A survey on Bible literacy...
(Tim, w/thanks to Carol) The international Synod of (Roman) Catholic Bishops will meet this coming October around the theme, "The Word of God." In preparation, an international survey on biblical literacy was taken in the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Russia. (Soon, other countries in the Southern Hemisphere will be added, including Argentina, South Africa, the Philippines, and Australia.)
Italian sociologist Luca Diotallevi says the study is “the most systematic scientific undertaking yet attempted to compare, on an international scale, levels and forms of familiarity with the Scriptures.”
The survey's findings indicate even secularized nations and people are quite interested in the Bible, but find it very hard to understand. This is a wonderful opening for the people of God--evangelistic Bible studies continue to be one of the most effective tools we have for bringing men and women to the preaching of the Word and faith.
Other survey results show the decline of Bible knowledge among American Protestants as it grows among Roman Catholics...
- The United States has by far the highest level of its adult population that claims to have read at least one passage from the Bible in the last year (75%) and to have a Bible at home (93%), but it doesn’t score better than anyone else on tests of basic Biblical literacy. For example, large numbers of Americans, just like people in the other eight countries surveyed, mistakenly thought that Jesus had authored a book of the Bible, and couldn’t correctly distinguish between Paul and Moses in terms of which figure belongs to the Old Testament.
- Even within highly secularized nations such as France, the U.K. and Holland, broad majorities report a positive attitude towards the Bible, describing it as “interesting” and expressing a desire to know more about it.
- Broad majorities also describe the Bible as “difficult” and express a need for help in understanding it – suggesting, according to the authors of the study, a “teaching moment” for the churches.
- Fundamentalists, or those who take a literal view of Scripture, do not know more about the Bible than anyone else. In fact, researchers said, it’s readers whose attitudes they described as “critical,” meaning that they see the Bible as the word of God but in need of interpretation, who are over-represented at the highest levels of Biblical literacy. In other words, fundamentalists actually score lower on basic Biblical awareness.
- In virtually every country surveyed, those who take a “critical” view of the Bible represent a larger share of the population than either “fundamentalists” or “reductionists,” meaning those who see the Bible simply as literature or a collection of myths and legends. In the United States, “fundamentalists” are 27 percent of the population, “critics” 51 percent, and “reductionists” 20 percent. Interestingly, both Poland and Russia have a similar share of “fundamentalists,” despite lacking the strong Evangelical Protestant tradition familiar in the U.S.
- There no longer appear to be major differences in Biblical reading patterns and Biblical familiarity between countries with Catholic majorities and those with Protestant majorities, suggesting that, in the words of Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Italy, the president of the Catholic Biblical Federation, the Bible has become “the ecumenical book of all believers.”