“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
Between January 8 through February 5, 2014, the Barna Group conducted a telephone and online State of the Bible Survey of 2,034 adults in the continental United States regarding the views of Americans on such subjects as perceptions of the Bible, Bible penetration, Bible engagement, Bible literacy, moral decline and social impact and giving to nonprofit organizations. This study was commissioned by the American Bible Society. There was some encouraging news as well as some discouraging news coming from this study.
The one consolation is that the Bible is still highly regarded in America. “When asked to name the books that come to mind when they consider sacred literature or holy books, Americans overwhelmingly name the Bible (79%). This proportion is more than seven times the popularity of the next most frequently mentioned holy book, the Koran (12%).” However, over the last four years, 7% fewer Americans have regarded the Bible as sacred and 4% more Americans regarded the Koran as sacred.
What the study reveals, however, is that those who are identified as “Millennials” (those who are aged 18-29 according to this study) are the ones who are driving this decline in respect for the Bible. While 50% of all Americans believe the Bible has too little influence on society, only 30% of Millennials hold this view. Only 16% of all Americans believe the Bible has too much influence. Furthermore, while 88% of American households own a Bible, this number is down from 92% in 1993. While the number of Bibles owned per household is 4.7–and this is up slightly from 4 years ago–only 15% say they read the Bible daily. Fifty-three percent read the Bible only 3 to 4 times a year. Again, only 40% of Millennials read the Bible while 66% of those who are 68 years and older read the Bible.
Another disturbing trend is that the readership of the venerated King James Version has decreased from 45% in 2011 to 34% in 2014. But the good news is the Kings James Version is still the preferred Bible translation in America. “Far fewer say they prefer the New International Version (13%) or the New King James Version (10%). The English Standard version is read by 6% of Bible readers, while the New Living Translation is read by 4%. All other translations were mentioned by 3% or fewer Bible readers.” But, again, it is the Millennials who prefer the Kings James Version less than other age groups.
According to another study by Pew Research, 68% of Millennials support “same-sex marriage.” “Millennials are easily the most godless generation of Americans, with 29 percent saying they are not affiliated with any religion and 11 percent saying they do not believe in any god at all, as compared to Gen Xers who are 6 percent atheist. As faith goes, only 58 percent of Millennials are sure of their beliefs, compared to 69 pecent of Gen Xers.” (“Millenials Most Godless and Politically Independent Generation“)
What these studies reveal is that it is imperative that we start working on instilling a different attitude toward the word of God in our young people. One generation is all it takes for complete apostasy to occur. The only way to account for the current decline in the younger generation is that, unfortunately, parents are no longer rearing their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Parents are no longer teaching diligently unto their children the words that the Lord has spoken (Deut. 6:5,6). Neither are congregations preaching the word of God and emphasizing doctrinal soundness from the pulpit or the Bible classes but are instead teaching a “be happy, don’t worry” philosophy. Press too much doctrine and you are accused of being divisive.
I am sorry to say this, but I believe the church of the Lord in America is in bad shape. (America, itself, is in bad shape and no one can seem to stop the decline.) The traditional, biblical answers to traditional criticisms of the Word of God have been forgotten or, even worse, discarded by many. Whereas the Lord’s church used to be the place to go for Bible answers, too few today in the Lord’s church know the Bible well enough to provide those answers.
We must renew our commitment to studying and preaching and living the Word of God. We must teach them diligently to our own children with a renewed sense of urgency lest they forget the works He has done for Israel.
Eric L. Padgett