Christian theology as comparative theology: Towards a radical change of “Method”

Editorial article by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen.


This essay makes a recommendation for an expansion in the approach and “method” of Christian theology: it proposes Christian theology as comparative theology. In the religiously pluralistic world, it is not sufficient merely to engage other faith traditions as an “auxiliary task.” Rather, the comparative task should belong to the “normal” way of doing “basic” Christian theological work. While Christian theology is not subsumed under comparative theology, as it were, the essay argues that without the comparative task, Christian theology may fail its calling in the third millennium.

Kristendom og politikk i Skandinavia på 1800-talet

Article by Morten Øveraas in Teologisk tidsskrift

Kristendom og politikk i Skandinavia på 1800-talet – nokre historiografiske utfordringar, tendensar og politisk-teologiske refleksjonar

Christianity and politics in Scandinavia in the nineteenth century – some historiographical challenges, tendencies, and political-theological reflections

The article presents and discusses some historiographical challenges, tendencies, and political-theological reflections on the relationship between Christianity and politics in Scandinavia in the nineteenth century. How should rational science understand and describe actors with beliefs in metaphysical phenomena? The article reviews the state of the art in considering this problem and the following matters: 1) How Lutheran Christianity influenced the political cultures in Scandinavia; 2) The impact of priests, the Bible, and religious minorities. I suggest that persistent and indistinct intersections between politics and theology must be included and analysed as a potential explanatory factor in historiographical and social research. Political-theological actions should be understood on their own terms but be examined on rational-scientific grounds to formulate empirically grounded theories.

Religiøs erfaring eller erfaring ved hjelp av religion?

Article by Jan-Olav Henriksen in Teologisk tidsskrift.

Religiøs erfaring eller erfaring ved hjelp av religion? Refleksjoner med utgangspunkt i Schleiermacher og Hegel

Religious experience or Experiences with/by religion?
Reflections on Scheleiermacher and Hegel

The question of how to understand religious experience and its conditions are discussed via an analysis of basic elements in the positions of Schleiermacher and Hegel. Moving from an initial presentation of basic elements in abductive reasoning, it is argued that such reasoning is inherent in both Schleiermacher and Hegelʼs positions. From some supplementary perspectives in Ann Tavesʼs recent work on the topic, the argument moves to the conclusion that the abductive mode makes it problematic to argue for an understanding of religion sui generis, and suggests a way to nuance how to understand diverse experiences of religion.

Ole Hallesby og fascismen

Article by Hans Bringeland in Teologisk tidsskrift.

The first part discusses Professor Ole Hallesbyʼs view of society and his political stance in the interwar period. The second part is an inquiry into his relations with the German Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and with the SS officer Wilhelm Wagner during the war. In particular, the article will test Arvid Nærøʼs assertions that in the 1930s Hallesby presents himself as a pro-fascist ideologue with racist and antisemitic views and that during the occupation he establishes a secret mutual understanding with Wagner/SD under which the Church should ignore the persecution of the Jews in exchange for its own freedom.

Cosmopolitical Spiritualities of Deep Time: Reading J.G. Ballard’s Mystical Impulse

Article by Simone Kotva in  Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology.

This article considers J. G. Ballard’s account of deep time in The Drowned World (1962) from a religious perspective. I situate Ballard’s account of deep time in the context of Mircea Eliade’s influential work on the “Real Time” of ecstasy—a time in which humans recognize their indistinctness from the animal and undergo an experience of self-annihilation. But Eliade’s is not the only interpretation of ecstatic temporality that is relevant to Drowned World. I argue that Ballard also narrates a constructive response to deep time that issues not in self-annihilation but in communal action and group living. It is in order to parse this aspect of Ballard’s account of deep time that I turn, in the final part of the article, to consider Drowned World as an anticipation also of more recent, cosmopolitical approaches to ecstatic temporalities by theologians, anthropologists and philosophers.

Negative Theology: A Short Introduction

Book by Johannes Aakjær Steenbuch on Wipf & Stock / Cascade Books

How do we speak about God if God is ineffable? This paradoxical question lies at the heart of one of the strangest traditions of philosophical and theological thought: negative theology. As a tradition of thought, negative (or apophatic) theology can be traced back to the convergence of Greek philosophy with Jewish and Christian theology in the first century CE. Beginning with a seemingly simple claim about the ineffability or unsayability of God, negative theology evolved into a complex tradition of thought and spirituality. Today, together with a growing interest in patristic and medieval studies, negative theology enjoys renewed attention in contemporary philosophy and theology. This short introduction presents an overview of how the tradition developed from antiquity until present. 

The significance of participation in transcendence in Luther and Przywara

Knut Alfsvåg in Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie.

Plato and Aristotle understood phenomena to be knowable to the extent that they participate in the reality of the unchangeable, and this attitude was appropriated by the church fathers as a way of exploring the world’s dependence on its Creator. Luther’s insistence on the world’s sinfulness and on salvation as one-sidedly dependent on divine agency has been criticized as a rejection of this understanding of the inherent goodness of the world, thus paving the way for the secularized world view of modernity. Among these critics is Erich Przywara in his works up to and including his book Analogia Entis from 1932. However, in 1952 Przywara published an article where he found Luther’s theology of exchange to be a close parallel to his own doctrine of analogia entis, the implication being that Luther is closer to a Catholic understanding of the world’s relationship with God than mainstream post-Enlightenment Protestantism, and this article is an attempt to substantiate that claim.

Akademisk teologi som universell kunskapsform

Article by Mårten Björk in Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift

This article seeks to define what academic theology can be at a secular university by entering into dialogue with, among others, the Swedish church historian Joel Halldorf and using the difference between juridical and critical authority established by Pius XII in the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu. In the article, I insist that one has to differentiate academic from confessional theology as a science with critical, rather than juridical, authority. By using Paul J. Griffiths, Erik Peterson, John Henry Newman, and Hans Urs von Balthasar it is argued that academic theology is a non-denominational study of discourses on God and the religious archives to which they belong. Academic theology can be described as a science that investigates, shapes, and discusses theological discourses wherever they appear. This secular science has a systematic and summa­tive nature and requires a methodological openness as it is in dialogue with the other sciences by seeking universal and plausible knowledge. Its fate is that it can only approach its object in a distant and critical way. It lacks the love or desperation that confession entails, but on the other hand it has the glory of the sciences and can strive to say something scientifically true. Thus, at least for those who believe Pius XII, it can be part of the quest for the truth that religious traditions usually describe as a God, and there are therefore good religious reasons to grant academic theology scientific autonomy as a universal form of knowledge that is also plausible for those who lack belief.

Bör ersättningsteologin ersättas?

Article by Tobias Hägerland in Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift.

Should supersessionism be superseded? Noting that supersessionism is routinely dismissed as a detestable error in Swedish public discourse as well as in academic theology, this article aims at providing some deeper reflection on what is denoted by the term supersessionism and what sort of supersessionism is incompatible with the current positions of mainline Christian churches and communities. The study is carried out in critical dialogue with Jakob Wirén’s recent important work on supersessionist patterns in spirituality and preaching. It observes that two main types of def­initions of supersessionism exist. On the one hand, the narrow definition proposed by R. Kendall Soulen suggests that the annulment of God’s covenant with the Jewish people is a necessary element of supersession­ism; on the other hand, the broader definition associated with David Novak includes both “hard” and “soft” supersessionism, the latter not implying any termination of the covenant with Israel. The supersession­ist patterns identified by Wirén in the current hymnal of the Church of Sweden should almost exclusively be categorized as expressions of “soft” supersessionism. As this kind of supersessionism has not been officially rejected by mainline denominations such as Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Roman Catholic Church, it should not be put on a par with “hard” supersessionism, which is indeed rejected. The article calls for a more cautious handling of the concept of supersessionism in academic theology with the hope of curbing its frequent use as an invective in public dis­course.

“Den andra världen är den här världen”

Article by Peter Halldorf in Svensk Teologisk Kvartalsskrift.

“Den andra världen är den här världen”: Philip Sherrards theoantropokosmiska vision i ljuset av ett planetärt akutläge

“Philip Sherrard is truly a prophet for our present age, a messenger whose winged words are addressed not so much to the twentieth century in which he lived as to the twenty-first century that is now unfolding.” With this depiction metropolitan Kallistos Ware described the English poet and theologian Philip Sherrard, whose legacy and writings has a prophetic urgency in light of our current crises. For Sherrard, whose encounter with modern Greek poets in the 1950s led him to a study of the theological roots of Orthodoxy, the basic ecological challenge is not technological or economic but spiritual. Without a contemplative frame of mind, “the eye of the heart”, we cannot see the world in God. And only if we see the world in God can we overcome the present crisis. The leitmotif in Sherrards work is what he terms a “theantropocosmic vision” – a vision of man and nature which makes it possible for us to perceive and experience both ourselves and the world we live in as sacred realities. Our human vocation, as priests of the creation, is to reveal anew the holiness of nature, raising up the world from its fallen state and rendering it once more transparent to the divine glory.