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Belief in Bible as Literal Word of God Drops to Record Low

For the first time in 40 years, Bible skeptics outnumber Bible literalists

Influence Magazine on May 18, 2017

A record number of Americans now reject the Bible as the literal Word of God, according to a new Gallup poll.

Just 24 percent of U.S. adults surveyed affirmed that Scripture is “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word,” the lowest figure since Gallup started tracking the trend 40 years ago. And for the first time, a slightly higher number (26 percent) said the Bible is “a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.”

From the mid-1970s through 1984, nearly 40 percent of Americans accepted the Bible as the literal Word of God, but the number has been slipping ever since. Over the same period, the number of adults who disregard Scripture as fables has doubled — with much of the increase appearing within the last three years, as more Millennials come of age.

A majority within the ranks of the unaffiliated dismiss Scripture as fables. 

Among respondents ages 18 to 29, just 12 percent said the Bible is the literal Word of God, while 30 percent wrote it off as ancient fables. That represents a steep decline since 1976, when 32 percent in that age group viewed the Bible as the literal Word of Word.

College graduates were similarly skeptical, with 13 percent saying the Bible is the literal Word of God and 36 percent viewing it as a book of fables.

Not surprisingly, few religiously unaffiliated Americans — the religious “Nones” — accept the Bible as the literal Word of God (7 percent). A majority within the ranks of the unaffiliated dismiss Scripture as fables (68 percent).

Respondents identifying as Christian Protestant are the most likely to take the Bible literally, though only 35 percent do so.

Approximately half of all those surveyed subscribe to a middle view; they perceive the Bible as God-inspired but are unwilling to accept all Scripture as literal. About 47 percent of all adults and 54 percent of Christians fall into this category.

“Over the past three decades, Americans’ view of the Bible as the literal word of God has been declining, while their view that the Bible is a collection of fables, myths and history recorded by man has been increasing,” the analysis from Gallup concludes. “The shift is most pronounced among young adults, indicating the trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead.”

In its Statement of Fundamental Truths, the Assemblies of God affirms that “Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.”

The Fellowship's position paper on Scripture acknowledges that some passages of Scripture are not meant to be interpreted literally in the strictest sense, but it embraces all Scripture as God’s true, unchanging Word for all people in all times.

“The inerrancy of the Scriptures is not invalidated by the use of multiple figures of speech and various literary genres,” the position paper states. “Parables, analogies, allegories, similes, metaphors, hyperboles, symbols, etc., are to be found throughout the Bible.”

For more on the Bible and history, listen to the Influence Podcast with Craig Blomberg or read our article, Archaeology Confirms 53 Bible Characters.”

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