Showing posts with label Christian survey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian survey. Show all posts

Monday, December 14, 2020

Metaphors Can Interfere with Understanding Survey Items and Results

Photo for illustration purposes only

“If Jesus is God, how could he create the world if he wasn’t born yet.”

                     —Girl, age 7

It will be a while until this 7-year-old passes through the stage of concrete operations and begins to pull apart various mental constructs in a serious fashion. Along the way she’ll pick up many metaphors, including those that unravel men’s thinking about God hundreds of years ago. And all sorts of other metaphors.

Americans are known for being religious and in particular, for being Christian; however, as is commonly said, the devil is in the details.

In this post, I look at religious survey items to make a point about being careful when writing and interpreting survey items containing concepts with a range of meaning.


God- Who is God?

Gallup keeps tabs on Americans’ views on God. In an interesting article, Hrynowski (2019) reveals a different response rate for beliefs in God depending on how the question is asked. Specifically, they asked the question about belief in God three ways.

1. The simple question, “Do you believe in God?” gets the highest response—86 to 89% in recent years.

2. When given a few options the percentage of belief drops to 79% in recent polling.

3. When asked if they are convinced that God exists and given other options, the percentage of believers in God falls to 64%

Jesus—Who is Jesus?

Centuries after Jesus life on earth ended, religious leaders argued about his nature and formulated statements essentially saying Jesus is both God and man. For Christians, the widely accepted doctrine of the trinity declares God to be “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

In 2020, the State of Theology survey asked Americans about Jesus by presenting a statement: “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.” Survey participants could select five options representing levels of agreement. Only 28% strongly agreed. Another 23% chose the “agree” option. So if you combine the two levels of agreement, you get 52% and if you add the opposite two choices of strongly disagree (27%) and somewhat disagree (10%) you obtain a level of disagreement of 36%.

What about evangelicals? Despite the difficulty in defining who is and who isn’t an evangelical, the researchers analysed the results to see how those participants who identified as evangelical answered the question. It turns out, 30% agreed.

The Bible—What is Truth?

When it comes to Christians’ ideas about God and Jesus, it’s reasonable to turn to the source material. Thus, the researchers asked participants their beliefs about the Bible. As with all surveys, how the question is asked can make a difference. Here’s the Statement of Theology survey statement:

“The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”

As with other items, participants selected from the range of strongly disagree to strongly agree. The strongly agree level for the US population is 20%.

The statement suggests a dichotomy that ignores an understanding of truth revealed in metaphors. Can you rewrite the statement?


Writers like Marcus Borg (1995) attempt to help Christians deal with various conundrums by pointing out the biblical metaphors about Jesus. So, some writers refer to Jesus as the Son of God. But Jesus is also presented as a lamb and the word.

There are many words in the Bible about God. A dominant presentation is that God is a male figure. Sometimes God is presented as a husband (e.g., Isaiah 54:5)—even a jealous one—and sometimes God is presented as a Father (e.g., Matthew 6: 9-13). But the Bible also refers to God as a Spirit (John 4:24). And in Christian teaching, people lose their distinctiveness as male or female (Galatians 3:28).

So, the point is, are these descriptions of God just reflections of men using metaphors that made sense to people living in male dominated cultures thousands of years ago or must we view God as a man to have a correct understanding? Surely, if Christians do not think metaphorically, the idea that God is like a man is rather limiting.

Of course, there are many religions besides Christianity in the world and those religious people understand God or gods in ways that are different from the diverse views of Christians about the God of the Bible.

Survey Limitations

1. Survey results are interesting but I hope these examples show that people appear to have different perspectives on the central person in their faith.

2. When researchers expand the wording of survey items, the investigators may obtain  more nuanced responses.

3. In some cases, giving participants the opportunity to add a text response to a survey item can help clarify nuances of meaning.

4. In some cases, metaphors make a difference in interpreting the results of a survey. The familiarity of the survey writer and participant with relevant metaphors can enhance or obscure the meaning of the results.

5. When a survey does not consistently tap the same domain of knowledge, reliability is negatively affected to an unknown degree.

6. I once examined the relationship between the intelligence of graduate students to the results obtained when they administered and scored intelligence tests. I never published those data. But I am left with a hypothesis related to this topic— the intelligence of survey writers can affect not only the wording of the items but the interpretation of the results as well. And of course, there is the unknown factor of the intelligence of the people responding to a survey.

Creating Surveys on AMAZON    or   GOOGLE  Worldwide

Final Note

If a 7-year-old girl can ask a thoughtful question about biblical literalism, imagine the difficulty in ascertaining what thoughtful adults really think about a survey topic.


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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Depression Treatment Survey Items


Pentecostal worship from Bing free to use

Trice and Bjorck (2006b) conducted a survey of Pentecostals to determine their views on the causes and cures of depression. Their set of 25 treatment (i.e., cure) items is available for researchers.

There are 25 “cure” or treatment items in their survey. These items are divided into categories, which are reported below along with alpha values found in their article (Trice & Bjork, 2006b).

Spiritual discipline (.60)

Faith practices (.63)

Rest (.76)

Support (.61)

Health (.57)

Psychology/psychiatry (.72)

Neurology (.62)


Prior to completing the survey, participants are given the following definition of depression:

"Depression is a disorder of mood (e.g., feelings, emotions) characterized by sadness and dejection, decreased motivation and interest in life, negative thoughts, and such physical symptoms as sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, and fatigue. Moreover, these characteristics last at least 2 weeks."


For the 25 treatment items, participants rate each regarding its effectiveness as a treatment for depression using the same 7-point scale.

Sample items

prayer with laying on of hands

pastoral counseling


"Test content may be reproduced and used for non-commercial research and educational purposes without seeking written permission. Distribution must be controlled, meaning only to the participants engaged in the research or enrolled in the educational activity. Any other type of reproduction or distribution of test content is not authorized without written permission from the author and publisher. Always include a credit line that contains the source citation and copyright owner when writing about or using any test." (Trice & Bjorck, 2006a)


As a part of their conclusion, the authors reported:

"The endorsement of faith practices (including Scripture memorization, confessing sin, fasting, prayer with laying on of hands, deliverance/exorcism, individual prayer, and the avoidance of Yoga meditation1) as the most effective treatments for depression is consistent with Pentecostal doctrines." (p.287)

This study cited in Sutton's review of counseling and psychotherapy techniques with Pentecostal and charismatic Christians (2021).

See Trice & Bjorck (2006b) for details on the study and items related to causes of depression. 

Resource Link:  A – Z Test Index


Sutton, G. W. (2021). Counseling and psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians: Culture & Research | Assessment & Practice. Springfield, MO: Sunflower.  ISBN-13 : 979-8681036524 AMAZON

Trice, P. D., & Bjorck, J. P. (2006a). Depression Cause and Cure Survey. PsycTESTS.

Trice, P. D., & Bjorck, J. P. (2006b). Pentecostal perspectives on causes and cures of depression. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(3), 283-294. doi:

Creating Surveys on AMAZON    or   GOOGLE  Worldwide

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Christian Beliefs Index Measuring Christian Spirituality

One way to think about the components of religion is three-dimensional, which includes beliefs, practices, and experiences. A few years ago, a group of us studied Christian counseling to discover what Christian counselors actually did that was different from other counselors (Sutton, Arnzen, & Kelly, 2016). We wanted to get more specific about the identity of Christian counselors--beyond a simple checklist of their affiliation with a large group such as Presbyterian or a movement such as Pentecostal. As part of our plan to be more specific about spirituality, we created a few measures. 

Previously, I reported on a scale for assessing spiritual practices. This time I present a measure of beliefs, the Christian Beliefs Index.
The wording of the items clearly applies to the Christian faith, but the point of our measure was to be more precise about the diversity of beliefs within Christian cultures (i.e., groups or denominations). I’ll comment on the items below.
The full index used in the published article follows. It is presented by asking respondents to rate the items using a 5-point rating scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.  

Please tell us a little about your Christian beliefs.

1.      I have had a born-again experience.
2.      God heals some people without human intervention.
3.      All Christians are called to share their faith with others.
4.      People who do not accept Jesus as their personal savior will spend eternity in hell.

Score the index by adding the values. Scores can range from 4 to 20 unless you use a different metric. In our study, the mean was 18.10 and the standard deviation was 2.19. The skew was -1.30, which was acceptable (+/- 1.50). Kurtosis was also acceptable (1.61).  Coefficient alpha for our study (Sutton et al., 2016) was adequate (.76).

We have used the scale in other studies. Here are the alpha levels: .72 (Kelly et al., 2018) and .80 (Sutton, Kelly, & Huver, 2019).

Validity data indicate significant positive correlations with other aspects of spirituality, which supports its use as measuring another dimension of the construct, Christian spirituality. Following is a table showing the Pearson Correlation Coefficients for the relationship between the Beliefs Index and four other measures of Christian spirituality.

Index or Measure
Personal Christian Practices
Intratextual Fundamentalism Items
Christian Social Values
Christian Service Scale

p < .01

Brief Discussion

We designed the Christian Beliefs Index to obtain a more diverse view of Christian beliefs than would be possible from reporting an affiliation with a denomination or group. The born-again item (1) is a marker of evangelicalism so, we would expect high scores reflecting this segment of Christianity. Although many Christians believe in God’s healing power, the belief in divine healing (2) without human intervention is more typical of Pentecostals and charismatics. Of course, belief in miracles, including healing, is also a part of Catholic teaching. The sharing of faith (3) is a Christian mandate and part of what it means to be an evangelical Christian. Finally, the belief in Jesus as a personal savior and the consequences of an eternity in hell is closer to fundamentalism (4). Overall, high scores reflect a conservative type of evangelical beliefs close to fundamentalism, which is supported by the shared variance with the five-item Intratextual Fundamentalism Scale (Williamson, Hood, Ahmad, Sadiq & Hill, 2010).

Note also that these beliefs are significantly related to practices as we might expect but the correlation is lower reflecting a difference between what people believe and how they practice their faith.

The Christian Beliefs Index may be used by teachers and researchers without requesting permission. We just ask you cite either the Sutton, Arnzen, and Kelly (2016) or Sutton (2017b) reference below, which are sources that provide the text of the scales. Of course, more recent studies will include the reliability and validity data.

Resource Link:  A – Z Test Index


Kelly, H.L., Sutton, G. W, Hicks, L., Godfrey, A. & Gillihan, C. (2018). Factors predicting the moral appraisal of sexual behavior in Christians. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 37, (2), 162-177. 

 Sutton, G. W. (2017a). Applied statistics: Concepts for counselors, Second Edition. Springfield, MO: Sunflower. Amazon Paperback ISBN-10: 1521783926, ISBN-13: 978-1521783924 

Sutton, G. W. (2017b). Creating surveys: Evaluating programs and reading research. Springfield, MO: Sunflower. Amazon Paperback ISBN-10: 1522012729 ISBN-13: 978-1522012726

Sutton, G. W., Arnzen, C., & Kelly, H. (2016). Christian counseling and psychotherapy: Components of clinician spirituality that predict type of Christian intervention. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 35, 204-214.

Sutton, G. W., Kelly, H. L., & Huver, M. (2019). Political identities, religious identity, and the pattern of moral foundations among conservative Christians. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 48, pp. 169-187. Accepted 6 September 2019. Online October 16, 2019. 

Williamson, W.P., Hood, R. W. Jr., Ahmad, A., Sadiq, M., Y Hill, P.C. (2010). The intratextual fundamentalism scale: cross-cultural application, validity evidence, and relationship with religious orientation and the Big 5 factor markers. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 13, 721-747.

 Read more about test and other statistics in Applied Statistics.

AMAZON   Paperback or Kindle

Read more about surveys, including assessment of spirituality in Creating Surveys.

AMAZON     Paperback or Kindle

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Interfaith Spirituality Scale

  Assessment name:   Interfaith Spirituality Scale Scale overview: The Interfaith Spirituality Scale is a self-report rating scale that m...