News Articles

CULTURE DIGEST: Prayer study was
flawed, Southern Baptist professor says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It’s being called the largest study ever to examine the effects of prayer, but a Southern Baptist professor says it’s not much of a barometer at all.

“Anyone who seeks a prayer life guided by Scripture will not take this study seriously,” Don Whitney, associate professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “Prayer is based upon a relationship, namely a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and prayer is itself a part of that relationship. And relationships cannot properly be evaluated by scientific methods.”

The study, which appears in the April issue of American Heart Journal, found that prayer by others has a neutral effect on the risk of complications after bypass surgery and that people fare worse if they know others are praying for them.

Doctors began the study on intercessory prayer nearly a decade ago when they asked volunteers from one Protestant prayer group and two Catholic prayer groups to lift up the names of patients in the trial, and they were required to include the phrase, “for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications.”

Patients were randomly assigned to three groups — one that was prayed for, one that was not prayed for and one that was told people were praying for them. None of the patients in the first two groups knew someone was told to pray.

Results indicated that 30 days after surgery there was no difference between patients who were prayed for and patients who were not. In fact, a significantly higher number of patients who knew they were being prayed for suffered complications.

“This study approaches prayer almost mechanically,” Whitney said, noting that a particular phrase had to be prayed exactly and specific medical results had to be recognized. Also, researchers presumed that those who prayed had a personal relationship with God that would give power to prayer.

“This divorces prayer from the Gospel of Christ which establishes the relationship between any individual and a prayer-hearing God,” he said.

Whitney added that it doesn’t matter what such studies conclude because Christians do not govern their prayer lives according to the latest scientific studies.

Another Southern Baptist professor, Mark Coppenger, was quoted in USA Today in regard to the study, saying he questions the wisdom of measuring God’s response.

“It’s my experience that God actually prompts our prayers,” Coppenger, distinguished professor of apologetics at Southern Seminary, said. “But I don’t see Him cooperating in a test.”

SONY SETS UP FORUM FOR ‘DA VINCI’ DISCUSSION — Those who wish to combat the heresy-laden “The Da Vinci Code” as its debut in theaters approaches now have a forum sanctioned by the movie producers themselves for the purpose of discussing the basis of the film.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has set up thedavincichallenge.com as a place for certain detractors to make arguments against the film based on Dan Brown’s bestseller suggesting there was a conspiracy to cover up the fact that Jesus was married and never rose from the dead.

“We believe this is unique and perhaps can set a tone for others,” Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for Sony Pictures, told The New York Times. “We’ve all seen how some movies can evoke great consternation in society in the past, and I think many people want to move towards a more educational and uplifting dialogue.”

Essays by select Christian writers, scholars and leaders of evangelical organizations who seek to discredit the book’s theological and historical claims about Christianity are being posted now until the film’s May 19 release. Dorothy Kelley Patterson, professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is among the authors, as are Chuck Colson, George Barna and Josh McDowell.

“Heresy rightfully gets Christians upset, and responding is necessary,” Barna told The Times.

VALUES VOTERS DRAW UP CONTRACT WITH CONGRESS — Recalling the Republican Party’s “Contract with America” from 1994, evangelical Christian and conservative Catholic and Jewish leaders gathered in Washington to draw up a “Values Voters’ Contract with Congress” March 27.

“… [We] are moved by our faith in God to join together now to defend government of, by, and for the people against the greatest assault it has ever faced: the destruction of our Constitutionally-mandated republican form of government by judges who legislate from the bench and, thereby, subvert our liberty and our entire way of life,” the contract begins.

Among the 10 general goals set forth in the document are specific laws the group hopes Congress will pass in the coming months, including the Pledge Protection Act to ensure the words “under God” are not removed, the Marriage Protection Act to defend the institution of marriage from homosexual activists, and the Human Cloning Act to prohibit the cloning of people.

“This contract tells Congress they can count on our vote if these things become front-burner issues,” Rick Scarborough, a lead organizer of the summit, told The Washington Times.

The conference was called “War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006,” and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” March 30 to discuss whether Christians really are under attack in America.

“Well, clearly, it’s not a war on Christianity like we talked about last week with Abdul Rahman and what he was under, but it’s a hostility nonetheless,” Perkins said in reference to Rahman’s arrest in Afghanistan for having converted to Christianity.

“I mean, just last week in San Francisco, 25,000 young evangelicals gathered there for a rally, and the board of supervisors passed a resolution,” Perkins added. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a legislature pass a resolution condemning them as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist group that spreads hate.”

STUDY: SEX-FILLED MEDIA LEADS TEENS TO SEX EARLIER — Teens whose parents neglect to talk to them about sex and who learn of the topic instead through music, movies, television and magazines are more likely to have sex, and at a younger age, according to a new study at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The research, conducted by the university’s journalism and communications professors, indicated that responsible parental involvement is a powerful influence when it comes to the sexual behavior of their teens.

Besides the stimulating effects of sex-charged media, researchers said when teenagers take in large amounts of content then they begin to believe everyone else is having sex, even if they don’t know such people personally.

Teens “may begin to believe the worldview portrayed and may begin to adopt the media’s social norms as their own,” the study, published in the April issue of Pediatrics, said. “Some, especially those who have fewer alternative sources of sexual norms, such as parents or friends, may use media as a kind of sexual superpeer that encourages them to be sexually active.”

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach