Hermeneutics and Empirical Research in Practical Theology: The Contribution of Empirical Theology by Johannes A. Van der Ven

Hermeneutics and Empirical Research in Practical Theology: The Contribution of Empirical Theology by Johannes A. Van der Ven

Hermeneutics and Empirical Research in Practical Theology: The Contribution of Empirical Theology by Johannes A. Van der Ven

Hermeneutics and Empirical Research in Practical Theology: The Contribution of Empirical Theology by Johannes A. Van der Ven

Synopsis

There is a growing consensus among scholars in different countries about the object of practical theology. Hans van der Ven has contributed much to this consensus through his writings on the foundations of practical theology, the empirical paradigm within practical theology, and specific subdisciplines within practical theology, especially religious education, moral education, church development and ministry. At the center of this growing consensus is an understanding of the independent hermeneutical role of religious experiences and practices of people in the process of theological theory-building. If contemporary religious experiences and practices have a critical role with regard to religious tradition (and the ministry of this tradition), then practical theology cannot just be a form of applied theology. The contributors of this volume focus on this hermeneutical core, foundations of practical theology and on empirical research as a research method within practical theology in the work of Van der Ven.

Excerpt

Chris A.M. Hermans and Mary Elizabeth Moore

Hermeneutics and empirical research are two core concepts in the growing consensus on practical theology among scholars around the world. These concepts help us reflect on the contribution of Johannes (Hans) A. van der Ven to the field of practical theology. in this introduction, we will first relate these concepts to the discipline of practical theology. in what sense do they reflect the core of practical theology as a discipline? Secondly, we will frame some general topics in the more than 35 years of theological scholarship of Johannes van der Ven. Thirdly, we will give an overview of the contributions of this volume.

2. hermeneutics and empirical research

How is understanding possible? This question characterizes human existence, according to Gadamer and the philosophical tradition (from Kant to Heidegger) on which he has grounded modern hermeneutical theory. Understanding is not just one of many types of human action; it is the basic mode of human being itself. To live as finite human beings in time is to seek understanding. Understanding does not just refer to texts and all other expressions of human culture, as is characteristic of the hermeneutics of Schleiermacher and Dilthey. This 'textual' hermeneutic tradition has been criticized on two grounds: first, as being objectivistic insofar as it continued the Cartesian separation of a knowing subject and a known object, and second, as being only focused on methodological rules for interpretation (Jones, 2000, p.7). Heidegger's contribution to hermeneutic theory has been to show that understanding is relational and ontological. the interpreter is inescapably related to the object of interpretation, and grounds the interpretation likewise on his or her prejudices of the cultural work (see . . .

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