Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Worst Theological Invention: Results

As I reported earlier, Ben Myers at the Faith and Theology Blog conducted a poll about the worst theological invention. The results are now in, and they are quite interesting. Turns out that this fun exercise reveals quite a lot about about the state of theology around the world:

Well, after 579 votes, it’s time to announce the winner of “the worst theological invention” poll. It was a very close contest. It was looking as though biblical inerrancy would be a clear winner – but at the last moment, Christendom inched ahead to a first-place tie. So our joint winners are biblical inerrancy and Christendom, each with 18% of the votes. These winners are closely followed by the rapture and papal infallibility (17% each), and then Arianism (14%), double predestination (11%), and just war theory (5%). (In our egalitarian sub-poll, penal substitution was a clear winner, with 24% of 223 votes, followed by God as a male, with 21%.) So congratulations to our deserving winners: biblical inerrancy and the empire of Christendom!

It was interesting to observe the geographical distribution of the votes. While biblical inerrancy and the rapture were more popular among North American voters, the Christendom vote was dominant in Europe and Asia (and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom). Here in conservative Australia, only a couple of people voted for biblical inerrancy, and most voters chose the rapture or papal infallibility. Although the just war vote was not dominant anywhere, it was considerably more popular in the United Kingdom. Biblical inerrancy was very popular among voters from the United States – not many people from the west coast voted for it, but it becomes increasingly dominant as you scroll the map towards the east coast. Finally, it’s interesting that among the relatively small number of voters from South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, biblical inerrancy didn’t receive even a single vote – in contrast to the numerous votes it received in the US and the UK.

I am fascinated by the geographical distribution. I think it reflects both an interesting distribution about views of Scripture (notice that the North/South divide in the poll mirrors that in the Anglican Communion), and also the salience of the various issues. In most of Catholic Europe (heck, all of Europe except the U.K.), biblical inerrancy is really not very popular, and therefore it did not poll well at all. In the UK and the US--where battles over the meaning of Scripture are in full force--biblical inerrancy did well.

And that salience played a role is best evidenced by the fact that an outright heresy (Arianism) about the divinity (or lack thereof) of Jesus polled only modestly. Why? Well, because it is not really a part of our struggle, and has not been since the Middle Ages.

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