What is grace? Why is the concept of grace so counterintuitive, contradictory, radical, and scandalous? Why is grace simultaneously irresistible yet resisted? What basic working assumptions about ourselves, the world, and the divine does it violate? Is grace at the center of a theological understanding of human beings? Our working hypothesis is that good psychological research, paired with careful theological reflection, will increase not only academic interest in this largely neglected topic, but also catalyze renewed interest in the powerful spiritual reality of grace in churches.
This planning grant will make possible a comprehensive background study of theological, philosophical, and psychological foundations for a science of grace. Work in Phase 1 will include recruiting members of the core research team, organizing and holding a strategic planning meeting, preparing a systematic review (white paper) of the concept of grace as it has been conceptualized in psychological sciences and in relevant theological and philosophical writings, and developing a large grant on the Science of Grace to be submitted at the conclusion of Phase 1.
Fundamentally, we are interested in the human experience of grace. While theologies have been developed around the various meanings, classifications and definitions of grace, empirical research is scant. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a spiritual concept that has received less scientific attention than grace. This venture was embarked on to address this omission. We want to generate the highest level of empirical research into the nature of Divine grace that is informed by and integrated with theological inquiry. We want to address the big question, how and in what ways is grace fundamental to human existence and well-being? The overall goal of the project is to investigate how humanly experienced divine grace has the capacity to profoundly enhance and elevate human flourishing.