2. On the Restraint of Theory
Theory in a Time of Excess - Beyond Reflection and Explanation in Religious Studies Scholarship - Aaron W. Hughes
Jason N. Blum [+]
According to some, theory ensures the integrity of religious studies as an academic discipline: it is the development and application of theory to explain religion that distinguishes critical scholarship from the apologetics of theology (and, allegedly, the covert apologetics of phenomenology of religion). In this chapter, Blum acknowledges the necessity of theoretically-grounded explanation of religion, not as a levy to be paid for entrance into the academy or the public university, but as an essential dimension of the task of analyzing the collection of phenomena that we, for better or worse, call religion. Acknowledging the necessity of theory, however, does not tell us when and how theory should be deployed. Within this context, he argues that theory must be restrained in the interpretive phase of the analysis of religion, or else the scholar risks losing the very phenomenon she seeks to study. The legitimacy and integrity of research in religious studies therefore rests not only on the proper application of theory, but on the proper restraint of it as well.