Bible studies

The Faithful Confused But Confused About The Bible

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most worshipers say they can answer any doubts others have about the Bible, but half admit they have problems understanding the scriptures on their own.

Although they have repeatedly affirmed their confidence in their own abilities to explain and understand the Bible, a LifeWay Research Study carried out in partnership with Explore the Bible 57% of Protestant practitioners say they find it difficult to understand the Bible when reading it for themselves.

One in five Protestant practitioners (19 percent) strongly agree, while 38 percent tend to agree. About 2 in 5 people (41%) say they don’t find it difficult, including 16% who strongly disagree.

“The faithful are prepared to defend the Bible as true and as a faithful moral standard,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But most admit that they stumble upon understanding the specific meaning while reading.”

“Reading and studying as an individual is important, but we need others to help us think about what we discover,” said Dwayne McCrary of Explore the Bible. “Studying together also allows us to gain information from others that also moves us forward in our study. “

No matter how difficult the faithful find the Bible, they seem confident that they can recognize its relevance to them and help others understand it.

Trust: what is the basis?

Nine in ten (90%) faithful agree that they can generally understand how a passage of scripture is relevant to them. Only 7 percent disagree.

Four in five express confidence in their ability to help others when in doubt about the truthfulness of the scriptures (81%), difficulty accepting the morals taught in the Bible (82%), and confusion about a passage biblical (81%).

“It is possible that the confidence that the faithful have in helping others understand the Bible comes more from what they have learned than from their own reading,” said McConnell. “Those who go to church more often are more confident to help someone with a confusing passage of scripture. “


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Older devotees are more likely to feel reluctance in their understanding of the Bible than others in the pews.

About 1 in 5 practitioners aged 65 and over (19%) lack confidence in their ability to respond to the doubts of someone struggling with the truthfulness of the scriptures. A similar number of older practitioners (20%) did not believe they could help a neighbor who was confused about a passage from the Bible.

The faithful can have such confidence because they profess the pleasure of studying the Bible. More than 9 in 10 (93%) say they enjoy exploring a passage of Scripture to understand its meaning; 5 percent disagree.

Baptist (97%) and non-denominational (95%) faithful are more likely than those who attend a Restorationist congregation such as the Church of Christ (83%) or the Lutheran Church (76%) to say that they enjoy digging into passages of the Bible. .

Context matters

As part of this process of exploration, an overwhelming majority of devotees consider two aspects to be important: understanding the original context of a passage and applying that passage to our modern context.

Almost all of the faithful say it is important to understand the context in which the Bible was written (96 percent) and it is important to apply the meaning and principles of Scripture to today’s context ( 93 percent).

McCrary said it is important for those who study the Bible both to understand the scriptures in their original context and to apply that truth to the modern context.

“If we are only seeking to understand a text in its original context, we see the Bible simply as a story and remove its active edges from it,” he said. “If we simply jump to apply the text, we risk missing the principle or truth that should guide our application of a passage from the Bible. “

Four in five worshipers say the Bible can mean more than one thing to readers.

For 82 percent of the faithful, the truth of God’s word can mean different things to different people, with 15 percent disagreeing.

Those who attend church more frequently and those with evangelical beliefs are less likely to agree, but more than three-quarters of both groups still agree.

Meaning or application?

For McCrary, this indicates a tendency to rush and short-circuit the process of studying the Bible by confusing the meaning of a text with its application. “We tend to jump from what a passage says to what we do in response and forget to consider the principle or the truth behind what is said,” he explained.

“Doing a correct Bible study takes time and thought, but it brings us to the meaning – which does not change – so we can then look at how we meet God today and what our response should be to those encounters.

Although there may be some confusion over the meaning and application, a large percentage of the faithful are clear that they treat certain Bible teachings differently.

Three in 10 (30%) faithful say they accept some Bible truths, but others do not match what they believe. Two-thirds (66%) disagree, with 51% strongly disagreeing.

Those with no gospel beliefs are more than 2.5 times more likely to agree than those with such beliefs (45-17%).

Those who frequent less than four times a month are almost twice as likely to agree as those who frequent more frequently (42% to 22%).

A quarter of the faithful (24%) believe that some Bible truths become obsolete as the culture changes. Seven in ten disagree, with 53 percent saying they strongly disagree.

Young practitioners, those aged 18 to 34, are the most likely to agree (36%). Those who attend church less often and those who do not have evangelical beliefs are also more likely to view certain Bible truths as culturally obsolete today.

“For a religion claiming a basis in the word of God, it is surprising to see so many practicing Christians prioritize their own word in their beliefs,” said McConnell. “In a world filled with constant change, it is difficult for some to accept the biblical claim of an unchanging source of truth.”

The online survey of 1,002 American Protestant worshipers was conducted from September 20 to 27, 2019, using a pre-recruited national panel. Analysts have used quotas and light weights to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity, and education to more accurately reflect population. The completed sample is 1,002 surveys, providing 95 percent confidence that the panel sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. The margins of error are higher in the subgroups.



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