What is the Socio-Historical Method in the Study of Religion?

The following are excerpts from Darren M. Slade's article, "What is the Socio-Historical Method in the Study of Religion?," which seeks to answer what the socio-historical method is when applied to the study of religion, as well as detail how numerous disciplines (e.g. archaeology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, theology, musicology, dramatology, etc.) contribute to its overall employment.

In a recently published article from the peer-reviewed academic journal, Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry (SHERM), Professor and GCRR President, Dr. Darren M. Slade, details precisely what it means to study religion from a "socio-historical" perspective and even offers a case study for an example.

Defining Socio-Historical Methodology

In the broadest (and briefest) definition possible, a socio-historical study of religion coalesces the aims, philosophies, and methodologies of historiography with those of the social and cultural sciences, meaning it analyzes the interpretation and practice of religion through the lens of social/historical contexts, scientific discovery, and from within each faith tradition. The result is that the contexts surrounding a particular religion becomes the primary subject of study in order to better understand the origin, development, and expression of the religion itself.

The socio-historical study of religion is, in essence, an eclectic methodology that focuses on describing and analyzing the contexts from which the interpretation and practice of religion occurs. The goal is to examine how different aspects of a religion function in the broader socio-political and cultural milieu. Its most fundamental postulation is that the social history of a religious community affects how it interprets and practices their faith. By approaching religious inquiry from a socio-historical perspective, researchers are better able to recognize religion as a cultural and institutional element in ongoing social and historical interaction.

You can read Dr. Slade's entire article for free as part of the Global Center for Religious Research's commitment to continued exploration into the social-scientific study of religious history.


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