Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Practical Theology and Qualitative Research

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Practical Theology and Qualitative Research

Article excerpt

Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. By John Swinton and Harriet Mowat. London: SCM Press, 2006. 278 pp. $24.99 (paper).

Those who believe in the power of the gospel to transform society will no doubt be inspired by Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. As religious educators and researchers, authors John Swinton and Harriet Mowat have a unique understanding of the challenges involved when social science and theological reflection methodologies converge in service to the church and the world. Swinton and Mowat have set forth an understanding of practical theology that helps the reader distinguish critical differences between models of applied theology versus a theology which has its foundation in the practice of faith. In order to deepen the reader's understanding of practical theology, the authors reference Stanley Hauerwas' well-known description of "faith as performance" in stating, "Of course we believe that God is God and we are not and God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . . but it is not a set of propositions . . . rather [faith is] embedded in a community of practices that make those beliefs themselves work and give us a community by which we are shaped" (Part I, p. 4).

Both the structure and well-organized content of the book help the reader navigate the often-confusing disciplines of practical theology and qualitative research. Swinton and Mowat offer dense, cogent analyses which provide the reader with foundational understandings of both disciplines. They then address the intersection of both disciplines, enabling the reader to see the ways in which theology and qualitative research might link. Attention is also paid to the pitfalls of these seemingly strange bedfellows, especially in the arena of priorities of knowing and the prioritization of values. Attention is given to the common problem that religious researchers encounter when they engage the social sciences in their work: how do theological truths not collapse when they come in contact with disciplines that often base their truthfulness on quantitative research? …

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