Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Biblical Foundationalism and Religious Reflection: Polarization of Faith and Intellect Oriented Epistemologies within a Christian Ideological Surround

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Biblical Foundationalism and Religious Reflection: Polarization of Faith and Intellect Oriented Epistemologies within a Christian Ideological Surround

Article excerpt

Among other things, the Ideological Surround Model (ISM) argues that greater objectivity can be achieved through an empiricism that brings emic religious and etic social scientific perspectives into formal dialog. In this project, 421 undergraduates responded to a Christian Religious Reflection Scale along with an etic Religious Fundamentalism and an emic Biblical Foundationalism scale. Christian Religious Reflection proved to be polarized with Faith and Intellect Oriented factors correlating negatively. Faith Oriented Reflection, Religious Fundamentalism, and Biblical Foundationalism displayed negative linkages with Quest and Openness to Experience. Intellect Oriented Reflection was incompatible with Christian commitments and predicted higher Quest and Openness to Experiences. Statistical controls for the etic language of Religious Fundamentalism demonstrated that the emic language of Biblical Foundationalism could support both Faith and Intellect Oriented epis-tcmologies and was not incompatible with Quest or Openness to Experience. Participants displayed higher scores on Biblical Foundationalism than on Religious Fundamentalism. These data illustrated how a dialogical empiricism can promote objectivity.

Postmodernism argues that all observations, scientific and otherwise, emerge from socially constructed perspectives that cannot be wholly "objective" (Burr, 1995; Erickson, 2001). This is so because human consciousness can only make observations from a "somewhere" that makes it possible to see only some things, but never from an "everywhere" or a "somewhere" that makes it possible to see everything (Nietzsche, 1887/2000). This means that human observers in psychology and other social sciences, like those in Christianity and other religions, invariably see things from a limited point of view. Failures to acknowledge this epistemological constraint could support, for example, a misguided faith in the "objectivity" of a scientific psychology to yield unbiased insights into Christian commitments. But to admit the perspectival nature of all observations also threatens to trap human knowledge in a "vertigo of relativism" (Berger & Luckmann, 1966, p. 5). An Ideological Surround Model (ISM) of the relationship between psychology and religion seeks to avoid the extremes of naive objectivism and vertiginous relativism. This model assumes that a more adequate, though not absolute "objectivity" can be achieved by making the perspectival nature of knowledge an explicit object of empirical investigation (Watson, 1993, 2008a, b, in press).

According to the ISM, both psychology and religion are ideological. "Ideology" here means that each is somewhat non-empirical, normative, and sociological (Maclntyre, 1978). They are somewhat non-empirical because each rests upon foundational beliefs that cannot be falsified. Christianity is a religion that has foundations in God as the supernatural and ultimate source of explanation. Psychology is a science that formally rejects supernaturalism and has at least implicit groundings in nature as the ultimate source of explanation. Notions that God or that nature is at the foundations of the universe cannot be definitively confirmed nor disconfirmed. Christianity and psychology are, therefore, somewhat non-empirical because each uses unfalsifiable foundational assumptions to socially construct a vast array of meaningful empirical observations. Foundations also have normative implications. Faith in nature as the ultimate source of meaning, for instance, makes scientific empiricism the epistemo-logical norm. Ultimate faith in the Christian God makes biblical interpretation the norm. Commitments to these and other norms sociologically define who does and who does not belong within a particular community of understanding.

Given the unavoidable influences of ideology, the ISM argues that greater objectivity in the relationship between psychology and religion requires three forms of research: etic, emic, and dialogic (Ghor-bani, Watson, Shamohammadi, & Cunningham, 2009; Watson, in press). …

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