Recently the Barna Group conducted a survey of attitudes about the Bible: The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014. The research from this survey shows that “skepticism toward the Bible continues to rise.” Skepticism is obviously going to have a negative impact on belief and practice. They note that “Bible skepticism is tied with Bible engagement.” The more engage a person is with the Bible the less likely they are to be skeptical. Some alarming trends from the numbers include the fact that two-thirds of the Bible skeptics are “48 or younger (28% Millennials, 36% Gen-Xers), and they are twice as likely to be male (68%) than female (32%).” More alarming is the static that of these skeptics 30% were Catholics who did not attended church (87%) or prayed (63%) during the previous week and were most likely most likely not to have made a commitment to Jesus that is important in their life today (76%). This statistic drives home once again the failure of catechesis to the Boomer/Gen-X generation which is now bearing fruit in their children.
Do Catholics not care about the Bible?
In October of 2008 the Vatican hosted a Synod of Bishops on the theme of The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. After the synod Pope Benedict XVI wrote an apostolic exhortation entitled The Word of the Lord (Verbum Domini). Pope Benedict noted that one of the goals of the synod was to see an “increased emphasis on the Bible in the Church’s pastoral activity.” (VD 75). He suggests that dioceses and parishes establish a biblical apostolate which will establish centers of formation “where laity and missionaries can be trained to understand, live and proclaim the word of God” (VD 75).
Living the Word
One of the other trends in the Barna survey was that “Increasingly, people come to the Bible for answers or comfort.” The Barna group notes:
While the majority of people still come to the Scriptures to connect with God, their number is shrinking, from 64% in 2011 to 56% in 2014. Today, people are increasingly likely to come to the Bible for more pragmatic needs: nearly one-third (up from 26% in 2011) say they read the Bible for comfort or to help them address life’s questions. This increase is consistent with last year’s study, which showed that Millennials in particular want to know how the Bible connects to everyday matters like parenting, finances, the workplace, and so on. They are the generation most likely to read the Bible for direction or answers to a problem (25%, compared to 19% of Gen-X, 16% Boomers and 11% Elders).
Perhaps a strategy for evangelization, especially with Millennials, is to focus on the practical life application of the Biblical message. What does the Bible mean for my ordinary life?