Tag Archives: free-will

Using Statistics in Christian Ministry

Interesting factoid: Statistics are better and more accurate predictors of human behavior than estimations of human behavior based on ‘known’ facts. For instance, I can say that so-and-so will do such-and-such a thing because I have seen examples of people doing such things. I’m basing my judgment on anectodal evidence. The problem with anectodal evidence is that it is just that — anecdotal. My own observations are very, very limited and generally do not reflect true trends.

There are all kinds of organizations, companies, and agencies in the world at large that do nothing but collect statistics on human behavior. One such area where research of this kind is extremely useful is in the social sciences, specifically psychology and counseling. Counselors are beginning to rely more and more on statistics in predicting patient/treatment outcome because it has been shown that these numbers are better at prediction than are our own estimations. An example of this is predicting that a patient is going to relapse into former unhealthy behaviors, even though current treatment is going very well, because the numbers indicate that the vast majority of patients similar to this one have themselves relapsed. Such knowledge gives the counselor a heads-up and gives them the opportunity to head the problem off and try a different tack to avoid the relapse itself.

Many Christians I know cringe when they see statistics used in this way. The general notion as I perceive it is that these statistics tend to remove or negate man’s free will, placing him into a box and taking away his ability to control his own actions. The fear here, I think, is that the use of statistics in the helping professions will prove our methods useless and redundant, that they will prove that man has no choice but to act in such ways, that all our work and effort
is, ultimately, in vain. The fundamental misunderstanding here is, however, that while statistics predict accurate future behavior, they in no way influence behavior itself. Statistics are simply
descriptive and serve certain purposes in the helping professions.

This all leads me to wonder how much of a role statistics plays in Christian ministries. I am sure that there are organizations out there that gather such data, analyze it, organize it, and deliver it to churches, ministries, and various similar Christian agencies, but I am personally unaware of such groups. Organizations like Focus on the Family and Crisis Pregnancy Centers undoubtedly collect data to some extent, but I wonder how much of that is used to write and publish reports and journals that would be useful to the Christian community at large. Since my Master’s degree is in psychology and my background and area of interest is in research, data collection, and analysis, I have a vested interest in finding or establishing an organization that conducts surveys, tests, and the like and uses the resultant data in a meaningful way to aid the Christian community in outreach. So, if anyone has heard of such organizations (or has
money to throw toward funding research grants), I would love to hear about it. It would be very cool to put my particular skills and interests to work for the furtherance of the work of God.

Postscript: 2 Peter has a lot of good stuff! I may write a bit about it in the near future…

Yeah, He’s That Kind of God

I posted this earlier today as a comment on Joel’s blog and I think that it bears repeating here.

So, in the beginning, God created Man in a state of perfection. He did not want mindless servitude. Instead, he opted to give his new creation the ability to choose relationship and fellowship over disassociation and unfamiliarity. God desired relationship, not out of some need, for he certainly had all that he needed and was not lonely nor needed anything to give him glory. He simply desired to create, and so he did, and Man was born into God’s image. Yet, relationship means little if it is not established freely, and so God had to give Man the ability and option to choose. And being all-knowing, God of course knew that Man would fail, would be
deceived. Still, this does not detract from God’s glory for all things always yet give God the glory for he is able ever to work things out for the greater good. He is the Father, and we are the children, and as such he demands no less than our love and loyalty. Yet his demand is gracious, compassionate, and patient, and his wrath is experienced only as a last resort, as the last option to soften a heart that has been hardened. God could have made things differently, surely, and yet he chose to create the world in this way. He could have made another completely like unto himself, and yet he would still be the Creator and the new would still
be the created.

Christ is yet the firstborn over all for he is the first to create, the first to sanctify, the first to defeat death, and the first, and only, to establish a direct line of everlasting relationship to the Father.

You Can’t Force Unity

Man’s search for a unified body of knowledge has led to a “forcing” of that unity because he has not been able to attain it in any rational sort of way, and he has forced this unity to encompass all of life and all of knowledge. Man has been reduced to a machine, with no freedom, just a function of the elements. And yet we know that free will exists, for Man operates against what would seem logical and against what would seem to be the appropriate response to a specific stimulus. And the modern modern scientist would simply nod and smile and insist that this is still not freedom, that there must be an element of which we are unaware which causes the response, for Man is a machine, determined by Fate or the environment or whatever else to behave in a certain way.

Thought based upon a chapter by Francis Schaeffer in Escape from Reason.