The CHRISTIANITY TODAY—Gallup Poll shows the Bible is highly revered but seldom used.

If future church historians choose to describe the last half of this century as a “crisis,” they might well choose to say there was a crisis of authority. Such a crisis exists both inside and outside the church. It may be seen outside in the collapse of society, the resort to violence, the selfish disregard of others, and the desire for instant gratification. Inside the church it appears in such matters as changing attitudes toward sex, redefinitions of worldliness, and the increasing success of the cults, but particularly in attitudes toward the Bible.

To discover the prevailing view of the Bible in the general public and specifically among Protestants and Catholics, the CHRISTIANITY TODAY-Gallup Poll asked questions in four areas. First, where do Americans stand with respect to religious authority. Second, how do they view the reliability of the Bible? Third, how often do they read the Bible, and how much do they know of it? Fourth, what effect does Bible reading have on their beliefs and lives? The answers were then given to a group of America’s leading experts on religious life for evaluation.

Fundamental Religious Authority

When asked where they would turn first when the need arose to test their own religious beliefs, Americans responded as pictured in figure 1.

That over half of America’s Protestants would still turn first to the Bible is gratifying and shows that the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura has not been wholly lost. However, two factors limit the significance of this. First, so many turn elsewhere than to the Bible when they seek religious guidance. While the charismatic revival no doubt accounts for the large number who ...

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