I am applying for the ACT fellowship because I am interested in advancing a new field of inquiry that integrates the insights of theology with the empirical sciences (namely the psychological sciences), which I am tentatively calling “experimental theology.” More specifically, my current research questions focus on the increasing number of individuals within Western societies who are transitioning from religious belief to non-belief (i.e. atheism), and how theological aesthetics and the psychological sciences might collaboratively address this phenomenon.
I have published broadly in my home discipline of theology. However, I need to develop my skills and knowledge in order to explore the new theological questions I am raising that, by their very nature, require high-level engagement with empirical science. The ACT Fellowship will allow me to complete a PhD in Psychological Science under the supervision of my cross-disciplinary mentor, Dr. Justin L. Barrett. This course of study will enable me to ground the theoretical insights of theology with empirical methodologies, and also to identify ways in which theology might contribute substantively to psychological explorations of belief and non-belief in the modern world.
In addition to implementing my current research agenda, this cross-training will provide me with the necessary tools and credentials to engage in experimental research in the future as a member of Fuller’s Brehm Center for Theology and Culture, which aims to translate high-level research on art, culture, and theology into accessible resources for the broader public in the form of general audience books (e.g., the Reel Spirituality Monograph Series I edit), yearly conferences, and online tools, such as classes on Fuller’s newly launched Leadership Platform. It will also position me in such a way that I will be able to submit future funding proposals to public and private funding agencies (including JTF) for interdisciplinary research projects.