Is Bible reading compulsory?

By Spencer D Gear

There’s a story in USA Today (17 January 2011) of the rate at which people are downloading a Bible to the iphone, Blackberrry, etc? See: “Okla. church’s popular Bible app takes faith to phones”. The article states:

The world’s most popular Bible program for mobile phones was developed by an Oklahoma church.

Since its introduction in 2008, 12.5 million people have downloaded the YouVersion Bible application and have spent 4 billion minutes reading the Bible with it, the designers calculate.

In an 11-day period in late December, a million people downloaded the app, which is available on iPhone, Blackberry, Android and other mobile phone platforms. Every 2.8 seconds, a new user installs the program and 12 people run it.

It ranked No. 7 in popularity last week among all 300,000 iPhone apps.

This raises the bigger issue of whether this will increase the number of people who will read the Bible. The article states that: “Studies indicate that today’s Americans are biblically less literate than past generations, and few hold a biblical world view”.

George Barna’s research has found that:

Here are the types of changes being forged by young adults:

  • Less Sacred – While most Americans of all ages identify the Bible as sacred, the drop-off among the youngest adults is striking: 9 out of 10 Boomers and Elders described the Bible as sacred, which compares to 8 out of 10 Busters (81%) and just 2 out of 3 Mosaics (67%).
  • Less Accurate – Young adults are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Just 30% of Mosaics and 39% of Busters firmly embraced this view, compared with 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.
  • More Universalism – Among Mosaics, a majority (56%) believes the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts, which compares with 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders.
  • Skepticism of Origins – Another generational difference is that young adults are more likely to express skepticism about the original manuscripts of the Bible than is true of older adults.
  • Less Engagement – While many young adults are active users of the Bible, the pattern shows a clear generational drop-off – the younger the person, the less likely then are to read the Bible. In particular, Busters and Mosaics are less likely than average to have spent time alone in the last week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. Interestingly, none of the four generations were particularly likely to say they aspired to read the Bible more as a means of improving their spiritual lives.
  • Bible Appetite – Despite the generational decline in many Bible metrics, one departure from the typical pattern is the fact that younger adults, especially Mosaics (19%), express a slightly above-average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. This compares with 12% of Boomers and 9% of Elders.

For the purposes of this research, the Mosaic generation refers to adults who are currently ages 18 to 25; Busters are those ages 26 to 44; Boomers are 45 to 63; and Elders are 64-plus.

In the year 2000, these were Gallup’s findings on Bible reading habits in the USA:

Although most Americans own a Bible, use of the Bible varies significantly. In a poll taken by the Gallup Organization in October, 2000, 59% of Americans reported that they read the Bible at least occasionally. This is down from 73% in the 1980s. The percentage of Americans who read the Bible at least once a week is 37%. This is down slightly from 40% in 1990. 3 According to the Barna Research Group, those who read the Bible regularly spend about 52 minutes a week in the scriptures. 4 Barna, “The Bible,” data is from 1997.
Which gender is more faithful at reading the Bible at least weekly? The prize goes to the women. Women (42%) are more likely than men (32%) to have read the Bible in the past week. What version do people prefer? As of 1997, those who read the Bible preferred the King James Version to the New International Version by a 5 to 1 margin.

Is Bible reading an important habit to develop for Christians? Personal Bible reading would have been impossible for most Christians in the early Christian centuries, not only because of illiteracy, but also because a Bible translation was not available to the populace. What’s the call on whether Bible reading is important today, or should more emphasis be placed on solid Bible teaching?

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Copyright (c) 2015 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 20 April 2015.

But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness…. The Lord is known for his justice” (New Living Translation, Psalm 9:7-8, 16a)