Through the Bone and Marrow Re-examining Theological Encounters with Dance in Medieval Europe

A book by Laura Hellsten.

This book is a conversation starter. The author is re-imagining the theological landscape of historical practices of dance in order to open up a space where further explorations can be made. This is done in a two step manner. First, the book uncovers the restrictions of earlier research on the topic of dance in and around churches. In the second step, Hellsten suggests a practice for how historical sources can be imagined in a new frame. Opening up a new field of previously neglected and much needed historical studies on Dance in the Christian churches of the Latin West this study aims at questioning old paradigms and opening new vistas rather than reinterpreting concrete liturgical manuscripts or scrutinizing all the details of the historical sources presented.
The Donner Institute for Research in Religion and Culture in Turku, Finland has awarded its Nordic Research Prize 2021 to Dr. theol. Laura Hellsten for her creative research widening our understanding of sacral dance in general and of the role of dance in the Christian church in particular.

Laura Hellsten is a post-doctoral fellow in Systematic Theology at Åbo Akademi University. In her current research she works as an ethicist ethnographically participating in a transdisciplinary research group studying the functions of cells. She also leads a project which brings together artists and researchers around the theme of science communication. She has further published articles around current and historical practices of dance in Western Christian theological traditions.

Navigating ethics in a pandemic—Contempt for the weak versus love of neighbor in a Swedish lens

Article by Sigurd Bergmann in Dialog.

The article draws on the author’s observations and reflections about Sweden’s pandemic management from February 2020 to June 2021. It does not simply interpret the lessons one can learn from the Swedish biopolitical experiment, but focuses on some central ethical challenges that every nation had to face in an accelerating pandemic. The intention with such a sharp critical discussion of the Swedish experience is to clarify some of the crucial ethical dilemmas and abysses in pandemic ethics. One article cannot possibly cover the wide and deep agenda for all complex ethical dimensions in a pandemic. This contribution in particular explores why the method of natural herd immunization is unethical, and what kind of legal and ethical aspects are relevant in international law and the WHO’s ethical codex for a pandemic. In a Christian perspective it seems not at all strange to approach the theme of pandemic ethic also with theological arguments. A creator God who became flesh is deeply involved in our bodily world and life. What counts as health therefore appears to be a central issue for believers and faith communities, as is faith in a God who bodily cares for and liberates God’s creation in all its dimensions. The exploration of Sweden’s pandemic experiment flows into a plea for to apply the triple command of love sharpened by the command of love of the poor and vulnerable, and concludes with a short meta-ethical reflection on the need of aesth/ethical imagination of the other.

Samvete i Sverige. Om frihet och lydnad från medeltid till idag

Anthology edited by Lindkvist & Ljungberg, Nordic Academic Press.

We live in a time when thoughts of conscience and freedom of conscience are increasingly seen in the Swedish public in national politics, on the newspapers’ editorial pages and in social media. Historically, both concepts have been used to mark a certain degree of freedom or a protected position in moral, political and legal conflicts. References to an individual’s conscience and differences between an internal and an external court have been able to legitimize exemption from religious and state coercive mechanisms and justified, for example, the refusal of arms or abortion. A group of researchers in history, human rights, jurisprudence, ethics and sociology of religion take a common approach here to some of the most burning conflicts around conscience and freedom of conscience in Sweden from the Middle Ages to today. A picture emerges of complex concepts that even today bear clear traces of older distinctions and historical conflicts.

Authors: Biörn Tjällén, Anna Nilsson Hammar, Joachim Östlund, Göran Gunner, Kavot Zillén, Linnea Jensdotter, Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson, Leif Ericsson, Johannes Ljungberg, and Linde Lindkvist.

Ecophilosophy and the Ambivalence of Nature: Kierkegaard and Knausgård on Lilies, Birds and Being

Article by Marius Gunnar Timmann Mjaaland in Kierkegaard Studies.

In The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air (1849), Kierkegaard presents a succinct critique of Romantic aesthetics, in line with contemporary critiques of ecocriticism and ecophilosophy, e.g. by Timothy Morton. Whereas Romantic poets see nature as a mirror of their inner thoughts and pathos, thereby divinising themselves and their creativity, Kierkegaard emphasises the authority of the Creator and the exteriority of nature. He identifies the consequences of such Romantic self-infatuation on all levels of discourse: aesthetics, ethics, epistemology and ontology, and seeks to formulate an alternative. I argue that the discourses thus represent an alternative philosophy of nature, revealing an immediate joy for the gift of being-there. Being human thus means being dependent on and embedded in nature. This makes Kierkegaard a highly relevant interlocutor for contemporary ecophilosophy and ecocriticism, as revealed by Knausgård’s novel Morgenstjernen (2020).

Resonans seminar: God Hidden and Revealed: Political Theology and Metaphysics in Luther and Protestantism

We are pleased to introduce our second Resonans seminar this autumn:

‘God Hidden and Revealed: Political Theology and Metaphysics in Luther and Protestantism’

7 desember 14.00-16.00

The paper will be presented by Marius Timmann Mjaaland, Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo

Respondent t.b.a.

Chaired by Jeppe Bach Nikolajsen (MF)

Zoom info:

Meeting ID: 649 6265 5868

Passcode: 158915

Church, State, and Pluralistic Society: Reforming Lutheran Teaching on the Two Regiments

Article by Jeppe Bach Nikolajsen in International Journal of Public Theology.


This article demonstrates that Lutheran teaching on the two regiments can be drawn in different directions and how it was drawn in a particular direction for centuries so that it could provide a theoretical framework for mono-confessional Lutheran societies. It argues that the Lutheran two regiments theory can be developed along a different path, regaining some emphases in Luther’s early reflections: it can thereby contribute to an improved understanding of the role not only of the church but also of the state. While a number of Lutheran theologians believe that Lutheran teaching on the two regiments is particularly difficult to apply today, with some even contending that it should simply be abandoned, this article argues that Lutheran teaching on the two regiments could present a potential for a relevant understanding of the relationship between church, state, and society, and its ethical implications in a contemporary pluralistic society.

Av denna världen? Gudsrike och temporalitet i tyskt politiskt tänkande före 1848

Article by Anton Jansson in Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift

This article deals with the theological concept “Kingdom of God” in pre-1848 German political thought, more specifically in the texts of three political authors of the era: Wilhelm Weitling, Friedrich Julius Stahl, and Karl Theodor Welcker. The article is located in the nexus between theology and history of political thought, and has three main aims: First, in a gen­eral sense, it discusses and applies Amos Funkenstein’s idea of laymen theology and Jan-Werner Müller’s notion of in-between figures. Second, using these, it gives an example how theology has been an active language in the formation of modern political thought, more specifically the modern political ideologies of liberalism, socialism, and conservatism. Third, it tries to complement existing studies of temporality and theology in the mod­ern period, most notably the work of Jayne Svenungsson. Methodologically, in focusing and historicizing one specific concept, it connects to the theories of Reinhart Koselleck. The article shows how the Kingdom of God was differently conceived by authors of different political positions, but, more importantly, discusses how it became an active theological concept, used by laymen, in a political context obsessed with questions of historical change, the possibility of societal perfection, and the role of Christianity in the world.

Mellan mission och sionism: Svenska Israelsmissionen och grundandet av Svenska teologiska institutet i Jerusalem

Article by Håkan Bengtsson in Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift.

This article discusses the establishment of the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem in 1951. My claim is that the missionary plan of the Swedish Mission to the Jews was mitigated towards a programme of biblical studies. Several factors contributed to this transformation. The change facilitated the relations with the Israeli authorities. Another challenge was to overcome the common Christian negative comprehension of Zionism as a mere materialistic, political enterprise. Such attitudes complicated a connection to political Zionism, however the Swedish Theological Institute related rather to the cultural Zionist agenda of promoting Jewish culture and the Bible and could later connect to the topic of the Bible and the land. The experiences of the Swedish Mission in Vienna during the Second World War and their anti-Nazi stance also en­abled the founding of the institute. Two former missionaries, Greta Andrén and Hans Kosmala, were appointed as heads of the institute. Andrén had previously experienced that missionary work in Jerusalem was considered as utterly suspicious. Thereto both the Anglican and the Swedish missionaries had under ambivalent presuppositions supported an evacuation of baptized Jews, so-called “Hebrew Christians”, from Palestine to England in April and May 1948. This enterprise, named “Operation Mercy”, was later proved to be primarily an excuse for these Hebrew Christians to leave the country. The links to any overt mission­ary work was thus disengaged when negotiating permits for the Swedish Theological Institute. Instead, a qualified study programme in the Bible, the land, and Judaism was initiated; concepts that reflected esteemed values of the new Israeli state.

Resiliensteologi : En studie av den kristna traditionens hållbara förändring

Doctoral thesis by Sabina Koij at Åbo Akademi.

The aim of this doctoral thesis is to confront the problem of how Christian faith, constantly expressed and fashioned in new ways, can be said to be the same faith. This problem is formulated in a central question: If Christian faith constantly takes on a variety of new expressions, how can the theology of the Christian faith appear to have continuity? 

The thesis begins by observing the discontinuity of the Christian tradition over a period of 500 years in Storkyrkan, the Cathedral of Stockholm. Starting in the 1980´s and journeying backwards towards the beginning of the reformation, a series of tableaus are outlined which reveal how Christian faith has continuously been manifested in new forms and content. Against this background of discontinuity, I want to suggest how a resilient contemporary theology for the Church of Sweden might appear. 

The question of how Christian faith and it´s continual variety of expressions can be combined simultaneously with continuity is treated as a problem of tradition. This problem of tradition is confronted by referencing the American Catholic theologian David Tracy and his understanding of tradition from a critical hermeneutical point of view. Tracy´s understanding of tradition is compared to the function of the so-called dynamic system and the concept of resilience. Resilience concerns the sustainability of dynamic systems and their ability to accommodate change without losing their basic function and thereby collapsing. 

A central thought enclosed within the theories concerning the concepts of resilience and the dynamic system is the acceptance of complexity, innovation and a readiness for surprise. According to Tracy, the concepts of resilience and the dynamic system are used as tools of analysis in order to shed light upon that which needs to be strengthened regarding a tradition´s ability to endure change without collapsing. The strengthening is accomplished by three moldable criteria presented by a number of Lutheran theologians. These criteria are a biblical criterion, a criterion of reason, logic and personal experience and an ethical criterion. These three criteria reinforce David Tracy´s understanding of the Christian tradition in relation to the concept of resilience, including the acceptance of complexity, innovation and readiness for surprise. The purpose of these criteria is to contribute to the discussion within the Church of Sweden concerning the resilient and sustainable Christian tradition. A suggestion then follows as to how resilient contemporary theology could be formulated, a theology that hopefully will be beneficial in understanding how one and the same faith can absorb a variety of continual new expressions and, as a dynamic system, function according to its intentional purpose. The thesis begins in the Cathedral of Stockholm and concludes in this same room with speculations concerning the future of Christian faith and its ability to meet and absorb a continual flow of new expressions in an ever changing world.

Det övergripande syftet med denna studie, Resiliensteologi. En studie av den kristna traditionens hållbara förändring, är att mot bakgrund av den diskontinuitet som kan observeras i Storkyrkans historia undersöka de teologiska villkoren för kristen traditionsförmedling samt presentera ett förslag till hur en resilient samtidsteologi för Svenska kyrkan skulle kunna se ut. Undersökningen tar avstamp i iakttagelsen att den kristna tron över tid förkunnats och gestaltats på ständigt nya sätt. Därmed reses frågor om vad som kan sägas vara kontinuerligt i tron, om den nu samtidigt hela tiden förändras. 

Avhandlingen inleds med ett Baklängespreludium, vars syfte är att visa hur gestaltningen av den kristna tron har skiftat över tid i ett och samma rum. Det handlar om ett antal historiska tablåer från Storkyrkans historia med början i 1980-talet tillbaka till 1500-talet som synliggör en problematik som sedan formuleras i studiens huvudfråga om hur man kan förstå och tala om den kristna trons kontinuitet och samtidiga diskontinuitet. För att göra frågan om den kristna trons samtidiga förändring och kontinuitet mer hanterlig bearbetas den i termer av en traditionsproblematik. Genom att knyta an till olika teoretiker resoneras kring begreppet tradition i allmänhet och därefter med hjälp av hermeneutisk filosofi. Utifrån den kritisk-hermeneutiska teologen David Tracy och hans traditionsförståelse fördjupas sedan diskussionen genom att fokusera på specifikt den kristna traditionens förändring och kontinuitet. Tracys traditionsförståelse relateras därefter till funktionen hos det dynamiska systemet, såsom det definieras inom social-ekologin, och det tillhörande begreppet resiliens, som handlar om ett systems förmåga att härbärgera förändring utan att det förlorar sin grundläggande funktion och kollapsar. Genom att jämföra Tracys traditionsförståelse med idéer om ett social-ekologiskt dynamiskt system i rörelse, och låta resiliensbegreppet hjälpa till att ställa frågan om vad som kan sägas vara en hållbar kristen tradition, introduceras begrepp från det social-ekologiska fältet i den kritiska hermeneutiken inom den systematiska teologin, för att därigenom bidra till en teologisk analys. Detta görs med särskilt fokus på tre aspekter – komplexitet, innovation och beredskap – som alla utgör förutsättningar för systemresiliens. Dessa tre aspekter hos resiliensbegreppet ställs sedan i relation till David Tracys kritiskt hermeneutiska traditionsförståelse med utgångspunkt från frågan om vad som kan förstärkas hos Tracy för att man bättre ska förstå traditionens hållbara förändring. 

Med hjälp av en rad lutherska systematiska teologer resoneras kring hur en sådan förstärkning skulle kunna se ut genom att presentera ett antal formbara kriterier för en hållbar tradition. Det handlar om ett bibliskt kriterium, ett förnufts-logiskt och personligt erfarenhetskriterium samt ett etiskt kriterium. Dessa förändringskriterier syftar till att öka förståelsen för den kristna traditionens hållbara förändring förstådd som ett resilient dynamiskt system som klarar av att fungera på det sätt systemet är tänkt att fungera. Insikterna från mötet mellan Tracys traditionsförståelse och resilienstänkandet, tillsammans med de formbara kriterierna, tas sedan med in i återvändandet till studiens huvudfråga om hur trons kontinuitet och samtidigt skiftande uttryck kan förstås. I slutet presenteras så ett konstruktivt förslag till hur en resilient samtidsteologi för Svenska kyrkan skulle kunna se ut, en teologi som jag hoppas kan bidra till förståelsen för och hur kyrkan idag kan tala kring trons ständiga förändring och på samma gång kontinuitet. Allra sist tas vi tillbaka till det kyrkorum vi befann oss i inledningsvis, för att i ett Framlängespreludium – som fungerar som pendang till Baklängespreludiet – för att med blicken framåt spekulera kring kyrkans framtida situation. 

Imagination in Religion: Perspectives from the Philosophy of Religion

Anthology on Lit Verlag edited by Espen Dahl, Jan-Olav Henriksen, Marius T. Mjaaland.

Religion would be impossible without imagination. Imagination provides content that otherwise escapes discourse and perception. Thus, it opens up a productive realm for creative involvement that keeps religion from sinking into trivialities or abstractions. The contributions in the present volume explore in various ways potentialities and problems linked to imagination’s role in the context of religion. The book challenges readers to think again and think differently about imagination in religion – which, in itself, involves the power of imagination. The book opens up fresh perspectives on the interactive dynamics between imagination and various faculties or dimensions of life. Imagination might be involved in thinking, perceiving, contemplation, and in practices.