What People Think About the Bible

Last week I conducted a survey on what people thought about the Bible. I set out to survey ten and got forty instead, and I was pleasantly surprised by the responses.

Most people used positive and fitting words to describe the Bible. There were a lot of answers like “the word of God” and “divinely inspired truth.” There were a few responses I would not have guessed, like “Be still and know that I am”, “difficult”, and “sad”. The person who put “difficult” and “sad” also put “beautiful” and “happy”, so the response seemed truthful and balanced, not a typical Sunday-school answer.

There seemed to be a large consensus with the responses of the central message of the Bible. Many people simply said “God”, “Jesus”, “salvation” or “redemption”. Many summed up the Great Commandment. There were a lot of people who gave an entire Gospel presentation as well. I thought this was encouraging that almost everyone seemed to grasp the central message.

The answers to the question of what the best thing is about the Bible greatly echoed the answers to the first two questions (above), but one response that stood out to me was “Read it!” I liked that.

The answers to the worst thing about the Bible were what I expected. A lot of people talked about the different translations, how hard it is to understand, how people mistreat it, wars, hell, incest, contradictory passages, etc. There were also several Sunday-school answers like “nothing”. There were some introspective responses as well, as the worst thing about the Bible is us and man’s sin and evil. These stood out: “There’s nothing bad about the Bible. I just take it for granted oftentimes. I guess the fact that a lot of Bibles are just gathering dust in America, but others would risk their lives to have a Bible in their own language.” And “Genealogy chapters are not the most riveting.” I get that.

The question I was most surprised to find fair answers for was where the Bible came from. Most people had a close and general idea about where it came from. Yet there were two outliers: “The Catholic Church” and “Council of Nicea, Luther, Zwingli”. I got a little angry when I read “The Catholic Church”, but then thought “Well that’s probably what they were told, and they haven’t done any research on their own. Can I really be mad at their ignorance, or should I feel sad for them?” Those thoughts and feelings did not last long when I saw the “Luther, Zwingli” answer. I laughed at that and then thought to myself “Well there’s the Catholic extreme and the Protestant one as well. Both are wrong. Is it right for me only to be mad at the Catholic extreme?”

The answers to what they want the Bible to have on society and themselves were all over the place, but nothing was too surprising or emotional for me. All of them were great thoughts. Some deeper than others, but they were all positive and biblical from my view.

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