Carey is excited to have been awarded its largest ever research grant from the John Templeton Foundation for a world-first multi-pronged research project titled “Theological Anthropology, Fundamental Need and Human Flourishing”.

Led by Christa L. McKirland, and Andrew B. Torrance, the project seeks to advance our understanding of what it means to be human by bringing the latest scientific research into constructive engagement with theological anthropology.

More specifically, the project will focus on the concept of “need,” which has been largely overlooked in contemporary discussions of human spirituality. In so doing it will address the following big question: Are there fundamental spiritual needs that contribute uniquely to human flourishing and, if so, what are they? This will invite a number of sub-questions. Can theology help us to understand the nature of human need? In what ways can cognitive science of religion (CSR), developmental psychology and social psychology complement this understanding? Together, how do they help us to understand the purposes for which God has created human persons? By showing the connection between human uniqueness and a need for God, this project will serve to develop a positive account of the relationship between CSR, developmental psychology, social psychology, and theology, offering a valuable contribution towards the burgeoning field of science-engaged theology.

“This is Carey’s largest ever research grant and a historic first Templeton grant for the college. It highlights Carey’s reputation as a community of integrative theological researchers whose enquiries into the constructive possibilities of theology’s intersection with other bodies of knowledge produces fresh insights for the church and society. We are thrilled to partner with the University of St Andrews and the University of Otago, and through the leadership of Dr Christa McKirland we are excited to see the fruits of this research project.” – Andrew Picard, Lecturer in Theology and Culture, and Head of Carey Graduate School.

A first of its kind, the project focuses on highlighting the excellence of women scholars already working in science-engaged theology while also developing the next generation of women theologians who want to integrate science and theology. The funds from the grant will establish a global mentoring scheme to support women scholars all over the world, specifically in theology.

“This grant is huge for the ongoing development of our research culture at Carey. It aligns perfectly with Carey’s bicultural aspirations and integrative approach to theology, providing a unique opportunity for our wāhine Māori scholars to shape culturally integrative science-engaged theology and contribute indigenous knowledges to the international discussion on human flourishing.” – Sandy Kerr, Kaiārahi-Rangahau Māori.


Details of the Grant

The bulk of the funds in this grant will go toward an international conference and funding one woman to pursue a theological doctorate (at the University of Otago) which focuses on human flourishing and engaging the empirical and social sciences, and another woman to pursue a part-time post-doctoral fellowship (at Carey Baptist College in partnership with Otago). These two emerging scholars will meet (digitally or in-person) annually with six science-engaged theologians: Sarah Lane Ritchie (University of Edinburgh), Joanna Leidenhag, and Andrew Torrance (University of St Andrews), Christa McKirland and Andrew Picard (Carey Baptist College), Nicola Hoggard Creegan (Co-Director of New Zealand Christians in Science); two scientists: Pamela Ebstyne King (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Joseph Bulbulia (Victoria University); and one social scientist and Kaiārahi-Rangahau Māori: Dr Sandy Kerr (Carey Baptist College). This research team will share their work at the Carey Baptist College Conference in July 2022. In addition to the conference and academic publications, this grant will also fund the administrative and software support to coordinate up to thirty mentoring relationships with early-career women scholars and more established academics in their fields around the globe.

Contact Dr Christa McKirland for more information.