This article argues the concept of abduction can strengthen the links between qualitative research and theological inquiry in a theo-social methodology that seeks an understanding of God’s presence, character, and activity through empirically grounded inquiries of social life. It examines how different qualitative research methods can be utilized to study religious formation through a newly proposed framework that addresses dynamics of religiosity and religious identity. This framework relies on principles of abductive analysis, constant comparative method, and constructivist grounded theory, illustrated with a case study from the author’s research in contemporary China. Key elements of this framework are bridged with theological inquiry through principles of theological ethnography grounded in Christian conceptions of the incarnation, revelation, and the image and mission of God. In conclusion, important correlations between qualitative method, theology, and religious formation are highlighted with a challenge to expand theo-social study of lived theologies in World Christianity.

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