Friday, June 1, 2007

Lifeway Study Analysis: Part 1

I'm performing a wedding. I'll only get bits-and-snatches of time to post over the next 24 hours, so I'll break it into chunks. Perhaps that will be better, anyway. We can all confine our comments to the proper thread dealing with the proper subtopic, and that will facilitate better discussion. There's one big-ticket topic to get out of the way right up front: Knowing how vocal I have been in this controversy, can anything that I would say about this topic be trusted by anyone who disagrees with me? No doubt, many have concluded a priori in the negative. But, since there's not a doggoned thing I can do about that, I'm not going to worry about it. Others will be reasonable listeners. I hope that they will hear me. I am perfectly willing to let the statistics say whatever they actually say. First of all, they confirm what I've said all along—that the preponderance of Southern Baptists do not believe non-linguistic utterances to be the same as the biblical gift of tongues. If our differences are truly over whether God is giving people the gift of speaking Mandarin without having studied it, then I see great hope for resolving our difficulties quickly: Produce for me one of these Mandarin-speaking Alabamans who has not studied the language, and I am indeed disproven. I am open to the possibility of that—God can do whatever God wills. But the practice affirmed by the Lifeway study is talking about a verifiable gift, in which case I answer, "Then let's verify it." So, the study results surprise me, but they are in no way lethal to my position. And indeed, presuming that I harbor the most hostile of sentiments toward the modern practice, I still sincerely desire to know what is the honest state of our convention. I see survey results all of the time that disturb me about our convention, yet without feeling some need to dispute that half of our members are not-to-be-found or that a vast number of our attending members are rather biblically illiterate (results of previous statistical offerings I have seen). If Charles Fox Parham's cheap parlor trick has genuinely infected 50% of the Southern Baptist Convention, I want to know about it. Some want to know in order to dance around in a victory parade—I want to know in order to call a day of fasting and prayer. Whether you believe the true situation to be a positive situation or a negative one, denial is helpful to nobody. So, as I raise what I believe to be valid questions over the next few posts, I know that irresponsible bloggers will raise charges of "crying in the sandbox." I hope that others will at least take the time to listen.


Jerry Corbaley said...

Hi Bart,

Ain't life surpising?

I was truly astonished by the results as released by Lifeway.

Interesting timing for the release.

After the heat and triumphalism have dissipated, the question will remain: Should we evaluate this practice publicly?

When the IMB conducted an in depth evaluation they came to their current conclusion. I think the SBC will do the same.

While I will take every bit as much heat as you, eventually it may be realized that I have been calling for an conscious effort to evaluate the practice all along.

And perhaps it is not a tertiary issue.

FBC said...

I've said much the same at my place. By the way, have I told you I hate all surveys!

Anonymous said...

"If Charles Fox Parham's cheap parlor trick has genuinely infected 50% of the Southern Baptist Convention, I want to know about it. Some want to know in order to dance around in a victory parade—I want to know in order to call a day of fasting and prayer."

Unbelievable. You're right about one thing: fasting and prayer is definitely in order. I guess that I can take from you, Dr. Yarnell, and Jerry Corbaley's statement of "perhaps it is not a tertiary issue", that you intend to set up an inquisition.

Will you not stop until the entire SBC is remade in your image?

Bart Barber said...


Take a deep breath, go back, and read the introductory sentence to that paragraph.

"... presuming that I harbor the most hostile of sentiments toward the modern practice..."

The whole paragraph is a hypothetical asserting that no matter how hostile I might be toward the practice, there is no reason to pretend that reality is any different than it is.

Bart Barber said...

For what it is worth, I do believe the modern practice to be in error. Therefore, I do believe its spread to be a matter for grievous concern. But "cheap parlor trick" is language I reserve for illustrating "the most hostile of sentiments toward the modern practice"

Anonymous said...


I am breathing regularly, at least at this point. I was dealing with your words and objecting to their insulting implications, as though those who believe in PPL are being deceived by a man dead for decades. That would only mean that we are all too stupid to read the Bible for ourselves. It just seems to me that folks on your side are beginning to call for a witch hunt and you have Lifeway leadership in your crosshairs now. I pray that I am wrong about that.

By the way, and this is meant with all sarcasm possible, but not mean-spiritedly: Can you please point me to the analysis of the other Lifeway reports on Calvinism or church swapping by you or your co-horts?

Bart Barber said...


You were dealing with my words used to illustrate the most hostile position.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bart. I did not mean to mischaracterize you. If that is the case, I clearly found your argument hard to follow. It seemed to me that your words illustrated the position that you were advocating. If you say that is not so, I will accept your answer.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, while I was reading Alan's post on his own blog, I thought about why someone like myself or Jerry Corbaley might have the perception would think of the 95% number as accurate. [Note: while there are what I feel some problems with the survey, the number I would have guessed oppose tongues/PPL is evidently much lower than I thought.]

Anyway, according to the survey, 41% of SBC pastors hold a cessationist view, while 50% of them hold the possibility of tongues/PPL (continuationists). What percentage of continuationists actually practice tongues/PPL? If the number is low, though differing in theology, the practice of the 41% and many of the 50% might be the same, giving a perception that the cessationist number is higher than it really is?

art rogers said...

"And perhaps this is not a tertiary issue."

That's true. It is front and center... now. It was a tertiary issue until people began to be excluded on it in a practice that appears to violate the conscience of quite a few Southern Baptists - regardless of the exact numbers.

And for all those decrying the accuracy, remember that the margin of error breaks both ways. It could be more people believe in a ppl.

Bart Barber said...


My position is close, but not quite there. Obviously, I am not representing myself as a neutral bystander! But I would not, speaking for myself, use that inflammatory language.

You have heard my language up-close-and-personal, and I encourage you to draw upon that experience to inform the tone that you read in my comments.

Bart Barber said...


We're not talking about margin of error—we're talking about, among other things, an entire category of Southern Baptist data excluded from the analysis. Why?

Bart Barber said...

R. L.,

The survey alleges that the percentage of practitioners is around 5%.