Monday, July 11, 2011

Education Levels Factor into How Americans Interpret the Bible

A new Gallup poll indicates that 3 in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literary. Here is what Gallup had to say:

Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man.

What I found interesting, however, is that almost half of those polled say that while it is the inspired word of God it should not be interpreted literally. Moreover, according to the poll, the higher the level of education attained by a person the more likely one is to see the Bible as inspired word of God rather than the actual word of God. I find this interesting because usually those who are highly educated are thought to have a lower view of scripture. But the poll suggests that higher education does not necessarily mean that one jettisons inspiration as they realize that not everything in the Bible should be read/interpreted literally.

The poll certainly assumes that those who responded had some type of appreciation of the Bible and held it in some esteem and considered it authoritative. But it also suggests that as people
begin to understand the complexity of the Bible that their understanding of inspiration becomes more nuanced. There is something about the Bible and the message(s) of the Bible that people are not willing to reject simply because there are incongruities with history, archaeology and even within the text itself.

I am not sure what questions were asked and how, but I think I can identify with the results. The more I learn the more I realize how complicated my relationship is with the Bible. I long ago rejected the literal interpretation of the Bible, but I also have not rejected the Bible. What I do sense, however, is mystery. That this very human book still has profound, indeed even divine, wisdom which I find important to my life. And the only way I can explain the complexity is by saying it is inspired. What that means exactly I am not completely sure. But somehow God works through it.

1 comment:

  1. Note that the highpoint for literal is 1980/1984 and the low is in 2001. Interestingly, these are both associated with cultural moments in America - the Reagan phenomenon and 9/11. This seems to show how sensitive our reported views are to cultural influences.