Political Theology: The Next Generation

Ongoing special issue in religions, edited by Emin Poljarevic (Uppsala).

From the editorial:

This Special Issue aims at presenting a range of (re)considerations and explorations of which, how, and where political theologies, internal and external to the Abrahamic traditions, can support the quest for attaining deeper understandings of the potentials in struggles to improve the human condition. Herein we can perhaps recognize some of the prospects for generating sustainability of dignified human and animal life on Earth through critical engagement with today’s global predicaments. The goal here is to present a variety of political theological conceptions and imaginations of the ultimate horizon of human life in a postliberal and postsecular world. In other words, what world is possible beyond the Enlightenment conceptions of human coexistence, authenticity, truth, religious ethics, and liberty?


Religionshermeneutikk: Forståing i ei polarisert tid. New book by Øystein Brekke (OsloMet) at Universitetsforlaget.

I boka Religionshermeneutikk blir lesaren invitert til å reflektera over religionar og livssyn i det offentlege rommet, religionsdidaktikk, skulefaglege grunnlagsproblem og kva det vil seia å ha kunnskapar om religionar og livssyn i våre dagar. 

Eit viktig utgangspunkt for boka er fagfornyinga og nye læreplanar i skulefaga KRLE og Religion og etikk frå og med 2020. Boka tar tak i diskusjonen kring det nye faget og introduserer lesaren for relevante stemmer og perspektiv i debatten. 

Religionshermeneutikk rettar seg mot studentar og andre fagfolk i religionsvitskap, teologi, RLE på lærarutdanningane og PPU, og andre med interesse for temaet religion og samfunn.
Forfattaren er professor i religion, livssyn og etikk ved OsloMet – storbyuniversitetet.

Special issue on aesthetic experience and the holy

New special issue in Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift.

Metamorphosis: Chances and Risks in the Relationship between Aesthetic and Religious Experience (Jörg Lauster)

Approaching the numinous is something that has forged a deep bond between art and religion in European cultural history. In the wake of Kant and Schleiermacher, the German theologian Ulrich Barth elaborates four constitutive elements that distinguish both aesthetic and religious experience: Fullfillment of meaning, interruption, passivity, and transcendence. From Raphael to Caspar David Friedrich to Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, impressive examples can be found of how these dimensions oscillate between religion and art. Nevertheless, there is a limit: art can, but does not have to, approach the numinous. Art can act as an eye-opener, as a school of perception, as an initiation into what Robert Bellah calls “beyonding”; art can lift the veil that lies over our everyday perception. Religion lives from the numinous. The task of religion is to use symbolic, ritual, and conceptual means to present the mystery of the world and the prospect of salvation in a way that is so tangible and concrete that people can receive support and comfort for their lives from it.
The Numinous and the Art of Social Justice (Margaret Olin)

Numinous Edifices: Aesthetic Experiences of Sacred Spaces (Ola Sigurdson)

In this article, I explore the experience of the sacred with a focus on how it is experienced through spatial categories, particularly buildings. My main aim is to show how this is an aesthetic experience in the sense of what is intuitively given through our senses. My perspective is phenomenological in that I am above all concerned with how the sacred is experienced, not with how it should be interpreted. Thus, I discuss some of the classic writers on the phenomenology of religion – Mircea Eliade and Rudolf Otto – as well as some of their critics – Jonathan Z. Smith and, indirectly, Erika Fischer-Lichte. In their respective contributions to our understanding of how the sacred manifests itself in spatial edifices, I find both the classics and their critics constructive but ultimately wanting: while the classic approaches emphasize the power of the sacred and its verticality, the critics’ responses stress the performance of the sacred and its horizontality. My own contribution consists of a dialectic combination of the two: that the sacred is in some sense construed through the iterations of its performance does not exclude a sacred power that manifests itself through this very performance as a surplus. I conclude that there is a need for a phenomenology of numinous edifices that attends more concretely both to the actual materiality of the buildings in question, as this gives rise to different experiences of the sacred, as well as to the articulation and nuances of a multisensory experience of such buildings.

Presence and Power: Reflections on the Politics and Theology of Icons (George Pattison)

Contextualized by the use of icons during the current war in Ukraine, the paper finds a point of orientation in the veneration of the icon of Our Lady of Smolensk by the Russian army on the eve of the Battle of
Borodino, as portrayed by Tolstoy. Is this turning the icon into a battle-­flag? The use of icons in historic conflicts parallels the use of relics as a means of making present the power of the saint. Peter Brown shows that the cult of relics was closely associated with the sacralization of the burial site and dead body of the saint, democratized through the dismemberment of the saints’ bodies and the use of physical items associated with them, a process that icons take still further, making the saint present in every church and household. Showing the saint as both heavenly and earthly, the icon recalls human beings to their own finitude and mortality, as we see in Tolstoy’s image of Kutuzov kneeling before the icon of Our Lady of Smolensk. As expressive of human beings’ individual and collective incapacity in the face of the last things, this understanding of icons provides a defence against the misuse of the icon as a battle-flag or its instrumentalization as a means of political domination and manipulation

Systematic Theology as a Rationally Justified Public Discourse about God

New book by Michael Agerbo Mørch, published by Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht.

For centuries it has been discussed whether systematic theology is a scientific discipline. But it is not obvious what is meant by either” systematic theology” or” scientific discipline”. Michael Agerbo Mørch presents an understanding of systematic theology as a tripartite discipline and science as a rationally justified public discourse about a given topic. Systematic theology is shown to meet the most generally accepted criteria for scientific work, since its theories can be tested and even falsified in an intersubjective setting. This can be done by the most proper tool we have for assessing and comparing scientific theories, which is coherence theory. Therefore, even though systematic theology is a distinct and normative discipline, it is not compromising for its theories because it can present its theses in a transparent way that can be checked and criticized by peers and compared to relevant alternatives. As such, the book shows that systematic theology is a scientifically strong discourse that meets accepted criteria to the same degree as other disciplines.

Special issue on Carl Schmitt

Special issue on Carl Schmitt in Teologisk tidsskrift.

1. Oftestad, Schmitt og politisk teologi (Joar Haga, Hallgeir Elstad, Gard Granerød).

2. Introduksjon til Carl Schmitts tenkning (Rune Slagstad)

The article outlines some main tenets in Schmitt’s publications. Different epochs are characterized by the broad reception in both right- and left-leaning political camps. It argues that one of the main causes for the interest in his writings is due to the analysis of culture and society, particularly how profoundly it is rooted in the history of ideas. Examples from Norway’s academic debate about the constitution are used as exemplifying Schmitt’s political insights.

3. Er Carl Schmitts begrep om diktatur relevant for diskusjonen om autoritære tiltak i møte med klimakrisen? (Tarjei Røsvoll)

In this article, I discuss whether it is necessary to use authoritarian legal measures to address the climate crisis, in light of Carl Schmitt’s concept of dictatorship. After presenting Schmitt’s concept and placing it in the context of his general legal-theoretical thinking, I criticize the concept generally and as a basis for addressing the climate crisis. Schmitt’s concept of dictatorship should be understood adequately so as to identify the emergence of dictatorial mechanisms and avoid their entrenchment.

4. Carl Schmitts framstilling av Erik Peterson i Politische Theologie II (Joar Haga)

The article presents an aspect of Carl Schmitt’s rhetoric, namely irony, and portrays how Schmitt used it in his critique of Erik Peterson. I present, analyse, and evaluate Schmitt’s critique, and partly applaud Schmitt’s attempt to situate Peterson as a historian and expose his limitations. However, I am critical of how Schmitt avoided commenting on Peterson’s account of martyrdom, a central issue of how Peterson envisioned the church’s public appearance.

5. Carl Schmitt og det teologisk-politiske problem (Ragnar Misje Bergem)

In this article, I clarify the meaning of political theology in the works of Carl Schmitt. I shed light on ʻdecisionist’ and ʻinstituionalist’ readings of his political theology. I claim that the ambiguities of his decisionism must be understood in the light of his idea about the relationship between political form and a people’s way of life. In the final part of the article, I explain my understanding of the problem of political theology in Schmitt and shed some light on some of his writings from the later part of his career. Finally, I sketch a riposte to his understanding of and solution to the theologico-political problem.

6. Politisk teologi i antropocen. Diskusjon rundt Carl Schmitt i klimakrisens geopolitiske fase. (Marius Timman Mjaaland)

This article discusses the significance of Carl Schmitt’s work in contemporary debates on the Anthropocene, emphasizing his understanding of the political and the nomos of the earth in the climatic state of exception in the twenty-first century. I set out from the notion of the Anthropocene as a name suggested for the current geological epoch and discuss alternative notions such as Capitalocene and Chthulucene. I analyze the role of Carl Schmitt in the discourse on the Anthropocene with Michael S. Northcott, Bruno Latour, and Catherine Keller. Finally, I evaluate various models of theological reflection on the climate and nature crisis, its political preconditions, and its ethical and existential consequences.

Who Will Tame the Giants? An Investigation of Principalities and Powers in the Digital Age

Article by Lars Öberg in Scandinavian Journal for Leadership & Theology.

Abstract: This article investigates tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter in the light of the Pauline concepts of principalities and powers. It is argued that as people subjugate themselves to the digital frameworks of these modern giants, the way they perceive and interact with the world changes. The tech giants, similarly to the giants of mythology, constitute the very “place” where we, as users of the internet, are standing. The study argues that individuals who live their lives according to the frameworks of these modern-day principalities become participating members of the giants’ bodies and are thus influenced by their telos. As people increasingly access the world through these placeless platforms, and thereby giving sustenance to the principalities’ hollow bodies, their own existence becomes more and more disembodied. As modernity recedes, this kind of excarnation seems to have an accelerating effect on the shift in people’s worldview. The world which is formed by the tech giants’ frameworks is found to be less embodied and quite polytheistic. In a final discussion whether it is possible to exorcise or redeem these online principalities and powers the concept of egregore, or shared thought-form, is introduced. It is described how online activists try to manipulate these egregores through the reshaping of viral narratives by means of so-called “meme-magic”. It is concluded, however, that any attempt by the church to exorcise the demonic egregores on their home turf seem to necessitate a participation in the tech giants’ hollow bodies, which in turn might result in a sort of excarnation. A word of warning is therefore given against over-estimating one’s capacity to tame the tech giants through any form of social exorcism or political action.

The Spirit of Modernity and its Fate

Article by Ragnar Misje Bergem in Modern Theology.

This article presents an interpretation of the rise of theological genealogies as a response to the sense in modern theology that modernity is a fate. It suggests that theologians began to write genealogies to ease this sense that modernity is an inescapable condition. While it recognises that some of these genealogies have been partly successful in this endeavour, it also points out how a number of genealogies repeat some of the problematics they sought to escape. Finally, it provides some rudimentary reflections on how a theological engagement with history might be done better.

The Realisation of I-we

Article by Andreas Masvie in The Heythrop Journal.


Ever since Plato, a tragic conception of the human self has been the point de depart of moral and political philosophy: the I and the we belong to one another yet oppose each other. Ancients such as Aristotle contended that the we is ontologically prior and moderns such as Hobbes that the I is ontologically prior. I make the case that Jesus Christ realised an ontology which collapses this dichotomy: the human self is neither I nor we, but fundamentally I-we. I demonstrate that this is an ontology of gift-dynamics, made explicit in the mythical complex of the cult centring on Jesus Christ, and engraved unto this cult’s heart through ritual.

Religious pluralism and the challenge of relativism

Article by Catherine Cornille in Studia Theologica

This article deals with the various challenges of relativism when engaging with the reality of religious diversity in teaching and research. The richness of the teachings and practices of various religious traditions, combined with an acute awareness of the contingency of one’s own religious identity have made it more than ever difficult to argue for the importance or relevance of commitment to a particular religious tradition. I argue that an open and honest engagement with other religious traditions from a confessional perspective offers the most promising alternative to either a classical theological engagement with the resources of only one religious tradition on the one hand, or a neutral comparison of religions on the other. The field of comparative theology offers such middle ground which allows for a genuine openness toward other religious traditions while remaining grounded in the normative teachings of a particular religion. This field offers new approaches to both teaching and research in the area of religious diversity.

They are humans and our fellow citizens!

Article by Merethe Roos in Studia Theologica.

They are humans and our fellow citizens! Protestant theology and Jews in the Danish Enlightenment: examples from Balthasar Münter’s sermons

This article thematizes how Jews are portrayed in the Danish theologian Balthasar Münter’s sermons. Münter served as a preacher in German St. Petri congregation in Copenhagen between 1765 and 1793, and left a great number of texts to posterity. Previous scholarship has argued that in one of his sermons, Münter seems to take a more positive view of the Jews than what was common in his day. This sermon was used to defend the rights of Jews in the Jewish Literary Feud in 1813. However, in this article I will argue that Münter’s positive attitude is shaped by his theological views and can be seen as a consequence of certain characteristics of enlightenment theology, rather than a genuine expression of tolerance towards religious minorities. In the article, I will argue that Münter demonstrated the same antisemitic attitudes that characterize the texts of his contemporaries, such as the well-known court preacher Christian Bastholm. Bastholm, who wrote a three-volume work on the Jews and who mentioned the Jews and Judaism in a number of contexts, refers to the Jews as an evil people who killed their prophets and stoned their sages. Nevertheless, Münter’s openness points to fundamental characteristics of protestant theology.