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Ed. by Graham, Elaine / Schröder, Bernd
In cooperation with Dreyer, Jaco / Forrester, Duncan / Gräb, Wilhelm / Grethlein, Christian / Junker-Kenny, Maureen / Mette, Norbert / Miller-McLemore, Bonnie / Mullino Moore, Mary Elizabeth / Nieman, James / Osmer, Richard / Schreiter, Robert / Schweitzer, Friedrich / Kwan Un, Joon / Ven, Johannes
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- „Jesu, meine Freude“. Zu einer theologischen und pragmatischen Hermeneutik von Text und Musik in J.S. Bachs Motette BWV 227 by Schmidt, Eckart David
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From Data to Theory: Elements of Methodology in Empirical Phenomenological Research in Practical Theology
Citation Information: International Journal of Practical Theology. Volume 9, Issue 2, Pages 273–299, ISSN (Print) 1430-6921, DOI: 10.1515/ijpt.2005.9.2.273, December 2005
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Given the experiential nature of religion and faith, practical theologians all over the world have made considerable efforts during the last decades to investigate the empirical side of religion with appropriate scientific research instruments. The increasing use of various social science methods and strategies has enlarged theological knowledge considerably, especially regarding the social dynamics, conditions and contexts of religious life. These methods have also helped develop more effective strategies for pastoral work.
During the same period, the growing interest in the empirical side of religion has stimulated discussion about standards and criteria for appropriate empirical research in theology. Growing use of social scientific instruments has sharpened reflection about the implications of religion research for understanding its very object – “religion.” Likewise, there is a growing need to reflect on the theological impact and consequences of using concepts and research models from the humanities in religion research.
The intention of this report is to evaluate recent developments in empirical theology from a methodological point of view and to highlight new possibilities. For this purpose, the later parts of the article provide an introduction to phenomenology as a specific methodology of empirical theology. Phenomenology offers key concepts and research strategies for research on “living religion” beyond conventional social and theoretical limits of religious research. To use phenomenological methods within empirical theology invites theological reflection on essential notions, principles and assumptions that are at stake in empirical sciences, such as reality, praxis, action, objectivity, validity, and life. Likewise this leads to a new and enlarged model for interpreting faith.
The first section makes some initial observations regarding the methodological background for contemporary empirical research in theology, and especially in practical theology. It explicates the theological motivation for empirical research, introduces the distinction between methods and methodology, and analyzes the possibility of an empirical methodology beyond positivism. In the final analysis, I evaluate especially Johannes van der Ven’s work, stressing the necessity to reflect critically on methods, thus to overcome a naïve positivistic empirical approach to religion.