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Millennials take their Bible seriously

Friday 7 November 2013

A study of 18-30 year olds in the US has found that young Christians have a very high view of Scripture, but the same can’t be said of young Australians. Ninety-six per cent of those surveyed believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God, and the same amount think the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life.

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The survey run by Barna Group in partnership with American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship also found that despite the prevalence of smart phones, American millennial Christians still prefer to read the Bible in print than on a screen.

They’re interesting figures at a time when less and less people believe the Bible is the Word of God. At the same time as Christian millennials are upholding the authority of the Bible, non-Christian millennials surveyed were found to hold very negative views. About one in five said the Bible is “an outdated book with no relevance for today” and 27 per cent thought the Bible is “a dangerous book of religious dogma used for centuries to oppress people.”

Of course these findings are highly specific to the US context where going to church or identifying as a Christian is still quite normal. Eternity spoke to Bible Society Australia’s National Youth Ministry Developer, Adrian Blenkinsop to get an idea if these results would be similar in Australia.

Adrian spends a lot of time with young people developing new and creative ways to engage them with the Bible. Through this process he has a unique insight into how young people approach it.

He says the big difference in Australia is that generally we are much more openly post-Christian than the US, and there is much less confidence in the Bible as an authority than in the States. He says young Australian Christians are more likely to approach the Bible for endorsement of how they’re currently living rather than challenges to their behaviour and thoughts.

“I think young people in Australia generally approach the Bible as a source of inspiration, as a book of how to live. It’s quite a consumerist approach to Scripture: I go to the Bible if I need something. The Bible is important to me if I see it of value to me and my life.”

Adrian is the author of The Bible According to Gen-Z, a collection of essays designed to help youth pastors and others working with young people to find ways of engaging them with the Bible.

In putting together the book, he undertook research into Gen Z’s view of the Bible in Australia.

“I think in Australia the Bible is viewed far more sceptically than what I saw in the Barna survey,” says Adrian. “I also think here in Australia… young people think that if they believe the Bible they’ll have no friends and they’ll be seen as being fundamentalist or intolerant. That came out clearly in our research, this crisis of confidence in Scripture.”

Adrian says the difference between the two countries’ approach to the Bible has much to do with our history and culture, and that it’s up to those reaching out to young people to try and break through to the youth of Australia.

“Historically we’ve been very prescriptive about how we want a young person to engage with the Scriptures, but we need to encourage young people to explore the Bible in community, to struggle and wrestle to find answers themselves.”

Image: Adam Dimmick, Flickr, used under CC License.

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