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Course module: U20088-M-6
Research and Hermeneutics
Course info
Course moduleU20088-M-6
Credits (ECTS)6
CategoryMA (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byTilburg University; Tilburg School of Catholic Theology; TST: Prac. Theology/Religious Studies; Practical Theology and Religious Studies;
Is part of
M Theology and Religious Studies (track Christianity & Soc)
prof. dr. C.N. de Groot
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. M. Sarot
Other course modules lecturer
dr. K. Schelkens
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2020
Starting block
SM 1
Course mode
RemarksCaution: this information is subject to change
Registration openfrom 17/08/2020 up to and including 20/08/2021
Upon completion of this course, the student will
  • Have basic insight in the variety of hermeneutic methods used in systematic theology, historical studies and social studies
  • Be able to apply this insight in the critical and academic interpretation of historical and systematic ecclesial and scholarly texts;
  • Be able to make a well-argued choice for the method of research to be employed in the Master’s thesis;
  • Be able to design and perform a well-defined research project in a societal domain, using basic techniques of qualitative research: interviews, observation and content analysis.

Embeddedness and aims
This course aligns itself with the Master Thesis seminar, during which students are required to select their research topic and question and to specify their research method. In this course, students become more acquainted with the varying methods applied in theological disciplines, in order to develop their research skills and facilitate and support the research they conduct in their Master’s thesis. The focus is on these methods used in philosophy and systematic theology, social sciences and the historical sciences, and the aim is both theoretical and practical. The general aim is to create an ‘awareness of interpretation’ among students and to help them choose the correct methodological framework for their respective research and train them to apply this method when dealing with academic sources and texts.
This course is both prospective and retrospective in its aims. Prospectively, it prepares for the practical application of research methods in the thesis. Retrospectively, it focuses on these three methods that are most fitting when studying the social doctrine of Christianity in its historical, theological and socio-political setting.
In order to do so, the course is divided in three parts, each covering a specific qualitative method. In each part, the lecturer will provide a theoretical framework (method as interpretive process) and teach students to apply this practically (method as procedure):

Empirical method: This is focused on learning to understand and apply methods of social sciences. Students will be trained in performing interview techniques and the analysis of empirical data and documents. The stress will be on thematic analysis and a theory centered reading of texts.
Teacher: C.N. de Groot

Theological hermeneutics:  This part of the course will focus on training students in various forms of textual interpretation: from intentional interpretation to rational reconstruction. Students will be trained to apply these in systematic theology, and will learn to move on from theological interpretation to constructive theology.
Teacher: M. Sarot

Historical-critical method: In the third part of the course the students will study recent perspectives in the application of the historical critical method in the discipline of Church history. Several models of dealing with the historical method in a theological context are discussed and students will be trained in an historical and contextual reading of encyclicals and relevant theological texts.
Teacher: K. Schelkens
In each part of the course, a practical assignment will be given to the students.

Course Materials
For part one: empirical method

Compusory reading: Recommended reading For part two: theological hermeneutics
  • Vincent Brümmer, ‘Philosophy, Theology and the Reading of Texts,’ Religious Studies 27/4 (Dec. 1991), 451–462.
  • Vincent Brümmer, ‘Philosophical Theology as Conceptual Recollection,’ in: Brümmer on Meaning and the Christian Faith: Collected Writings of Vincent Brümmer (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2006), 433–451.
  • Vincent Brümmer, ‘Models and Metaphors,’ in: Brümmer, The Model of Love (Cambridge: CUP. 1992), 3–35, esp. 3–29.
  • Bernard Lonergan, ‘Interpretation,’ in: Lonergan, Method in Theology (rpt Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 153–173.
For part three: historical methodology
  • J.E. Bradley and R.A. Muller, Church History: An Introduction to Research Methods and Resources, Grand Rapids MI, 2016.
Course available for exchange students
Master level
Contact person
dr. K. Schelkens
Timetable information
Research and Hermeneutics
Required materials
Recommended materials

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