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Encouraging theologians to engage with empirical science.

In the Science-Engaged Theology (SET) priority, we seek to advance efforts by theologians to substantively engage with the sciences in their research and inquiry about the divine and other spiritual realities. Our conception of who counts as a theologian is broad; it includes not just scholars based in theology or divinity faculties, but also scholars in other humanities disciplines such as (but not limited to) philosophy and religious studies.

A Focus on the Human Sciences

At present, we are focusing on cultivating and supporting SET projects that involve substantial engagement with the human sciences, a broad category of disciplines that includes the psychological sciences, anthropology, neuroscience, human biology, and economics. Concepts, theories, data, and results coming from the human sciences can enhance understanding of key theological ideas, claims, and systems of thought, and enable us to evaluate, revise, and improve our theologies in fruitful ways. The following topical areas are of special interest to us:

  • How humans conceive of, apprehend, and relate to divine and other spiritual realities: Such research might engage with work in psychology of religion and cognitive science of religion on the cognition of invisible beings, God-concepts, and relationships between religious cognition and behavior.
  • Human nature in relationship to divinity: Such research might engage with work in evolutionary biology, cultural evolutionary theory, developmental science, and other areas of scientific inquiry that impinge on questions about human creatureliness and purpose.
  • Character virtues in theological context: Such research might bring theological and philosophical models of character virtues generally, or of specific character virtues into contact with empirical research on those topics; it might also identify and describe new constructs for empirical study.
  • The relationship between human flourishing and spiritual realities: Such research might investigate the role that God or other spiritual realities might play in human flourishing generally, or in specific aspects of human flourishing.

A Focus on the Abrahamic Religions

The key theological traditions we hope SET projects draw from at present are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (though we plan to expand our focus to include other religions and wisdom traditions in the future).

We are especially (but not exclusively) interested to advance “Abrahamic” SET: multi-religion collaborative engagement with the human sciences by mixed groups of theologians drawing from Christian, Jewish, and/or Muslim theological traditions. We view the human sciences as a common space in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims might explore differences and similarities between their theologies and refine them in light of the human sciences.

Marks of a Successful Proposal

Successful project proposals submitted within the SET priority will

  • evidence a genuine curiosity for learning from and addressing competing perspectives in theology and the human sciences,
  • describe a specific area of theological inquiry and how it might advance by engagement with the human sciences,
  • exhibit familiarity with recent discussion, debate, data, and theory in the human sciences,
  • give a detailed plan to substantively engage with primary literature within a specific area of active research in the human sciences.

Featured Grants

Philosophy and Theology
Project Leader(s): Justin Barrett, Rebecca Sok
Grantee(s): Fuller Theological Seminary
Philosophy and Theology
Project Leader(s): Neil Arner,
Grantee(s): University of Notre Dame
Philosophy and Theology
Project Leader(s): Robin Collins, Abaz Kryemadhi
Grantee(s): Messiah College
Philosophy and Theology
Project Leader(s): Ebrahim Moosa
Grantee(s): University of Notre Dame