So here's my confession, since Iowa's poor showing has outed me. I may very well be the least bible-minded pastor in America.
Respondents to a recent longitudinal Barna study were asked two seemingly simple questions: Did you read the bible in the last seven days? And do you strongly agree in the accuracy of the bible?
Confession: I find all results from the Barna group highly suspect. It constantly surprises me that big and reputable sources look to Barna so frequently for statistics. They're so clearly biased towards one specific Christian hermeneutic.
Clearly I am not putting the best construal on my neighbors actions. I'm sure all the people who work for Barna are fine people. So in my distrust of Barna, I am violating the 8th commandment (the positive side of which, said Luther, was to construe your neighbor's actions in the best possible light). Thus one way I am not bible-minded... I should find a way to construe Barna stats as trustworthy, but I am unwilling).
But let me go on. If somebody called our house on the phone and asked me these questions, I confess to you I would have hung up. I don't do telephone surveys. I don't know if this is rude. It is probably not bible-minded.
If on a whim I would have stuck with the interview, and we came to the question, Do you believe strongly in the accuracy of the bible? I would have answered, No.
Why, you ask? Because although I trust the bible, and actually do find much of it accurate, I can't say I highly agree with the construal of a question with such a leading tone to it.... it's that little word, "strongly."
So let me imagine for a moment, my friends who live in Providence, and San Francisco, and Cedar Rapids, and Boston. I know people in these places. They get this phone call. They're Christians, many of them. Some of them are even non-Christians who read the bible. But you ask them, Do you strongly agree in the accuracy of the bible? Immediately, hairs go up on the back of their neck. They smell something fishy. So of course they answer no.
Now ask me the question, Did you read the bible in the last week? I answer, Of course I did. I had to preach on it, after all, and prepare a lesson for bible study. And the bible showed up in all kinds of other works I have been reading, including this little book right here by my nightstand by Michael Welker on Christology. Yes, I read the bible.
But did I engage in some kind of daily bible devotional reading? Well, it depends on what you mean. I pray the daily office. The daily prayer offices include Scripture lessons. So yes, but it might not occur to me to count this kind of reading.
Additionally, as a Christian who doesn't need to add "bible-believing" as the adjectival prelude to descriptions of myself as Christian, I also don't need to stretch the truth a bit when surveyed on the phone. I wouldn't feel a ton of guilt if I hadn't read the bible this past week, so I would be fairly free to tell the truth. You have to imagine that folks in this survey who live in truly bible-minded cities might feel a bit more social pressure to answer affirmatively even if they skipped a week (or a month, or a year).
And, as a Lutheran-Catholicish kind of person, I imagine myself into a non-clergy role, sitting at my kitchen table anxiously waiting for someone from Barna to call me, and realize I might answer the question--you know, the one about reading the bible in the last seven days--in the negative, because I didn't realize hearing the bible in the liturgy, or praying it with others, or reading it as quotes in other contexts, might count. I figure only evangelicals read the bible every day as part of their quiet time in the morning. Then they journal it and take a photo of their bible with a cup of coffee and post it on Facebook.
Not that there's anything wrong with evangelicals. But let's not let the evangelicals think they are the only bible-minded ones.
Go to church in a Lutheran church some Sunday and set a timer. Measure how much of the service is taken up reading Scripture out loud. Then go to a "Bible" church, and set a timer to measure how much of the service is devoted to the public reading of Scripture. I guarantee the bible gets more air time in the Lutheran church.
Consider this alternative way to measure bible-mindedness. Go to these cities and measure how much time is devoted in public worship to the reading of Scripture in community. Call those cities bible-minded. Better yet, call those cities "predominately Catholic."
What if "bible-minded" is not about believing in the bible's accuracy, but actually conforming our communal life to the Scriptures. In this scenario, Barna would have to rank highest those cities that feed the poor, provide potable water for all, give clothes away, visit those in prison, provide shelter for refugees, and bury their dead well. Barna could measure city codes and decide which ones adhere most closely to the commitment to justice so clearly illustrated in Scripture.
Which cities have the most people who forgive each other, bear wrongs patiently, and comfort the sick?
The truth is, you can read the bible every single day and not be bible-minded at all.
The truth is, you can completely doubt the accuracy of the bible, and yet be bible-minded to such a degree that Christ is clearly alive in and through you.
Bible-mindedness is not a narrowly construed modernist evangelical noetic hermeneutic. Bible-mindedness is a way of life, a story, and often those who question the texts are also the ones who most faithfully live it.
And on the Kindle: Mediating Faith: Faith Formation in a Trans-media Era