Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Does Bible Study Really Help?

Welcome again to the Teleios blog! We have been exploring together practical ways by which the Bible improves our lives.

“Oh, do I have to study the Bible every day?” Many people consider Bible study a time-consuming chore that they must endure to prove their faithfulness to God. The Teleios team considers Bible study as a wonderful life-enhancing activity that is part of our vital relationship with God.

We decided to evaluate the effect of a Bible study on the wellbeing of 46 healthy young adults from a Christian community environment. This was a “proof of concept” study since we don’t know of any prior research about this topic. The design was a prospective, randomized, active-controlled, single-blind intervention trial.

Subjects were randomized to either an active (detailed bible study program) or a control (minimally detailed bible study program) group in a 3:1 ratio. Ephesians Chapter 1 was chosen as the study text since it details many wonderful characteristics of our great salvation.

The results showed no differences between the active and control groups for any general or specific wellbeing measure. However, when the active group was compared to its own baseline data significant differences were observed in overall wellbeing.

It is unclear from our results why there was an increase of overall wellbeing in the active group. We speculate that the gain in knowledge about the security of their relationship with God, by faith alone, allowed for less guilt and greater confidence.

Interestingly, increased wellbeing was also observed in the control group, but did not quite reach significance, possibly because of the smaller sample size. This group also studied Scripture, but about events surrounding the creation of man in Genesis Chapters 1-4 that did not contain the salvation information from Ephesians provided to the active-intervention group.

Consequently, with a larger sample size it could be that greater wellbeing would have been statistically significant in both groups. If true, it might be that studying any Scripture, regardless of the specific content, could have a positive effect on wellbeing.

This proof of concept study suggests that increases in short-term well-being potentially can be achieved by a Scripture study program over the course of 4-weeks in young Christian adults.

More research is needed to better understand the effect of improved wellbeing associated with Scripture study both in the short and long term.

Is the content of scripture studied important in the improvement of wellbeing?  If yes, which portions of Scripture are best? To participate in our latest poll question - please visit our website at

Thanks for visiting. I look forward to your comments and questions.

WC Stewart

Response policy

The purpose of the comment section is to promote discussion that is encouraging, propels the further search of Scripture and raises interesting and thought provoking Biblically related questions. You may feel free to disagree with me in a constructive manner using appropriate language.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Can adherence to a Bible based lifestyle cure guilt?

Ever feel guilty? This emotion seems to afflict most of us at least intermittently. Non-Christians think Christianity causes guilt. Is this true? Amazingly, Christian practice recently has been associated with enhanced wellbeing. Further, increasing adherence to Biblical lifestyle principles such as praise, prayer, fellowship, church attendance, service and Biblical study have been associated with improved wellbeing.1,2
Guilt, in contrast, is linked with diminished wellbeing3,4 No surprise there!
Unfortunately, little information is available which examines the effects of guilt in a healthy Christian population and how to minimize it. Teleios recently examined the influence of guilt on the wellbeing of evangelical Christians especially associated with their adherence and knowledge of their faith. We defined evangelicals as those who accepted the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ’s death on the cross for forgiveness of their sins (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26).
Our study showed that wellbeing scores appeared generally healthy among our evangelical subjects. However, or those who felt no guilt there was greater wellbeing reported with each question (please see table) except ‘God cares about me’ than the in those who felt some level of guilt. This finding indicates that the presence of guilt may degrade wellbeing in a generally healthy population.
The overwhelming cause for those who indicated they felt some guilt was although they had confidence in their salvation, they “feared that they had not performed enough good works to gain God's ongoing satisfaction.”
The most common reaction to guilt by participant was anxiety, followed closely by a desire for complete acceptance by God.
Importantly ,when the eight wellbeing rankings (please see table) were compared to the scores for adherence to the Christian faith, those who indicated they held to the activities or beliefs noted above showed statistically greater scores compared to less adherent participants! This was especially true among those who most often studied the Bible study or praised God. 
How do we explain this? Studying the Bible may be important because it reinforces scriptural principles that salvation is achieved only by God’s grace, not human efforts, and thus removes guilt as a factor in a Christian's life.  Those less willing to embrace scriptural lessons may demonstrate more guilt because they may imagine God’s wrath and rejection based on their own contrived system of works.
Praise also may help alleviate guilt as it demonstrates an expression of the believer’s view of God's authority and power to save them and helps maintain a correct mental attitude of humility towards God. Humility has been shown in prior work to have psychosocial benefits.5
This study suggests that Christians who conform to basic activities and beliefs of their faith are likely to demonstrate improved wellbeing and less guilt then those who are less adherent.

What is the most destructive type of guilt for those who believe they have been saved by grace?

WC Stewart

Table: Wellbeing questions self rankings
(Scale 0-7, 0 being strongest agreement)
Survey Question
Average score
no guilt
Average score
1. I am content with life
0.9 ± 1.1
1.7 ± 1.2
2. I have peace
0.8 ± 1.1
1.7 ± 1.2
3. I am joyful
0.9 ± 1.1
1.7 ± 1.1
4. I have purpose
0.8 ± 1.2
1.5 ± 1.3
5. God cares about me
0.4 ± 1.1
0.9 ± 3.8
6. I feel accepted by God
0.2 ± 0.7
0.8 ± 1.2
7. I am free
0.3 ± 0.8
1.2 ± 1.3
8. I feel guilty
2.1 ± 1.2

  1. MacIlvaine, W.R., Nelson, L.A., Stewart, J.A., Stewart, W.C. (2013). Association of strength of religious adherence to quality of life measures. Complement Ther Clin Pract, 19:251-255.
  2. MacIlvaine, W.R., Nelson, L.A., Stewart, J.A., Stewart, W.C. (2014). Association of strength of community service to personal well-being. Community Ment Health J, 50:577-582.
  3. Piderman, K.M., Lapid, M.I., Stevens, S.R., Ryan, S.M., Somers, K.J., Kronberg, M.T., Clark, M.M., & Rummans, T.A. (2011). Spiritual well-being and spiritual practices in elderly depressed psychiatric inpatients. J Pastoral Care Counsel, 65:1-11.
  4. Satterly, L. (2001). Guilt, shame, and religious and spiritual pain. Holist Nurs Pract, 15:30-39.
  5. Krause, N. (2010). Religious Involvement, Humility, and Self-Rated Health. Soc Indic Res, 98:23-39.   

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The effect of religion upon wellbeing in the general population

Welcome back to my blog! In recent posts we have been exploring the exciting topic of how Biblical truth enhances personal wellbeing. We’ve discussed research performed by Teleios through a series of surveys in healthy individuals and ophthalmology patients, as well as a review article regarding religion in the medically ill.

Today we explore another medical literature review that we developed last year regarding the effect of religion upon wellbeing in the general population (internal data). Most all the studies we reviewed evaluated members of the Christian faith.

Our review showed a positive effect on wellbeing from religion in the lives of healthy people who were: > 10 years old, either gender  and either African-American or Caucasian.

Religion improved general wellbeing and also in specific measures such as:
  • sense of community
  • purpose
  • satisfaction
  • hope
  • social relationships
  • ability to forgive

Even more, the findings indicated that the measures typically used to adhere and grow in religious faith also increased wellbeing including:
  • fellowship with other believers
  • scripture study
  • prayer
  • praise
  • outreach in the local community 

Additionally, increased adherence to one’s faith gave even greater benefits on wellbeing!

What does this mean practically? This review helps us recognize that religion, and in this case Christianity specifically, may enhance personal wellbeing generally but its benefit also extends to specific areas of life such as career satisfaction, marriage, family functioning, and socialization.

Why would Christianity provide an improved wellbeing? We don’t know of any studies about this but here’s what we speculate.
  • First, on a spiritual level the confidence of God’s acceptance through faith in the sacrifice of Christ helps remove guilt and insecurity about a person’s relationship with God. The importance of such confidence was indicated in several studies noting that medically ill patients who have a negative, insecure relationship with God suffer with worse wellbeing.
  • Second, in practical daily life the Christian scriptures provide advice on wise living in regards to family life, career, ethical choices, treatment of people in terms of mental mindset and speech (i.e., forgiveness, thankfulness, etc.). The benefits stemming from this advice can be gained by adherence to Biblical principles causing maturity (fellowship with other believers, prayer, praise, service and a Biblical learning process).

Our review demonstrated that religion, and Christianity in particular, may provide enhanced general wellbeing across various age and ethnic groups and specifically in family and social relationships as well as career. More research is needed, however, comparing wellbeing to other religions and among cultures.

To consider…would the benefit observed in our review and surveys on wellbeing be observed with other religions?

Thanks for visiting. I look forward to your comments and questions.

WC Stewart

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pastors’ attitudes towards Biblical exhortations in church based ministry

Hello again and welcome back to my blog! We’ve been examining the growing number of studies that have shown religion has a positive impact on wellness in healthy and diseased individuals.1-6 The vast majority of these studies have been performed in countries in which Christianity dominates, either in a cultural or spiritual sense.2

Historically the church, as it does today, often contends against extra-Biblical beliefs emerging from the current culture. Generally the sources are from secular pressures (often from academia, media, or the government) and then cultural pressures from inside the church.  For example, churchgoers may support truisms that seem Biblically based, but may deviate just enough to promote lies about God. Such cultural influences have caused even some seminaries to abandon the founding principles of the Bible!

The impact of these cultural pressures may be important to pastors because they can dilute the positive influence on wellbeing that religious adherence has demonstrated, as noted in the medical and psychological literature.

For this reason recently we surveyed graduates of three seminaries that hold to Biblical teaching (Master’s, Denver and Westminster) in spite of cultural pressures to drift from Biblical teaching. Questions were based on exhortations derived from Scripture or frequently accepted attitudes within the church but not directly sourced from the Bible. 200 pastors participated in the survey.

Our results showed that pastors generally believed it was ‘important’ to ‘very important’ for church members to maintain Biblical exhortations related to their attitudes towards: one another, the church body and leaders, their speech and the outside community. Extra-Biblical attitudes, although perhaps accepted or fashionable within the church, were more often deemed either ‘not important’ to ‘somewhat important’.  Look below at the results.

Table: Average ratings for questions (N = 200)
(Biblical exhortations are highlighted in gray and extra-Biblical attitudes are highlighted in green)
Answer Options
Rating average
My congregation’s attitude towards other members should be expressed by:
I John 3:11
An “agape” type love consistent with the Bible
Galatians 6:2
Bearing one another’s burdens
James 5:16
Praying for each other
O’Day, 2014
Helping others find their spiritual gift(s)
Colossians 3:16
Encouraging each other to godliness
Easley, 2006
Participating in an accountability group
Ephesians 4:3
Maintaining the unity of the body of Christ
My congregation’s attitude towards the church should be that each member:  
Romans 12:1
Serves God through the church
I Thessalonians 1:2
Is grateful for fellow members, lay leaders and pastors
Van Auken, 2013
Desires more church programs, larger facilities, greater membership
Jennings, 2013
Desires a greater emotive worship experience
Thumma, 1996
Assures success of church organized programs by their participation
Acts 2:42
Views it as a source of: prayer, praise, teaching, fellowship and community outreach
0=not important; 1=somewhat important; 2=generally important; 3=very important

Why are these findings important?
  • These results should encourage church leaders because they demonstrate that a substantial group of church pastors recognize the importance of maintaining fidelity to Biblical teachings. To our knowledge this is the first time a survey has shown that pastors trained in a Biblically adherent seminary maintain a current focus on Scriptural exhortations.
  • Church leaders can take comfort that extra-Biblical attitudes are deemed generally less important by pastors. These data should encourage both pastors and church leaders to maintain their focus on strong Biblical teachings that are associated with an improvement in wellbeing in many religion and wellness studies.
  • This should inspire seminaries not to bend their theological stance with cultural trends. Such seminaries will produce Biblically adherent pastors who will tend to maintain these teachings, thereby providing the best chance of promoting physical and mental health.

This study showed that individuals trained in seminaries that teach Biblical principles continue to hold to those principles once they become pastors.  As shown in the medical literature, these principles contribute to improved wellbeing.

Is it important to correct popular Christian jargon that may not be accurate scripturally?

An infographic of this survey is found on our website at:  These results have been submitted for peer reviewed scientific publication.

Thanks for reading!


WC Stewart, MD

1.       MacIlvaine WR, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of community service to personal wellbeing. Community Ment Health J 2014;50:577-582.
2.       Stewart WC, Adams MP, Stewart JA, Nelson LA. Review of clinical medicine and religious practice. J Relig Health 2013;52:91-106.
3.       MacIlvaine WR, Stewart WC. The apologetic value of religion and wellness studies. Christian Apologetics Journal 2013;11:65-83.
4.       Dehning DO, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of religious adherence to attitudes regarding diabetes. J Christian Nurs 2013;E1-E11.
5.       MacIlvaine WR, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of religious adherence to quality of life measures. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2013;19:251-255.

6.       Stewart WC, Sharpe ED, Kristoffersen CJ, Nelson LA, Stewart JA. Association of strength of religious adherence to attitudes regarding glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Ophthalmic Res 2011:45:53-6.