Talk about the revenge of the "tmatt trio"!
Regular readers of this blog may remember the set of questions that, since the dawn of GetReligion in 2005, we have referred to as the "tmatt trio." We are talking about three questions that, in the 1980s, I discovered always yielded interesting and often newsworthy content when I used them as journalistic tools to probe the fault lines inside Protestant denominations.
Now, two of the three questions have shown up in a study by researchers in Canada of patterns of growth, and decline, in oldline Protestant congregations in church-friendly southern Ontario. Hold that thought, because that was the hook for my Universal syndicate column this week, then the latest Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in).
Here's the basic trio set, as articulated in one of my earlier "On Religion" columns:
* Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this happen?
* Is salvation found through Jesus, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
* Is sex outside of marriage a sin?
Now, that 2014 column focused, in part, on conversations with the late George Gallup, Jr., that addressed issues of private and public faith in American life. When I shared my "trio" questions with him, Gallup said the key was that I was asking doctrinal questions, not political questions. The goal, he said, was to find out how these beliefs revealed themselves in the daily lives of real people. That was the link he kept trying to explore in his work. (The trio questions also were embedded in a LifeWay Research survey in 2014.)
That brings us to the current news in Canada, which centers on an academic paper by sociologist David Haskell and church historian Kevin Flatt, published in the peer-reviewed Review of Religious Research. The full title sets the stage:
Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy