Study shows divide on Calvinism
Baptist Press
January 03, 2011

Study shows divide on Calvinism

Study shows divide on Calvinism
Baptist Press
January 03, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Barna Group released findings in 2010

that said despite what “observers and journalists have described as … a

significant trend” in terms of a Calvinism movement, numbers of Calvinists

among Protestant pastors are not greater today (31 percent) than a decade ago

(32 percent).

The research includes four studies conducted from 2000

through 2010, each involving a minimum of 600 phone interviews with random, representative

samples of clergy.

Barna’s results about the broader Christian community

seemingly stand in stark contrast to reports released by Southern Baptist

Convention (SBC) entities showing a surge in identity with five-point Calvinism

in Southern Baptist life.

In 2007, the North American Mission Board’s Center for

Missional Research released findings that nearly 30 percent of recent seminary

graduates (1998-2004) serving as church pastors identified themselves as

Calvinists. Details about the sample methodology and size were not released and

this study is not available for public review.

This compared to 10 percent of all pastors in the SBC who

affirm the five points of Calvinism, according to a 2006 LifeWay Research study

of a cross-section of 413 randomly selected SBC pastors.

At the release of the research, Ed Stetzer who directs

LifeWay Research, said the findings show “a growing influence” of Calvinism in

SBC life and “certainly a growing influence in the graduates of our


The Barna study appears to show that despite what has been

reported as a spike in the numbers of Calvinism adherents among recent SBC

seminary graduates, there hasn’t been a groundswell in the broader Christian

community over the last decade.

The numbers of those identifying themselves with Calvinism

or Reformed Theology have held fairly steady around 31 percent.

However, the longitudinal study showed a much greater

variation year-to-year in the number of pastors who identified themselves as

either “Wesleyan” or “Arminian,” with a drop from 37 percent to 32 percent when

comparing 2000 with 2010.

The Barna Group study did not define the theological

identities, but left that interpretation to each participating pastor.

Other findings released by Barna include:

  • On average, weekly adult attendance in Reformed or

    Calvinist churches grew from a median of 80 in 2000, to a median of 90 in 2010,

    an increase of about 13 percent. During that same period, weekly adult

    attendance in Wesleyan or Arminian churches increased 18 percent, growing from

    a median of 85 in 2000, to a median of 100 in 2010.

  • Among pastors 27 to 45 years old, 29 percent described

    themselves as Reformed compared to 34 percent who self-identified with the

    Wesleyan tradition. Those between 46 and 64 years old were evenly split

    theologically, with 34 percent claiming Reformed roots and 33 percent citing a

    Wesleyan perspective. Pastors 65 years-old-and-up were least likely to place

    themselves in either camp, with only 26 percent naming a Reformed background

    and an almost equal number, 27 percent, pointing to a Wesleyan foundation.

  • 47 percent of pastors of mainline churches (American

    Baptist Churches, Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America, the Episcopal

    Church, the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and United Church

    of Christ) named their congregations as Wesleyan or Arminian compared to 29

    percent of mainline pastors who chose a Reformed or Calvinist label.

  • Among pastors of non-mainline churches, 35 percent said

    they were Reformed or Calvinists, and 30 percent said they were Wesleyans or


  • A greater number of Reformed/Calvinist pastors identified

    themselves as theologically liberal (17 percent) than did Wesleyan/Arminian

    pastors (13 percent).

  • Of the pastors who took part in the Barna study, 65

    percent of Wesleyans/Arminians reported having completed seminary, and a

    statistically equivalent 62 percent of Reformed/Calvinists said they had, too.

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