Inerrancy. Does it matter?
Feb 7, 2014
By JONI B. HANNIGAN

Highlighted findings of the survey are listed below: 

Demographics, Observations, and Historical Implications

Demographics. A majority (69.3%) of those surveyed were between the age of 31 and 60.  A significant number were female (69.5%). The level of education (87.0%) was largely clustered around those with a (1) high school diploma, (2) some college education, and (3) associate or technical degree.  Approximately one-half (50.2%) attend church once-a-week and over one-half (51.6%) read their Bible one time per week or less.

Observations. The encouraging observations are that a large percentage of FSB do affirm the doctrine of inerrancy. These percentages range between 85.3% and 98.4%. Between 95.2% and 98.2% affirm the deity of Christ.  In addition, the doctrine of the Trinity is affirmed at 93.0%, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is affirmed with percentages ranging between 95.6% and 98.6%, and miracles reported in the Bible are affirmed with percentages ranging between 92.8% and 93.6%. 

The conflicting observations are the beliefs of some who seem to be denying the supernatural events reported (or theological inferences) in Genesis and the authority of the Bible in their personal lives. For example in the area of supernatural events reported in Genesis roughly 6 out of 10 (62.2%) Totally agree or agree the earth is millions of years old (Q35). Over half (54.9%) Disagree or Totally disagree that dinosaurs lived with Adam and Eve (Q36). When asked “Do you feel because of science that the earth is millions/billions of years?” 41.8% either Totally Agree or Agree (Q41).

In the area of Biblical authority 90.7% either Totally agree or Agree the Bible is their final authority for making life decisions (Q49). Yet, 38.6% affirm “Yes” or “I don’t know” if there is an acceptable time to perform an abortion (Q54).  Almost one-quarter (24.9%) believe living with a boy/girlfriend is acceptable (Q57), and 36.9% believe Christians are Biblical permitted to marry non-Christians (Q58). As to the role of church leadership, 44.6% Totally Agree or Agree that the Bible permits women to be pastors just like men (Q62).

Historical Implications. When Crawford Toy, professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 19th century, taught that the early chapters of Genesis were historically inaccurate and Elliot’s commentary, published in 1969, questioned the historical accuracy of Genesis Southern Baptists overwhelmingly rejected their views. Instead Southern Baptists continued to elevate the Scriptures as inerrant. The data would seem to suggest that slippage on Genesis 1-11 is happening within the general membership of FSB churches. The leadership within the Florida Baptist Convention might be prudent to explore if such slippage is taught within our six seminaries.  Historically, this has been the source location of the denial of Genesis.

Summary. The study revealed that a large percentage of FSB church members affirm the doctrine, but the underlining beliefs are not always consistently acknowledged. There is an inconsistent understanding of Genesis1-11 and misapplication of the moral and personal living commands of the Bible. To the degree, to which, these results reflect the greater SBC is yet to be discovered. Further research seems warranted.

About the researcher: David A. McGee is an assistant professor with Liberty University in the School of Religion (online) and a member of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa area.  He has earned his Master of Theology (Th.M.) at Dallas Theological Seminary and has successfully defended his dissertation to earn a Doctor of Education (D.Ed.) at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  He graduates in the spring of 2014.  

About the research: The data was gathered by America’s Research Group, Limited, Inc. (www.argconsumer.com) and then analyzed by the researcher, David A. McGee. The survey was 68-questions and 502 randomly selected Florida Southern Baptists completed the survey. 

The purpose of this study was to understand to what degree Florida Southern Baptists affirm the doctrine of inerrancy. In addition, there were six sub-topics that were designed to give clarity to their degree of belief in the doctrine of inerrancy. (1) Do FSB affirm the deity of Christ? (2) Do FSB affirm the doctrine of the Trinity? (3) Do FSB affirm the resurrection of Jesus Christ? (4) Do FSB affirm the miracles reported in the Bible? (5) Do FSB affirm the supernatural events reported in Genesis? (6) Do FSB affirm the authority of the Bible in their personal lives? 

Approximately 14 phone calls were made to complete one survey. This quals around 7,028 phone calls to gather 502 completed surveys. Also, this study was delimited to those participants who were able to answer the survey in English. 

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