Category Archives: News

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 interventional trial (more details here).

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.

Can adherence to a biblical 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 Bible 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 that 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 (complete results found here) showed that wellbeing scores appeared generally healthy among our evangelical subjects. However, of those who felt no guilt there was greater wellbeing reported with each question (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 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.

  1. MacIlvaine, et al. (2013). Association of strength of religious adherence to quality of life measures. Complement Ther Clin Pract, 19:251-255.
  2. MacIlvaine, et al. (2014). Association of strength of community service to personal well-being. Community Ment Health J, 50:577-582.
  3. Piderman, et al. (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.  

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 we conducted regarding the effect of religion upon wellbeing in the general population. Most all the studies we reviewed evaluated members of the Christian faith. Please see the full report here.

Our review showed a positive effect on wellbeing from religion in the lives of healthy people who were: > 10 years old, both genders, 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.

Pastors’ attitudes towards Biblical exhortations

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.

Why are these findings important?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

  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.


A sure-fire way to enhance health: Pay attention to your body!

A guest blog from Rod MacIlvaine…

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

This would have been a very surprising statement for Paul to make to an assembly of sophisticated Greeks living in the 1st century. The Greek view of the body suggested it was the prison house of the soul. The body was a hindrance to the freedom of the inner-self. That view caused many people in the ancient world to disrespect their bodies in many health-destroying ways.

The biblical view of the body is very different. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible asserts a unity between the physical body and the immaterial soul. What we do with our bodies affects our soul; what we do with our soul affects our body. Because we are a soul/body unity, it’s critically important that we respect our physical body as something that can impact emotions, joy and consequently many ranges of mental health.

Conversely, those disciplines that calm and center our soul on God have the potential to affect our physical health.

Specifically, in this case, Paul says, “Don’t commit acts of sexual immorality.” Why? We know today from the vantage point of modern science that these acts will create body/soul memories, imprints that often interfere with genuine long-term stable relationships, especially with those we love the most, not to mention causing estrangement in our relationship with God.

Moreover, sexually transmitted diseases are exploding today. According to the CDC, “half of the estimated 20 million STDs that occur in the United States each year are among young people.” According to RH Reality Check, the recent rise in sexually transmitted diseases continues as epidemic proportions (1).

But we can extend Paul’s principle of respecting the God-given boundaries of our bodies, to other areas as well. We live in a world where science-based studies inform us about all sorts of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. So, I think Paul would say, by application, “Look, glorify God in your bodies by maintaining good habits of mental and physical health.”

All of us know that certain habits will quickly destroy physical and mental health. Pornography is a quick way to addiction. Drug abuse is a quick way to mental instability. Abusing food is a slow path toward physical ill-health.

But the ultimate reason for maintaining habits of health is that our bodies are a portable mini-temple for the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are containers. But they are more simply disposable containers.

Our bodies are dignified and spiritual. We are a temple reserved for God the Holy Spirit to do his work.

If we are healthy we’re going to have greater opportunities to represent the risen Christ through the power of his Spirit.

Another passage supports this as well: Romans 12:1-2 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The fundamental way we steward our bodies is to present them to God each day.

And because we’re a soul/body unity, we are simultaneously presenting both body and mind.

Daily stewardship of our physical bodies is going to lead to greater long-term health and happiness.

Rod MacIlvaine – Director of Faith-Based Research
Rodman MacIlvaine, III, DMin is on the adjunct faculties of both Oklahoma Wesleyan University andDallas Theological Seminary. He is the founding senior pastor of Grace Community Churchin Northeastern, Oklahoma – a church that has worked extensively to serve educational needs in the Spanish Speaking Caribbean. A Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Dr. MacIlvaine works with men and women in transition, especially those who are shifting into second careers. Dr. MacIlvaine specializes in apologetics from an historical and theological perspective. His emphasis is in showing how adhering to God’s word has generated many benefits to societies, cultures and individuals.


Marriage – rich source of wellbeing!

Welcome back to the Teleios blog! We have been exploring together how the Bible improves our lives practically.

Most people would agree that few topics are as important to our lives as marriage. This long-standing institution has been under attack in our culture for the past few generations! Is marriage, as traditionally defined as a legal union between a man and a woman, worth preserving for society? Is there an advantage to this form of union to individuals’ mental and physical health, and to society in general?

To analyze this question we reviewed past studies in the medical literature which evaluated the benefits and disadvantages of legally binding, heterosexual marriage. We went back as far as 1966!

The analysis showed overwhelming benefits of traditional marriage on general wellbeing and specific parameters that might affect wellbeing, including physical and mental health, sexual satisfaction, family income, and children’s outcomes. Of the 42 articles evaluated, only 3 did not describe any marriage benefits. Even more, the stronger the relationship commitment, the greater trend of enhanced wellbeing. Never married, widowed and divorced individuals suffered the lowest wellbeing.

Interestingly, individuals in a committed relationship, even unmarried, generally had improved elements of wellbeing compared to those uncommitted. But marriage relationships, which typically demonstrate the strongest legal and outward social commitment to a relationship, generally had the highest wellbeing of all relationships. Further, some evidence in diseased and depressed individuals indicated that the better quality of the marriage relationship, the better the wellbeing-related outcome.

How to explain these results? We speculated on several reasons.

  • First, a committed partner helping with income, household tasks, and raising children can lessen the burden compared to a single parent.
  • Second, socialization with a marriage partner provides a potential source of personal enrichment, encouragement and empathy.
  • Third, the more committed the relationship, the greater confidence spouses can have in each other thus conserving time, money and emotion required to correct problems in their relationship.
  • Fourth, marriage partners can help maintain good health by encouraging each other to keep medical appointments, take medicines and develop a healthy lifestyle.
  • Last, the marriage commitment may facilitate sexual satisfaction by building confidence that no competing love interest is diverting the attention of their spouse.

Why would a committed marital relationship have a positive impact on children and the community? Again we speculated.

  • First, the ability of a couple to help each other provides sufficient time and money resources to better raise children and serve the community.
  • Second, satisfied couples who are not dealing with internal problems can more easily look outwards to helping their children and community.
  • Last, committed couples who agree together how to raise their children can provide a more consistent, productive, secure and supportive home environment.

Our review suggested that traditional marriage generally provides numerous benefits to the relationship partners through enhanced measures of mental and physical wellbeing, and benefits to their children compared to other heterosexual partnership arrangements or single status.

To ponder, should the US government institute policies that encourage traditional marriage as a method to enhance societal wellbeing and economic success?

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

Christian principles enhance wellbeing in people suffering illness

Greetings again and welcome back to my blog! We have been exploring the exciting topic of how Biblical truth enhances personal wellbeing. Last week we discussed, based on a prospective study performed by Teleios, that when patients with glaucoma adhere to Christian principles they have greater wellbeing and easier acceptance of their disease (1).

As helpful as prospective studies are, we are fortunate that many past medical investigators already have performed a lot of work showing that Christian principles enhance wellbeing in people suffering illness. We recently compiled this information in a review (2). The vast majority of the research was performed in historically Christian countries.

Our review found that religious faith is important to many patients, particularly those with a serious disease, and that patients depend on it as a positive coping mechanism. Further, many patients react positively to a physician’s spiritual interaction with them, especially with greater severity of their health problems.

Importantly, religious practices, including prayer, generally provide positive results in the patient’s life and treatment, as determined by factors such as a patient’s: knowledge about their disease, adherence to treatment, disease coping, quality of life, and overall health outcomes.

Although not completely understood, we speculate that these benefits might have resulted from religion’s general encouragement to maintain a positive attitude and be respectful of medical personnel, as well as providing a comforting hope for a potential cure and/or their eternal future. Further, perhaps, the structure of the religious practice provided the patient with the discipline to learn about their disease and adhere to treatment. In addition, our review noted that the more a patient practiced the positive aspects of their religion, the greater the benefits on how they coped with their disease and treatment.

Our review suggested that patients commonly practice religion and interact with God about their disease state. This spiritual interaction may benefit a patient by providing comfort, increasing knowledge about their disease, greater treatment adherence, and quality of life.

Many research avenues remain open regarding religion and disease, including better controlled studies relating the impact of religion on a patient’s quality of life and disease.

To ponder…Would you expect the same benefits across all religions? Between those who take their Christian faith seriously versus those who participate in Christianity on a cultural basis only?

Thank you again for visiting. Please ask questions or comment. I look forward to seeing you next week.

  1. 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.
  2. Stewart WC, Adams MP, Stewart JA, Nelson LA. Review of clinical medicine and religious practice. J Relig Health 2013;52:91-106.

Can adherence to Christian principles help suffering patients?

Hello again, welcome back! We have been exploring the exciting topic of scripture and how adherence to the Christian principles of daily living (prayer, praise, fellowship, receiving Biblical teaching and service) enhance a person’s wellbeing (Acts 2:42,47).

In prior blogs we have reported our findings in the general healthy population, but can the medically ill also improve their wellbeing through Christian living? Can the same biblical principles apply in individuals suffering the emotional distress of sickness?

We examined this question in a cross-sectional survey of patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension (1). We evaluated self-reported religious adherence to specific basic activities and knowledge of faith and personal comfort. This specific analysis was limited to self-professed Christians.

The survey included 248 patients from one clinical practice in Charleston, SC and showed that those who were adherent to activities intended to create religious maturity (drawing encouragement from other church members, reading Scripture or encouraging others to have faith), and had at least a basic knowledge about their faith, demonstrated greater comfort related to their illness and treatment. Specifically, comfort was manifested as: a positive attitude towards their disease, a better ability to cope with their symptoms, a belief that God was concerned about their diagnosis and helped with their treatment.

When the findings were further analyzed by assessing those subjects who were most ‘adherent’, compared to those who were least adherent, an even greater separation between groups was observed with respect to comfort. This finding may indicate that the more serious a person is about the practice of their religion, the greater sense of wellbeing they may derive from it.

This study suggested that Christian practice may assist patients in better coping with their disease and that it may possibly increase the quality of their life. This study included patients with a chronic ocular disease. Would the same principles also apply in patients with acute or systemic disease?

Thanks for visiting. I hope you will return next week for further discussion about the practical use of the Bible in daily life. 

Serving others actually may benefit our own wellbeing!

Today let’s examine ways in which the Bible helps us with our daily life and wellbeing. Last week we explored how adherence to basic Christian principles of daily living such as prayer, praise, fellowship, receiving Biblical teaching and outreach (Acts 2:42,47) can be a tool we use to enhance personal wellbeing.

Now let’s focus on one aspect of these principles, personal service. Teleios recently evaluated the effect of personal service on wellbeing at Grace Community Church (1). We surveyed 309 adults in two services on one Sunday.

The survey showed that individuals who routinely participated in a community or church-based service program, compared to those who did not, had better wellbeing scores in contentment, peace, joy, purpose and community acceptance. Wow! Who wouldn’t want that? Additionally, people who served had a better global wellbeing score (average of seven questions together) than those who did not serve.

Interestingly, the study showed the benefit of service might occur with as little as just one hour a week helping others! The benefit was even greater when people served up to 6 hours per week. In addition, the perceived benefit of the service did not depend on the type of service, whether in the church or in non-church sponsored community service.

That leads us to ask why personal service would help wellbeing. We don’t know this answer for certain but there are several potentials:

  • Serving others provides us with a sense of purpose.
  • Serving provides a comfort that our lives are useful.
  • When we serve we realize we are being obedient and living consistently with God’s desires.
  • Serving takes our eyes off ourselves so we don’t focus just on our problems but also on assisting others.

To ponder…do all types of community service impact wellbeing equally?  In other words, does spiritual service have as much impact as service that is purely social?

Thanks for visiting. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

  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.

Do you have personal peace?

Do you have personal peace – peace with God, peace with family and friends, peace of mind? Peace is one of the great quests of mankind! For those who know God through faith, personal peace is mentioned as one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) that he desires us to have.

Is it true? Can somebody who is a Christian have personal peace? We explored this topic in a study performed in Bartlesville, OK at Grace Community Church (1). On one Sunday, at two services, we asked the adult population to complete a questionnaire regarding different aspects of their wellbeing including peace as well as their adherence to the practice of their faith.

How did we define adherence to faith? From the Bible we delineated the following as ‘adherence to faith’ if: they proclaimed to be a Christian through personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross as a free gift of salvation; they were secure in their salvation; and they frequently utilized the five tools to maturity in their lives (prayer, praise, faith, reaching out and growing in knowledge of scripture) (Acts 2:42,47; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-26; 1 Peter 1:4-5; John 10:27-30).

The results of the survey showed on a visual analog scale of 0-6 the average level of peace was 1.8 for the entire congregation (0 being most and 6 being least) – not bad! However, when we separated the congregation into groups based on adherence to faith there was a highly significant difference between groups with the more adherent group having greater peace!

What explains the finding? Well we don’t know for certain, but four potential reasons come to mind.

  • First, the practice of Christianity causes us to focus on a higher being that has purposes higher than our own. This focus may make help take our mind away from our own anxious thoughts.
  • Second, the adherence to the practice of Christianity provides for prayer to an accepting great high priest, Jesus Christ, who cares for our every time and need.
  • Third, we know knowledge is power. Christianity furnishes an excellent text, the Bible, which teaches us the truths about God so we know how to think of ourselves correctly and do not believe lies about God.
  • Lastly, Christianity urges us to reach out and touch others within our faith and to provide community service. Consequently, this helps us not to concentrate on our own anxieties and issues (2).

How can I get peace? Make sure you are a Christian and know that your sins have been forgiven freely by faith in Christ. You then should realize that God accepts you and this great salvation cannot be taken away. Practicing your faith balanced between the five tools of maturity mentioned above will help build the mindset and practices which the Spirit can use to build peace. It takes time and commitment, but you can do it. The fruits are there and blessings beyond measure.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.