An overwhelming majority of Protestant churchgoers say they are confident they could address someone’s doubts about the truthfulness of Scripture, but many churchgoers nevertheless say they also find the Bible “challenging” at times, according to a new poll.
The LifeWay Research survey of 1,002 Protestant churchgoers who attend services at least once a month found that 57 percent said they “find it challenging to make sense of the Bible” when they read it on their own. Nineteen present “strongly” agreed with the statement, while 38 percent said they “somewhat” agree.
The poll, released Wednesday, was conducted in partnership with Explore the Bible curriculum.
“Reading and studying as an individual is important, but we need others to help us think through what we discover,” said Dwayne McCrary of Explore the Bible. “Studying together also allows us to gain insights from others that move us forward in our study as well.”
But on other questions, churchgoers expressed confidence. For example:
- 90 percent agreed that “when I read a passage of the Bible on my own, I can usually understand how it is relevant to me.”
- 82 percent agreed that if someone came to them “expressing difficulty accepting morals taught in the Bible that don't fit their cultural values,” they “would be able to directly address their difficulties.”
- 81 percent agreed that if someone came to them “expressing doubt about the truthfulness of Scripture,” they “would be able to directly address their doubts.”
- 81 percent agreed that if their neighbor expressed confusion over a Bible passage, they would be able to assist the person.
“It is possible the confidence churchgoers have in helping others understand the Bible comes more from what they have been taught than from their own reading,” McConnell said. “Those who attend church most frequently have more confidence in helping someone with a confusing passage of Scripture.”
Meanwhile, a majority of churchgoers said they believe Scripture is timeless truth.
By a margin of 66-30 percent, churchgoers said they disagreed with the statement: “I accept some truths from the Bible, but others just don’t fit what I believe.”
Similarly, by a margin of 70-24 percent, churchgoers disagreed that “as culture changes, some biblical truths become obsolete.”
More than 4 in 5 churchgoers (82 percent) said “God’s truth can mean different things to different people.”
It’s important, McCrary said, to understand a verse in its original context and also how it applies today.
“We tend to jump from what a passage says to what we do in response and forget to consider the principle or truth behind what is said,” McCrary said. “Doing Bible study correctly takes time and thought, but it gets us to the meaning – which does not change – so we can then look at how we encounter God today and what our response should be to those encounters.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.