According to Barna.org, Charleston/Huntington, WV ranks #10 of America’s Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities, with 47% of the population qualifying as Bible-minded. This compares to the Most Bible-Minded city, Knoxville, TN [52%] and the Least Bible-minded, Providence, RI [9%]. The most Bible-minded cities tended to be from the South, while the least tended to be New England cities. More densely populated tend to be less Bible-minded while less densely tend to be more so. No big surprises there. This information, part of their new Barna:Cities product, is based on 42,855 interviews conducted between 2005 and 2012.
But what exactly is “Bible-mindedness”?
According to Barna, Bible-mindedness was indicated by persons who said they had read their Bible within the last 7 days and who responded Strongly Agree to the statement, “The Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches.”
The problem with this statement is that we don’t know which principles a person has in mind when they answer this question. Do those principles include a prayer-answering God, eternal judgments and rewards, and that Jesus is the only means of salvation? Or did they simply have the moral and wisdom teachings of the Bible in mind when they answered? Do these folks also hold the Bible true from the beginning, including its historical veracity, as the Psalmist affirmed? Or have they made a false dichotomy between its spiritual truths and its factual truth claims, though Jesus spoke against this in John 3:12?
The only way we could get past this fuzzy statement to what it meant to those who answered is to pay Barna $99 per city to see how respondants answered other questions. They’re going to have to give me a better reason than some fuzzy notion such as Bible-mindedness as they’ve defined it.
But what do the numbers mean?
David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, suggests that “the overall picture that is painted depends on one’s vantage point. The least sanguine way to analyze the results would be to emphasize the lack of Bible-mindedness in America; in 91 out of 96 markets a majority of the residents are not Bible minded.
“However, a more optimistic way to view those markets would be to look at those cities with at least one-fifth Bible-mindedness—meaning those areas where at least one out of five adults are open to engaging and esteeming the Bible. Among some researchers, this proportion—20%—is often thought to be something of a social or technological “tipping point” (for example, once one in five people had mobile phones, the momentum toward more people owning mobile phones began to grow exponentially). In this analysis, 83 out of 96 cities in the U.S. have at least 20% of their residents qualifying as Bible-minded.”
The problem with Kinnaman’s more optimistic take on these numbers is that the tipping point application only works for trends that are on the rise [something he full well knows]. If Bible-mindedness were a relatively new thing and we now observed that 1 in 5 persons were Bible-minded, we could take this as an encouragement that this trend might well be on the rise; however, statistically speaking [and even Barna's own research confirms this], both the influence of the Bible and Christianity is most definitely not on the rise in America. Quite the opposite. So there is absolutely no reason to take these statistics optimistically in the sense he asks of us. Yes, we still have a “significant basis for biblical engagement” amongst a significant [but shrinking] share of the population, but Kinnaman steadfastly fails to acknowledge the reason that Bible-mindedness is erdoding in America is because we teach our kids an all-natural just-so story intended to replace the Biblical revelation of a supernatural Creation Week. Once they see the Bible as flawed or erroneous when it comes to science or history, they fail to see why they should hold its truth claims [principles] as being true. The Bible and its principles become irrelevant.
If Kinnaman, who has made his position on traditional creationism versus evolution clear in his book, You Lost Me, would take principle Jesus taught to Nicodemus in John 3:12, he would not be trying to divorce the factual claims of the Bible concerning our origins from its spiritual principles and pretending as if that were enough. For as Jesus asked, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly?”