A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Does It Mean to Be Bible-Minded?

The Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities in America
The American Bible Society has posted the results of its survey on the most and least Bible-minded cities in America. One hundred cities were surveyed. According to a post in Time Magazine, the criteria for being Bible-minded is "a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is. 'Respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as 'Bible Minded,' says the study's methodology."

According to the survey, the most Bible-minded cities are:
1. Chattanooga, TN
2. Birmingham, AL
3. Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA
4. Springfield, MO
5. Shreveport, LA

The least Bible-minded?
96. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, IA
97. San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, CA
98. Boston, MA/Manchester, NH
99. Albany/Schenectady/ Troy, NY
100. Providence RI/ New Bedford, MA

Now, I understand the first criteria on how frequently people read the Bible. If I say that I read the Bible daily that suggests a serious perspective on Scripture that is absent in my neighbor who reads it rarely. It's the second criteria on accuracy that I find problematic. What unspoken hermeneutic is at work here when one is asked whether or not the Bible is accurate? If I believe that Jonah is a satirical portrayal (and I do) rather than depicting a historic event, does that mean I do not believe in the accuracy of the Bible, even though I believe in its message? And isn't the accuracy (I prefer the term reliability) of the Gospels much more significant in terms of being able to trust that what we get in the Gospels is the real Jesus who lived, died, and walked out of the tomb than whether or not Jonah actually existed? The truth of the matter is not all history is created equal. It matters whether or not Lord Cornwallis really surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown. It makes no difference that as a boy, young Washington did not chop down the cherry tree. If Jonah didn't exist, it makes no difference for the Christian faith; if Jesus is a myth, than the Christian faith is a myth as well.

So, what I am questioning in the survey is whether Bible-mindedness is being tied to a particular hermeneutic; and if one does not operate with that hermeneutic, no matter how much that person may read and study the Scriptures and take them seriously, she or he will be deemed as not being Bible-minded.

I am raising a concern because all too often surveys are filled with loaded questions that dictate results that are questionable. Is this the case with this "study" as the ABS refers to it. I don't know because I do not know the questions asked, nor do I know exactly what was studied.

It would be helpful to know more about the study itself. That's the only way to know whether or not the conclusions of the study can be trusted.

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