Quantitative Eccesiology!

A new era has dawned in theology. Quantitative Eccesiology!

Thanks to Jared Benge, the brilliant former student of mine, church studies just won't be the same.

Pictured here, Jared plotted the EcQ, mapping the set of scores defined by the function. That is, plug in your respective scores (the MET, and the SIT comprised of the Connector, Maven, and Salesmen Terms) and you'll find yourself plotted somewhere on the green surface. It is a map of the eccesial contribution of all possible people.

Now all Jared and I need to do is write a book, Quantitative Eccesiology, where we set forth equations capturing all sorts of eccesial dynamics and plot them in multidimensional spaces.

Sound crazy? Not so fast. John Gottman, the recognized world authority on marriage and marital therapy, has published a book full of graphs just like the one Jared plotted here. Check out Gottman's book The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models. In The Mathematics of Marriage, Gottman plots all sorts of variables concerning the husband and wife using nonlinear mathematics to model and predict the dynamics of the marriage. The EcQ is baby stuff compared to Gottman's work. But the point is this: What Gottman has done with marriage should be applicable to eccesiology. It should be possible to identify variables in eccesial communities and model their dynamics: The ups and downs, the growth and collapse, the ebb and flow.

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5 thoughts on “Quantitative Eccesiology!”

  1. See what I mean? I have no frame of reference to comprehend this blog...

    However, were you willing to create a class out of this, I've got a few electives left if you thought it a worthwhile subject in the field of contextualizing theology to culture.

    Again, I have no frame of reference for what's being talked about, but I would take your word...

    But only in an act of faith (considering that this information is worth $1500).


  2. Richard, Richard, Richard. You write: "But the point is this: What Gottman has done with marriage should be applicable to eccesiology. It should be possible to identify variables in eccesial communities and model their dynamics: The ups and downs, the growth and collapse, the ebb and flow." Alas. Being on the green surface doesn't answer the question of contemporary or traditional music or emergent or non-emergent. And Gottman sure as heck doesn't help me asnwer my wife's question: "Do these jeans make my butt look big?" I like the color green against the blue background. Maybe green and blue together could answer my wife's question.

  3. George,
    Hey, aren't you supposed to be meeting with Travis right about now? :-)

    Actually, to defend Gottman and his project, he CAN help with questions like "Do these jean make my butt look big?" For Gottman, the emotional tone of your response gets coded and plugged into his equations. Your wife's response to your answer also gets plugged in. Those dynamics help model how that conversation will go. For example, as simplification of Gottman's approach, if the positive-affect-to-negative-affect ratio of the exchange is positive, the relationship moves into a healthy sector of the model. If the ratio is negative the relationship moves into an unhealthy sector and remains there until the ratio is changed (thus providing a marriage therapist a focus of intervention). These models are compared to empirical labratory data of real-life couples to determine fit/correspondence.

    So, I'm wondering if different church dynamics might be similarly modeled. Things that come to mind are:

    The organizational structure of the church.

    The positive-to-negative affect ratio in the church.

    The transparency of the church (are the members and leaders honest with each other)

    The theological flexibility of the church.

    And so on. I think this is a very doable project. However, I lack the theological and mathematical skills to pull it off.

  4. Richard,

    This is fascinating stuff. I have always argued that physics is the simplest of all sciences because it deals with the least complex systems. Yet I look at your EcQ and it looks a whole lot simpler than any Schrodinger equation I have ever worked with. I have several interrelated questions for you:

    1 Is this like a Sudoku exesrcise for you? Since you did begin this during a sermon - but then you did reference Gottman.
    2 Are you reemerging in your Logical Positivist's state?
    3 How seriously should I take The Mathematics of Marriage?

    I ask these as an academic (scientist/mathematician) that has real serious questions, i.e., I am very skeptical, about the attempt to quantify learning outcomes of the more important aspects of education - such as values.

    Is this the 'tongue-(firmly)in-cheek' Richard that I know and love - or how serious are you?

    Enjoying the fun,


  5. Paul,
    It's tongue-in-cheek...to a point. Like recreational mathematics this is mainly all for fun. But, sometimes, serious insights emerge. My main point in this particular post is that, although the EcQ is a bit of fun and silliness, the IDEA of something like this is not crazy. Social scientists like Gottman (his book is very serious, his results are very impressive) are trying to experiment with mathematical models. It may be just another iteration of "physics envy" from my community, but the idea, for the social scientists is to use the model to explore an area rather than predict behavior (as in physics). That is, Gottman tries to use models to uncover critical variables in a marriage and I think it is reasonable to expect critical variables for church life as well. So, although the EcQ is for fun, the quantitative modeling approach to church dynamics seems worthy of attention. To me at least.

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