2008 Networking Grants

Spring 2008 Initiative Grant Recipients

Christian Reasoning

Jens Zimmermann
Project Director
Professor of English and CRC Chair for Interpretation, Religion and Culture
Trinity Western University

Tony Cummins
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Trinity Western University

Matthew Levering
Associate Professor of Theology
Ave Maria University

Judith Toronchuk
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Chair, Research Ethics Board
Trinity Western University

Merold Westphal
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Fordham University

Holger Zaborowski
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Catholic University of America


The project Christian Reasoning examines and seeks to substantiate the intrinsic role religion plays in human existence and public life.  In the current dispute whether religion is the problem or the solution to the most pressing global concerns such as terrorism, tribal wars, the social cohesion of Western societies, and the relation between religion and science, reflection on the nature of reason has emerged as the most fundamental issue.  In seeking to address this foundational problematic, the proposed research initiative pursues two distinct goals.

The first goal is to examine and show to what extent religion is constitutive for the very nature of human reason as such.  Despite a major shift away from scientific rationalism in academic circles, religion continues to be relegated by many to the private, even irrational sphere of human existence.  Against this lingering separation of faith and reason, our first research track focuses on the extent to which human perception, knowledge, understanding, and learning- in short, human reasoning- require the central religious elements of personal relation, tradition and belief.  The collaborative philosophical (phenomenological and hermeneutical), social, and empirical research seeks to answer this question in the affirmative by drawing mainly on the Christian tradition but also on different faith traditions (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism).

Assuming a defining role of religion for human reasoning and public life, the second goal of this project us to articulate a specifically Christian understanding of human reasoning in response to current fears that particular religious convictions should be excluded from public life because they inevitably result in conflict and violence.  Our research will address the seeming impasse between a recognition of the much publicized "return of religion" on the one hand, and a continuing public fear of religion as bigoted intolerance on the other.  More specifically, this research phase will examine:

  • The dependency of cultural and religious relativism (i.e. "all religions are the same") on a rationalist view of truth and the need for a different approach to comparing and assessing particular religions
  • Compatibility of scientific and religious accounts of human rationality
  • The relationship between reason, identity, religion and culture
  • The importance of interpretation as intrinsic to any religion's theological ability to separate church and state
  • The relationship between revelation and reason, including the role of sacred texts, tradition and interpretation in the mediation of divine revelation
  • The relationship between religious conceptions of law and reason.


Religious Worldview, Ego Identity, and Attachment: Necessary Strengths for Navigating the Challenges of Emerging Adulthood

Kaye V. Cook
Project Director
Professor, Psychology
Gordon College

Cynthia N. Kimball
Associate Professor, Psychology
Wheaton College

Kelly S. Flanagan
Assistant Professor, Psychology
Wheaton College

Kathleen C. Leonard
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development
Tufts University

Chris J. Boyatzis
Associate Professor, Psychology
Bucknell University


Emerging adulthood is a distinctive era of development.  Arnett (2000) has highlighted three areas of unique challenge during emerging adulthood, marked by changes in one's worldview, sense of self, and relationships with others.  We will explore how strengths in these areas help individuals navigate the challenges that accompany a frequent and increasingly common transition of emerging adulthood: graduation from college.  Because Christian colleges self-consciously desire to graduate students with coherent religious worldviews that affect one's entire life, and we can measure their religiosity, we focus on the worldview of those graduating from Christian colleges.  We believe that a stable worldview, a solid sense of self, and secure relationships with parents and others in the face of challenges best prepare emerging adults to manage the stresses of this uncertain time.  We hope to use this information to contribute to the larger literature on emerging adulthood and to help Christian colleges to nurture and strengthen the faith of their graduates.

The research will consist of two phases.  In Phase I, we will survey 60 graduating seniors and 60 two-year alumni from each of the two Christian colleges, for a total of 240 participants.  We will more extensively interview 20 graduating seniors and 20 two-year alumni from each context.  In Phase II, we will interview the same participants, using comparable measures, two years later.  We thus use cross-sequential analyses to allow us to draw conclusions about development and coping over a four-year period.  The data consists of surveys and open-ended questions designed to explore religiosity, sense of self, and relationships with others. Data will be examined by regression analyses using religiosity (intrinsic, extrinsic, quest, perceived similarity with the larger context, perceived faith support, and stability of belief), ego identity status, and attachment measures to predict to our outcome measures, as well as by ANOVA analyses of age differences in the same measures.  Outcome measures include participants' total stress, perceived stress, balance between stress and coping methods, and satisfaction with life and faith.  Reponses to open-ended questions will be coded by qualitative analysis.

The project will result in several outcomes: multiple presentations, multiple research papers submitted for publication or in process, and a book proposal and accompanying request for added funding.  In developing the project, particularly since this group of faculty has never worked together, we will also need to convene several team meetings.

Spring 2008 Planning Grant Recipients

Christian Voices in Musicology

Timothy H. Steele
Project Director
Associate Professor of Music
Calvin College

Johann Buis
Professor of Music
Wheaton College

Stanley Pelkey
Assistant Professor of Music
Western Michigan University


There is a significant need for Christian music scholars to address issues raised by major reorientation in the discipline of musicology since the 1980s: what music counts for study, analysis and critical reflection, and what place has the particular identity of the musicologist in her orientation to research and in the shaping of critical observations and theoretical frameworks.  The members of the planning team propose to initiate a research project that will engage in path-breaking work on these core questions of the discipline.  Varied approaches to this task have already been discussed among the team members, including a thematic approach that would address specific issues and motivate particular research projects.  Suggested themes include the formation of musical identity, the nature of musical meaning, the relationship of music to recent critical thought about human embodiment, and human creativity in the midst of relationship and community.  Questions to be asked include, "What musicological work might be prompted by Christian concern for social justice?" and "How ought musicologists to confront the problem of evil?"  As scholars with deep Christian convictions, we intend to explore these themes and others as ways of interacting with and responding to the assumptions that have shaped musicology over the last twenty years, recognizing that although music has been the subject of much Christian thinking there is no clear framework or set of scholarly agendas for Christian musicologists.  Our proposal for this planning grant is to create the context within which we can explore various perspectives and achieve a clear focus for the extended research project we will propose following the planning period.  We anticipate meeting on two occasions for intensive discussion of the project and for refinement of the Initiative Grant proposal.  These meetings will take place in the early summer and autumn of 2008.  We envision the larger project for which this it the planning stage to result in a book of essays and conference presentations by members of the project team and additional contributors.

Towards a Christian Conception of the State's Role in Creation Care

John L. Hiemstra
Project Director
Professor of Political Science
The King's University College

John R. Wood
Academic Dean
Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies
Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies
The King's University College

Jonathan P. Chaplin
Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Tyndale House, Cambridge


Contemporary environmental crises are sending churches and Christian NGOs to the Christian scholarly community for guidance on, and understanding of, the state's role in creation care.  Many Christian traditions address issues of faith and politics, but have done little sustained reflection on the nature of the state's and government's role in society.  When addressing environmental questions, they often utilize ethical approaches that give little direction on the distinctive task of the state in creation care.  Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions have produced in-depth philosophical reflection on the state's role but little directly on the state's role in creation care.  Furthermore, many mainstream secular approaches to the state's role on the environment no longer seem to work, for example, the environmental movements' failure to achieve significant governmental action on global warming.  Critics attribute this failure in part to the underlying Enlightenment liberal assumptions of the dominant view of government.  The Christian communities with traditions of reflecting on the state's role are in an excellent position to contribute to the renewal and deepening of faith-based and mainstream reflection on the state's role in creation care.  This is so precisely because they have the experience and approaches required to engage the deeper religious and philosophical roots of these questions as well as theories that acknowledge the complex, plural structure of society.  Our research network will make an interdisciplinary contribution to the development of a Christian framework for understanding the state's role in creation care.

American Pentecostalism's Engagement with Race and Ethnicity: Historical Realities and Theological Perspectives

Dr. Arlene M. Sanchez Walsh
Project Director
Associate Professor, Haggard School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University

Dr. Paul Alexander
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Asuza Pacific University

Dr. Anthea Butler
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
University of Rochester


As Pentecostalism enters its 2nd American century, one of its critical issues will be how it continues to function as a multicultural entity.  The purpose of this planning group is to grapple with the historical and theological issues embedded in the overarching theme.  The eventual outcome of this planning group's work will be to collaborate with interested clergy and other academics in producing work relevant to local churches as it will challenge the historiographical trend in American Pentecostal history that suggests that racial inclusion evident in the early years of the movement was evidence of a sustained effort towards racial equality.

This collaboration will lay the groundwork for producing work relevant to the local church and denominations presented by our clergy.  We also hope to provide proscriptive solutions to help American Pentecostalism manage the inevitable demographic shift to help dominant white majority movement to a movement coming closer to demographic parity.  We want to argue that the current problems of race/ ethnicity in Pentecostalism are traceable to the very roots of the movement.  We also want to break with the black/ white dichotomy that has marked much of the debate and acknowledge that issues of race/ ethnicity in American Pentecostalism are not simply products of a white dominant culture suppressing people of color, but in fact, of people of color often suppressing each other, especially in the late 20th and early 21st century urban centers where African Americans, Latinos, and Asians often compete for scarce goods, services, and compete in a complex religious marketplace.  As theologians, we want to offer a broader view of the ethical dimensions of personhood, of abuses of power and again bring the Pentecostal church to a reckoning with its multicultural realities and offer a suitable pneumatology for how the church can be truly multicultural and not just a gathering place for diverse peoples.