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Progress in Theology - Winter Seminar

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Over the course of three days, we will explore topics that concern the status of the discipline of theology.

About this event

Whereas many contemporary universities originated from theological schools, over the past centuries the status of theology as a proper academic discipline has become contested, to say the least. Among the many allegations levelled against theology is the idea that there is no progress in theology. The aim of this Winter Seminar is to investigate under which conditions, if any, theology can still function as an intellectually respectable academic discipline. In particular, the Seminar will zoom in on the notion of progress in theology. Is there any? If not, is that a problem? If so, what shape does such progress take and is it possible to make more progress in theology?


Over the course of three days, we will explore topics that concern the status of the discipline of theology. We set out with the intellectual tasks of theology: what work should theologians do which cannot be done by the other disciplines? In this connection it is important to explore what kind of knowledge theology produces, which research methods enable such knowledge production, and to what extent theological research can be replicated. Next, we will discuss whether there should be more progress in theology, or, rather, more theology in progress, i.e. more critical theological reflection on the modern ideal of progress and its ambiguities. More information can be found here

Online & On location in Amsterdam

The seminar will be organised in an online format and will be live streamed from the Pakhuis de Zwijger, Piet Heinkade 179, Amsterdam (timezone: CEST). Since we recognise the added value of meeting in person, there is also an option to attend the seminar on location. This includes lunch, coffee and tea and a dinner on one of the days of the seminar. Please note that not all speakers will be giving their presentation on location.  

Confirmed speakers

- Prof. Kevin Schilbrack (Appalachian State University, United States), author of Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto (London: Blackwell, 2014)

- Dr. Katrin Gülden Le Maire (FIIT, Heidelberg) finished a PhD-thesis on contemporary challenges to academic theology with reference to Wolfhart Pannenberg’s work (2019)

- Prof. Benedikt Göcke (Ruhr University Bochum, Germany), editor of Die Wissenschaftlichkeit der Theologie (Münster: Asschendorf Verlag, 2018)

- Jan G. Michel (University of Düsseldorf) locum professor in the Department of Philosophy.

- Prof. Oliver Crisp (University of St Andrews, United Kingdom), Professor of Analytic Theology, Director of the Logos Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology and author of many works in ‘analytical theology’

- Prof. Katherin Rogers (University of Delaware, United States), specialized in two areas of study: the philosophy of religion and Medieval philosophy, author of several philosophical books related to the life of St. Anselm of Canterbury.

- Prof. Gijsbert van den Brink (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), author of Philosophy of Science for Theologians (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2009)

- Dr. Rik Peels (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), author of Responsible Belief: A Theory in Ethics and Epistemology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017)

Call For Papers

We invite contributions from theologians, scholars in religious studies, philosophy, and anyone else interested in progress in theology.

Please send a 500 word abstract to Samira van der Loo (via abrahamkuypercenter@vu.nl) by October 15th 2021. The abstract should be suitable for blind review. Questions can be sent to the same email address. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

• What is academic progress, how does it relate to consensus and convergence, and how does this impact the status of theology?

• How desirable is progress in theology?

• Are there important differences in epistemic progress between theology and the humanities on the one hand and the sciences on the other – or even between theology and the (other) humanities?

• Can the tools of analytical philosophy and its methodology facilitate progress in theology?

• Should we aim at an ‘empirical turn’ in theology, as to be achieved e.g. by connecting theology with the cognitive science of religion?

• What does the desideratum of progress mean for the future of theology?

• Is replication a proper way for theology to make progress?

• How should a publicly funded theological department in a (post-)secular and multi-religious society ideally look like?

• How should the concept of progress be critically assessed from a theological or philosophical perspective?

This seminar is part of the research project ‘Epistemic Progress in the University‘ of the Abraham Kuyper Center, funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

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