According to a recent Gallup poll, the dominant view of Americans is that the Bible is the Word of God. But what does that mean? Well, it’s according to whom you ask. According to the poll results released last week, there are three general beliefs about the Bible among Americans. One is that the Bible should be taken literally because it is the actual Word of God. Another is that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and should not be taken literally. Others believe the Bible is an ancient book of stories written by men and have no divine inspiration.
The poll results show that three in ten Americans take the Bible literally. Forty-nine percent say the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Seventeen percent regard the Bible as no more than an ordinary, ancient book. These percentages have remained rather stable over the past 20 years. Since 1992, for instance, the percentages of those who take the Bible literally have ranged from 27 to 32 percent. During the same period, the percentages of those who regard the Bible as the inspired Word of God ranged from 47 to 51 percent.
Though most Americans believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, certain subgroups are more likely to take the Bible literally, such as the majority of those who attend church at least weekly, and those with a high school education or less. Also, conservatives are much more likely than moderates and liberals to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, according to the Gallup poll.
What we believe about the Bible influences our behavior and our views about life. For instance, those who believe the Bible is literally the Word of God are more likely to oppose abortion rights and same sex marriage, etc. This is based on what they understand that the Bible teaches on these socials issues. We see this dynamic currently being played out between liberals and conservatives in the political arena. Moreover, when a person believes that the Bible is literally the Word of God, he places the teachings of the Scriptures above the laws of men.
On the other hand, those who regard the Bible as the inspired Word of God take a more subjective position on the Bible. They may buy the biblical concepts but not the actual language found in the Scriptures. The person you meet with more liberal, moderate, or flexible social views is more likely to belong to this group.
At least one thing is clear from the latest Gallup poll. It is that through the Bible God still speaks in America, but we are not all walking away with the same message.