July 8, 2013

Why I Ask Questions: What Is Research In Religious Studies?

At least once or twice a year I am asked about the nature of my questions regarding evangelicalism. There seems to be some confusion about the nature of my vocation so I thought it might be good to post this reminder. I am first and foremost a researcher in religious studies. In particular, I study the intersection of Christianity and Political Economy with a particular interest in the traditional black church and evangelicalism. This means that I ask a lot of questions using tools for other disciplines. And, no, the the nature of research is not always to have “answers.” Sometimes there are no clear, immediate answers. Researchers don’t always have answers to the questions they raise. Sometimes it takes years of asking more and more questions to arrive a possible answers to initial questions. In fact, some scholars spend their entire careers only asking one question and sometimes dying before answers are ever formulated.

This “Welcome to the Study of Religion” link may be helpful:

Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.

While theology attempts to understand the nature of transcendent or supernatural forces (such as deities), religious studies tries to study religious behavior and belief from outside any particular religious viewpoint. Religious studies draws upon multiple disciplines and their methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history of religion.

The difference is that although I am in a field occupied by many secularists and I am theologian (a Christian believer) operating in this space. I have been doing this type of research and writing for 12 years and currently teach undergraduates on these intersections from a Christian perspective.

Hope this helps!