Theological Anthropology, Fundamental Need, and Human Flourishing

Funded by the John Templeton Foundation | Hosted through Carey Baptist College



The University of Otago, in partnership with Carey Baptist College, invites applications for one part-time postdoctoral research position in science-engaged theology. The post-holder will take a position of leadership in research and administration of a major research initiative on “Theological Anthropology, Fundamental Need, and Human Flourishing,” funded by the John Templeton Foundation. This post will begin on 1 July 2021 and will end on 31 August 2023. This project focuses on increasing the number of women in the field of science-engaged theology and thus applications are only open to women.

Title: Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Department: Carey Baptist College in partnership with the University of Otago

FT/PT/Temp: Part-time

Hours: 20 per week

Pay: $30,000 annually

Research Budget: $8250 one-time allowance

Fixed Term: 1 July 2021-31 Aug 2023

Reports to: Dr. Christa McKirland (Project Leader (PL))

Application Due Date: 1 February


About the Research Project:

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. As such, it will offer a contribution towards the burgeoning field of science-engaged theology. 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. 

Essential Functions:

  • Research interest in one or both of the above ‘Big Questions.’ Prior publication related to these questions is a benefit, but not a requirement for application.
  • Meet with the research team for all scheduled digital or in-person meetings (maximum of four meetings throughout the fellowship).
  • The writing of one conference paper, to be presented in July 2022 at the international conference hosted through Carey Baptist College.
  • Submission of one article for publication on the topic of fundamental need before the fellowship has concluded. The article must be suitable for publication with a university press or equivalent (e.g. OUP, Eerdmans, Religious Studies, International Journal of Systematic Theology).
  • Provide intellectual and administrative leadership in executing an international conference (i.e. helping the PL organize the program, chairing a session, etc.) and helping revise the Carey Baptist College undergraduate course on theological anthropology.
  • Co-edit with the PL a special issue of the Journal of Analytic Theology on the papers submitted by the research team.
  • Draft the progress and update reports for the grant and submit to Dr. McKirland.
  • Assist with any aspect of the project as needed.


  • Legally identifies as a woman.
  • Is a resident of (and currently resides in) Aotearoa.
  • Has formal theological education at the GradDip level or higher.
  • Has a PhD in philosophy, philosophical theology, systematic theology, or a scientific discipline.
  • Has experience writing and publishing scholarly work.
  • Demonstrates strong oral and written communication skills.
  • Possesses strong interpersonal skills.
  • Has the ability to handle projects with deadlines simultaneously and to organize a large range of complex material.
  • Is a team-player, with a desire to work as part of a large academic project/research team.
  • Has the ability or desire to work in a distinctly Christian office environment.
  • Has the ability to work some evenings/weekends for special events.

Desirable Qualifications:

  • Knowledge of research and project administration preferred, but not required.

Other Benefits Provided by the John Templeton Foundation:

  • $8,250 research budget for the entirety of the post-doctoral fellowship.

To apply, candidates must submit an electronic packet including the following to [email protected] by 1 February.

  1. A brief statement of your research experience, interests, and goals. Please include how your research interests pertain to this project.
  2. A copy of your CV.
  3. A research-based writing sample.
  4. Names and contact information for three professional references.

Notification of a decision will go out to all applicants by 26 February 2021. Please refer to the Supporting Information.