As it says on the sidebar, I picked the title "experimental theology" for two reasons. First, I want to write in a provisional voice. I wanted a place to think out loud and float ideas.
I also wanted to create a place where I could bring psychology into conversation with theology. Along these lines, I was pondering some of the research I've been mentoring with some students over these last few weeks. As I've mentioned before, during the summer term at ACU I work with students in conducting original empirical research with the aim of presenting that research at a professional psychological conference. Over the years we've look at attachment to God, the psychology of PostSecret, the psychology of blasphemy, the religious correlates of torture endorsement, the experience of the demonic, and iPhone/Facebook "addiction."
This summer I have two teams doing two different projects. Leslie, Kyle and Stephen are looking at the relationship between anxiety and end of the world beliefs. For example, they are examining the correlations between variables such as trait neuroticism and the belief that the end of the world will happen in our lifetime, that we are living in the "end times."
Gabe, Maddy, Chandler and Nathan are looking at how attitudes toward authority figures affect one's experience with God. Specifically, if you have dim views of authority figures are you more dismissing of God (who is sort of the ultimate as far as authority figures go)?
Both groups have run their analyses and have found significant associations between these variables. Anxiety seems associated with eschatology. And problems with authority figures seem to leak into our experience of the Divine.
In all this, I continue to be fascinated with the connections between psychology and theology, the way psychology affects things like our experience of God and why we might hold particular theological beliefs. Like the timing of Armageddon!
Six years and counting and I'm still fascinated by experimental theology.