Christians who change faith traditions are more Scripture engaged than those who don’t: study

Converts to Evangelical Protestantism have highest 'Scripture engagement'

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Christians who change Christian faith traditions tend to have a higher level of Scripture engagement than those who do not, according to a recent study by the American Bible Study.

ABS released the second chapter of their "State of the Bible USA 2023" report on Thursday, examing respondents’ religious denominations and how they differ or align with their mother.

The study has a “Scripture Engagement Scale,” which determines an individual’s level of Scripture engagement based on responses to a series of 14 questions. Those who scored 100 or higher were labeled "Scripture Engaged," which included the subcategories of "Bible Centered" and "Bible Engaged." Those who scored 70-99 were in the "Movable Middle" category, which included the "Bible Friendly" and "Bible Neutral" subcategories. Finally, those who scored 70 or lower were labeled "Bible Disengaged."  

A gap exists in the “Scripture Engagement” scores of converts to the mainline Protestant faith (88) and lifelong mainline Protestants (81). Smaller differences in “Scripture Engagement” scores exist among lifelong and converts to historically black Protestant churches (88 versus 91) as well as Catholics (74 versus 77).

Those who changed faith traditions are more likely to believe that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the pictures it presents” (64%) than those who have stayed with the same faith tradition (47%).

The share of those who have changed denominations who believe that their religious faith is “very important” (75%) was higher than the percentage of those who have remained with the same denomination that said the same (68%). Similarly, 75% of converts to a different denomination were “curious to know more about who Jesus Christ is” compared to 64% of those who have stayed with the same denomination.

The data contained in the report is based on the responses of 2,761 adults across the 50 states to a survey conducted from Jan. 5-30. It has a margin of error of +/-2.59 percentage points.

“Faith is active. Our research suggests that when people seek God, they find him. Part of finding God is developing a life-giving engagement with Scripture,” said ABS Chief Ministry Insights and Innovation Officer John Farquhar Plake in a statement shared with CP.

“We found that on average, Americans who engage in a spiritual quest, who grapple with their faith, become spiritually healthier and more Bible-engaged. This can be seen in a detectable and consistent improvement among people who changed Christian faith traditions.”

The survey found that 61% of respondents subscribe to the same faith tradition that their mother held. That figure rises to 68% among those who classify their religious faith as “other Christian,” 63% among respondents who describe their faith as “atheist/agnostic/none” and 62% among self-described Protestants, while dropping to 57% among Catholics.

All three groups of Christians examined in the survey have lost about one-fifth of their adherents to the “atheist/agnostic/none” category, with 21% of Catholics and other Christians completely abandoning the faith, along with 19% of Protestants. Looking at Christians who switched from one denomination to another reveals more movement in favor of the “other Christian” category than the other two. Fourteen percent of cradle Catholics now call themselves “other Christians,” as do 11% of respondents who grew up Protestant.

By contrast, just 3% of those raised as “other Christians” and 6% of those raised by Catholics are now Protestant, while 4% of respondents with a Protestant mother and 3% of respondents with a mother categorized as an “other Christian” are now Catholic. Fifteen percent of those raised in “atheist/agnostic/none” households are now “other Christians.” Ten percent have become Protestant, while 7% have converted to Catholicism.

Additionally, the report found that those who now subscribe to a different denomination than the one they grew up with score higher on the “Scripture Engagement Scale” than those who have remained with the same faith throughout their whole life. Converts to Evangelical Protestantism have a “Scripture Engagement” score of 95 compared to a score of 93 among those who have remained Evangelical Protestant throughout their lifetime.

This difference also pans out when it comes to the level of curiosity about what the Bible says, with 78% of converts expressing such an interest as opposed to 66% of non-converts.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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