It used to be possible to think that religion was playing less and less of a role in shaping our world, and that it might be destined to disappear into irrelevance within our life times. Yet the events of recent decades have made such a view itself disappear into irrelevance: we clearly live in a world in which religion makes a difference.
That means that, to understand our world well, you need to understand the strange, complex, diverse social phenomena that we call ‘religion’. To put it another way: intelligent citizenship requires religious literacy.
Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith and Public Policy at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Matthew Frances, Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University, have put together a collection of essays exploring this idea of ‘religious literacy’. What is it? Why exactly do we need it? Where can we get it? what does it look like when you have it? Continue reading
Christian Theology is an activity. It is something that people do.
A lot of attention gets focused on the content of theology: the ideas and arguments that theologians produce. Rather less gets focused on the practice of theology: who does it, where, and how, and what it might mean for them to be doing it well. Of course, there is plenty of discussion of ‘method’ in theology, but it often focused at an abstract level, asking about the kinds of argument and evidence that can properly underpin theological conclusions, rather than on the practical activities of arguing, evidence gathering, and concluding, and on the people who engage in those practices.
So, at long last, the REF (Research Excellence Framework) results are out, and members of the Department have suspended their scepticism about the value of the process and the meaningfulness of the results just long enough to celebrate the outcome.
One of the areas in which we did well was ‘Research Impact’ – which, for REF purposes, is defined as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’ generated by some piece of research.
The definition and measurement of ‘impact’ is, however, controversial. Earlier this year, I finished a project that I had been working on with colleagues from other departments around the country, in which we set out to examine the whole idea of ‘impact’ more closely. We talked to a range of academics who work in the area of Christian doctrine, and we talked to a range of people from outside Higher Education who have sometimes collaborated with doctrine specialists, or drawn on their work. We asked each of them to tell us, What does real impact look like?
We published our findings in a report – Christian Doctrine and the Impact Agenda – which you can download from our webpage. It tells you a bit more about the kinds of impact that researchers in this area have, but it also contains a few questions about the way that processes like the REF try to measure it.