Friday, June 1, 2007

Biased Researchers

No...no more biased than any of the rest of us. But I doubt there is a dispassionate soul in the entirety of the SBC right now, as regards these issues. Certainly I think we can show that Ed Stetzer would have to be superhuman not to have personal bias germane to this topic.

  1. Entities, blogs, etc., within the SBC have rather strongly polarized over these issues over the past year.
  2. Pro-PPL bloggers include people who have tried to advance Ed Stetzer as the man to lead NAMB, people with very intimate connections with Lifeway Research, and the people for whom Lifeway Research initiated the study to begin with (remember the Roundtable?). Some of his most passionate cheerleaders in the SBC have disproportionately been pro-PPL folks.
  3. Anti-PPL folks in the SBC, on the other hand, include many people who have been harsh critics of Ed Stetzer and Acts 29. Here I go speculating again, but I'm willing to guess that word of that criticism actually made it back to Ed Stetzer (since it has been reported all over Baptist Press). By the way, please note that today is the first time that Ed Stetzer's name has ever been mentioned on my blog.
  4. I don't know Ed Stetzer, but I'm willing to offer once again the bald speculation that he is, indeed, a human being, and as such, vulnerable to being influenced by such things as the #2 and #3.
  5. Lifeway Research has publicly stated that they have been in conversation with bloggers throughout this process. I know that Lifeway Research hasn't been in any conversations with me over this (although I think Lifeway belongs to me as much as it belongs to any other Southern Baptist blogger)—could any anti-PPL blogger tell me about having been in conversation with Lifeway Research about this project? If not, then I guess that Lifeway Research has been in conversation with only one side of a partisan divide as this research has progressed. Can anyone think of a good excuse for Lifeway Research to be coordinating this project with vocal participants from one particular side of this debate? Don't such actions call Lifeway Research's objectivity into question? I don't think that Southern Baptists are well served by a research division that gets cozy with one side in a polarized debate that the division is researching.
Please note, I am not calling anyone from Lifeway Research a liar. I'm just calling them human beings with lopsided connections (at least for some of them) in this particular debate. Please also note, I do not use these facts to say, "Throw the research away! I'm right and you're wrong!" No, I simply say this: Lifeway Research's contribution to this debate is hobbled by these and other factors. Let's not settle for this confused state of affairs. Let's commission a survey by an external, professional, objective polling company. Let's let theologians from both sides of the question, working with polling experts, come to agreement on good questions and good sampling and presentation methodology. If this is done, I promise to acknowledge the results as an accurate depiction of the status of the SBC, whether I like what I see or not. Perhaps I'll make a motion to that effect in San Antonio.

19 comments:

sbc pastor said...

Bart,

Once again, you are right on target, sir. I would second that motion in a heartbeat. God bless!!!

In Christ,
JLG

Bart Barber said...

Jeremy,

If the "target" is the bed, then I'm certainly moving that direction. We'll all continue this conversation tomorrow, no doubt.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

Please note that Dr. Setzers first official date to head LifeWay Research is June 1, 2007. However, according to the podcast he is very aware of this research and gave responses as one intimately involved in it.

Also, you said, "Lifeway Research has publicly stated that they have been in conversation with bloggers throughout this process." Did I miss something somewhere? Where have they admitted that?

This, for me, brings to light more than just being hobbled. It definitely points to a bias.

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

Tim,

A significant portion of the research was done by Stetzer in a separate survey at NAMB. That survey was folded in with an unrelated survey to develop this report.

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

It seems that you are contradicting your own arguments from the past year and a half in regard to the decision of the IMB BoT when you told us to respect the labor that they have done in leading the SBC in missions. Were they not biased? Who were they cozy with? Who are you cozy with?

Why did the IMB BoT not commission a study of SBC theologians to direct them on this task? Why were Southern Baptists not able to speak into a theological position that went beyond the BF&M2000 and has plunged us all into absolute turmoil? Do you think that 50-60 trustees are biased? You defended them at every turn, but now you have done nothing but assail and denegrate the work of another SB entity.

Bart, the largest bias I see right now is you in what you are writing. You refused to accept the protests of people who disagreed with the IMB BoT, and you also refuse to accept any data that says you might be wrong on your assumptions that very few SB's believe that a ppl is biblical. You say you want independent research, and in saying that you are calling the integrity of Lifeway Research into question. Again, I ask you: According to your view of Baptist polity, is that not a question to be taken up by Lifeway's BoT? If they are pleased with Lifeway Research and you are not, then you have one option, according to the advice that you have given me: Replace the Board of Trustees. And, if that takes you 7-10 years, well then, so be it. That's the system we have and you know of no better.

By the way, I do not think that they are biased at all. Did you think that when the Calvinism study came out? If you do now, I have given you your own procedure to address it. What happened to your desire to stop attacking SB entities on the blogs?

Jerry Corbaley said...

Hi Bart,

I am all for a more thorough evaluation of the glossolalia issue and have been calling for such for quite some time.

An evaluation of the current preferences of Southern Baptists would be helpful, but inadequate by itself. Biblical faithfulness is not a matter of majority vote.

There are ways to evaluate the reality of the practice itself. Let's define what is happening, then publish the results, then see what Southern Baptists want to believe.

Perhaps the release of this information is the impetus that Southern Baptists need to seriously evaluate the practice. The pentecostal denominations have never done so.

By the way; I have talked with Ed Stetzer (last March), and I have no reason not to trust him. He does read the blogs. I am also unaware of the context of the comment you made about him being "in touch" with bloggers.

Dorcas Hawker said...

Bart -

Do you remember this letter?

Your post here reads as if there is some inside mystery going on. Simply put, four members of the Southern Baptist Convention sent a request to LifeWay, and LifeWay followed through. Are you saying that you have requested LifeWay to research a different topic and they have not done so? No, I don't think that is what you are saying.

The topic was brought before the LifeWay Research team, and who knows whether this letter was the only reason it was studied or not. But even it if was the only reason, your argument is much the same as if I was asked to research a matter for the preschool ministry and someone complained that I was biased against older children's ministry thereby. It just doesn't make sense.

I see no bias in an entity of the SBC responding to a request put forth by a member of the SBC. Actually, that seems like a very logical result and responsible example of how our convention should function.

Dorcas

volfan007 said...

bart,

nobody from lifeway called me either.

david

martyduren said...

Bart-
Now who has stooped to a "below-Bart-Barber-shot"?

David-
Why would anyone call you? What do you have to offer? Today alone you have posted in 3 different places questions about concepts that do not even appear in the study.

You insist that this study shows a support for "public speaking in tongues" and you use the word "public" when it does nothing of the kind. You are either completely unaware of what the report is actually saying or you are intentionally misrepresenting the report with an ulterior motive, the substance of which I neither know nor care.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Marty, Allan, et al,

Would you not agree that a research vehicle should in no circumstance reveal any hint of bias? You have to agree that when someone doing an independent survey publicly states that they are in contact with the very people that favor the results, there is a huge hint of bias. Also, when a survey is conducted, as Dr. Yarnell has point out, with questions that are worded in order to elicit a certain response it presents bias. No one is questioning Dr. Stetzer's credentials, just his bias.

Concerning your questioning of Brother Bart's integrity in this issue, you must admit the difference is that he refers to an entire board of Trustees making a decision, not 3 or 4 people. I suggest that they send these findings to LifeWay's BOT and see how they respond.

Also, Brother Marty, your response to Brother David is not only arrogant, but reveals a "triumphalism" attitude--something the declaration you and others signed over a year ago asked God to forgive you for.

Blessings,
Tim

martyduren said...

Tim-
Wrong on all counts...especially the last one. Just because you think it does not make it so. I thought you'd have learned that from the Mrs.

Bart Barber said...

Jerry,

I did not say that Ed Stetzer was in touch with bloggers. I said that Lifeway Research was in touch with bloggers.

I only mentioned Dr. Stetzer in the context of being the public focus of debate this year.

Bart Barber said...

To all:

I am not calling for anybody's head, nor am I alleging anything sinister. I am merely pointing out the lopsided connections of the people who published this information, not to harm them or change any policy anywhere, but as a part of evaluating their report.

Surely from the Exit Poll scandals of the past couple of presidential elections we have learned that researcher bias can affect the outcomes of polls even when the pollsters try to be objective.

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

I'm not trying to change anything at Lifeway. Not anything at all.

I'm analyzing a poll.

Paul said...

Neutrality is a complete myth. To expect neutrality from LifeWay is no better than expecting neutrality from Bart Barber, Malcolm Yarnell, Wade Burleson or Marty Duren. The issue isn't neutrality. The issue is whether or not the perspective of the researchers have significantly skewed the results. Until that connection can be made the point seems to be rather moot.

These facts remain: the SBC is divided on this issue to a degree far greater than the opponents of ppl either believed or desired. If it is 40% or even 30% who believe ppl is a valid expression of a spiritual gift today then that remains a far cry from Dr. Corbaley's proposed 5%. Proving that it is actually 30% rather than 50% - or 5% - will not heal the divide. The question is what will we do about the divide? Will we continue to push out the 50% (or 30%, or 5%), or will we have the maturity to agree that Baptists are divided over this issue? Will we guard against allowing this issue to interfere with our mutual cooperation, or will we become a narrow denomination ruled by the tyranny of those who hold the golden keys?

We can spend all the money we want on an independent polling firm and we will not end up with Dr. Corbaley's 5%. Wade has said that if the LifeWay results are accurate he is not interested in pushing out those who disagree with him on this issue. Can the other side say the same thing?

Paul said...

One other thing. I knew LifeWay was biased in that Calvinism survey they did. It's got to be more like 50/50 by now. Those danged biased researchers!! Of course, I'm quite certain that the personal theology of the surveyors had nothing to do with that outcome. At least I must conclude so from the silence of the Malcolm Yarnells and Bart Barbers of the convention.

joerstewart said...

Have I told you I hate surveys.

volfan007 said...

marty,

go to lifeway.com. click on the place where you can see a pic of the graphs they did. the way it's written is belief in speaking in tongues in public....it goes on to show that 50% of sb pastors believe it's a gift from God. what does that say to you? i have repeatedly asked people to correct me if i'm reading that wrong. i ask you to do the same. if i'm reading this wrong, then please help a bro. out!

if it's true, then its very concerning.

david

Alan Cross said...

Paul,

Again, I totally agree with you. You brought us back to the point of all of this. Even if the Lifeway survey is off by 20-30%, there are still far more continuationists in the SBC than Calvinists. So, why does belief in PPL present a problem and and Calvinism does not?

Bart,

You said,

"I am not calling for anybody's head, nor am I alleging anything sinister. I am merely pointing out the lopsided connections of the people who published this information, not to harm them or change any policy anywhere, but as a part of evaluating their report."

The title of this post is "Biased Researchers." Sorry if your protests of innocence here are a bit hard to swallow. But, I always want to give you the benefit of the doubt, if possible.

I am also sorry to keep engaging you on multiple posts. I do not mean to make it confusing for you, but your wrote quite a few posts yesterday and today debunking this study and it is getting difficult to keep up with all of your points. I hope you haven't moved on from here already.