As A Year of Reading Biblically continues, a handful of people have drawn my attention to a recent study on the Bible reading habits of Christians in Canada.

“Are Canadians done with the Bible?” is the compelling question at the heart of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (CBES), a 32-page report commissioned by the Canadian Bible Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Released at the beginning of May, the report found that the majority of Canadian Christians read the Bible either seldom or never. Only about one in seven Canadian Christians, or 14 percent, read the Bible at least once a week.

Last year, market research company Angus Reid Strategies polled 4,500 Canadians in every province about their use, trends, beliefs about, and attitudes toward, the Bible. Weekly Bible reading has fallen by half since 1996, the survey found.

I can’t say I was surprised when I read these results. I also was not surprised at the survey’s conclusion that Canadian Christians don’t read their Bibles not because they are too busy, but because they question the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible.

Instead, what interested me most about the report was its findings on what drive Canadians’ Bible reading frequency: confidence, conversation and community.

In 1996, 35 percent of Canadians agreed strongly that the Bible is the Word of God. Last year, the survey found that number was down to 18 percent. “Canadians who strongly agree that the Bible is the Word of God are 10 times as likely to read the Bible frequently (at least a few times a week) and six times as likely to attend religious services weekly as those who just moderately agree,” states the CBES executive summary.

Thirteen percent of Canadians and 23 percent of Christians strongly agree that the Bible is relevant to modern life. Canadians with that sort of confidence in the Bible’s relevance “are more than 10 times as likely to read the Bible frequently, four times as likely to attend services weekly, five times as likely to reflect frequently on its meaning for their lives and almost 10 times as likely to talk to others about it at least weekly as those who just moderately agree,” according to the report.

Conversation plays an important role in how Canadians engage the Bible, the survey found, because Canadians who reflect a few times a week on the meaning of the Bible for their lives are four times as likely to read the Bible frequently and twice as likely to attend services weekly as those who reflect just once a week, or once or twice a month.

The survey also suggests that more frequent church attendance is associated with confidence in the Bible. That’s the role community has to play: “The more frequently Canadians attend religious services, the more likely they are to strongly agree the Bible is the Word of God. Those who have only moderate confidence in the Bible are less likely to attend services.”

One of the CBES Report’s conclusions is that Canadians know very little of the Bible’s content. Even when they have access to a Bible, they are more likely “to read in the meaning they assume lies under it” than to really dig in and engage the text itself.

“This suggests that the Bible is not directly shaping much of the church in Canada,” the report states.

So if the Bible is not directly shaping much of the church in Canada, what is? This study suggests that most Canadians are, in fact, done with the Bible.

Are you done with the Bible?

You can read the CBES Report at www.bibleengagementstudy.ca.

--Posted June 18, 2014

In the Year of Reading Biblically series see also:

Part 1- A Year of Reading Biblically starts now (Dec. 16, 2013)

Part 2- Time for what’s important (Feb. 3, 2014) 

Part 3- It’s God’s story (March 17, 2014)

Part 4- Important reminders (April 14, 2014)

Part 5- Getting back on track (May 12, 2014)

To join Aaron in reading through the Bible in 2014, see the scripture reference lists in Daily Guide for A Year of Living Biblically:

Part 1 (Dec. 16, 2013)

Part 2 (March 31, 2014)