Gallup just published a poll called, “In U.S., 3 in 10 Say They Take the Bible Literally,” and yet the poll would better be titled better, “In the U.S., 8 in 10 Say They Take the Bible as Inspired.” However, the title is itself a slander against believers. Either the latest Gallup poll is prejudice or very ignorant of perceptions of the Bible. This site has noted this before in the Pew Forums religious knowledge test. At least, this Gallup poll presented the attendance of believers rather than grouping believers who attend assemblies with those who do not and then claiming that Christians are ignorant as Pew Forums did. The headlines have already started with this poll showing the decline of the view of the Bible, and misleading people to think that most of the U.S. does not believe that the Bible is inspired.
Flaws in the Questions
The poll’s question is flawed. Gallup asks an “either, or” question that leaves many saying, “Both and what?!” Look at the question:
Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible — the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man?
For instance, most Christians could respond, “Yes, the Bible is the actual word of God that should be taken literally, and yes, the Bible is the inspired word of God and not everything should be taken literally. Lastly, what?! No, I do not believe the Bible is a book of fables or legends, and yes, I do believe the Bible to be an ancient book of history and moral precepts recorded by man.” The Bible is literal and yet not everything in the Bible is literal. The Bible contains poetry and great amounts of figurative language including Jesus’s parables and symbolic language in Revelation. Every word is neither literal nor the actual word of God. For example, when the Bible records the words of an evil person, that is not the Word of God. However, every word of revelation is the actual word of God.
The problem is the question. The question allows its users to manipulate and slant the truth their way. This question is divisive. Is this supposed to make believers feel isolated and out of touch? This poll draws an ambiguous line between believers of the Bible. Why?
Flaws in the Definitions
Many people do not understand the word “inspired” alike especially regarding views of the Bible. Inspired means guided “in Spirit” to the those who believe in the literal word-for-word belief “inspired” means that the Bible is God’s revelation. Others see inspired like a writer is inspired and thereby an experience or finding compels that person. Furthermore, the study used “literal” in an ambiguous way as though every word is serious and literal as the word of God. Did Gallup consult a theologian about this question? Has this been the same question they have asked throughout the years?
Considering Jesus’s Words
Most Americans respect the words of Jesus. However, many have missed that Jesus’s words come not just from His life, but also through His Apostles and prophets (Matt 23:34; cf. Eph 3:3–5). He revealed that He gave those words to His apostles (John 17:8). Furthermore, Jesus gave His words the Spirit who spoke through them as Jesus declared that His Spirit would (John 16:12–13). Jesus declared that His words would never pass away (Matt 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). By this, believers must take the whole of Jesus’s words from Matthew to Revelation. The spiritual life of all Christians rest on these words (John 6:63).