefs on life’s origins or Genesis were related to interest in or regard for Scripture. We know from other surveys, however, that one of the key reasons for young people leaving the church is a feeling that Scripture, beginning in Genesis, is false and/or irrelevant. (Read more in Already Gone.) Our mission remains to reclaim the foundation of the Christian faith—the Bible, all of it, and Scripture’s foundation in Genesis.

* One question asked respondents to name what aspect of their spiritual life they wanted to improve, but did not prompt respondents with answers. It may be, however, that older religious respondents were more likely to give as their first priority something more specific than improving Bible knowledge.

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