Theology and science of religion: The meaning and the absurdity of a conflict

  1. Lemma
  2. Theologie und Religionswissenschaft: Sinn und Unsinn eines Konflikts
  3. German
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Integration - Scientific theories and disciplines > Religious studies - Culture and national identities - Ecumenism and dialogue > Dialogue between churches - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Status of theology - Ecumenism and dialogue > Dialogue between religions
  6. 26-02-2017
  7. Delikonstantis, Konstantin [Author]. Theology and science of religion: The meaning and the absurdity of a conflict
  8. Ökumenisches Forum
  9. science of religion - global crisis - academic theology - religious studies
    1. <p>Delikostantis, K. (2002). Theologie und Religionswissenschaft. <em>Ökumenisches Forum</em>, <em>25</em>, 251-262.</p>
    1. In this article, the author examines the present status of theology, as a scientific discipline, with regard to the development of the science of religion or religion studies. Laying, from the outset, particular emphasis on the fact that the current global challenges necessitate joint efforts and the emergence of a collaborative mentality transcending the boundaries of any given civilization, religion, confession, state and economy, he points out that today the severity of the global cultural, social and ecological crisis is such that inevitably theology, despite being itself, by definition, a phenomenon pertaining to crisis situations, and despite also the ‘post-secular’ character of our times, which are marked by the ‘return of God’, faces its own crisis of orientation and identity. The current conflict between theology and religion studies is one of the aspects of this crisis.

      Compared with theology, the science of religion is seemingly more qualified for the status of a scientific discipline, since it programmatically retains a distance from its object. By contrast, theological discourse is always grounded on a particular community of faith. From this, however, it does not follow that theology is a kind of propaganda, or that it is doomed to be a pseudo-science, all the past well-intentioned attempts for its ‘scientification’ notwithstanding. Theology, instead, must be regarded as a critical partner of faith, providing valuable critical insights on faith from the inner space of the collective experience of faith. Without a subjectivity anchored in actual, lived experience no science is possible. In this respect, the difference between theology and the science of religion is that in the former this subjectivity is presented in concrete terms, as something which can be controlled, whereas in the latter it is reconstructed as something abstract, anonymous, and uncontrollable, which, for all that, still operates effectively in the background.

      A mutually profitable relation between theology and the science of religion must be sought for. Theological thought could be significantly enriched by critically incorporating into its own problematics the findings of the historical, comparative, phenomenological, psychological and sociological studies conducted from the standpoint of the science of religion. And the latter, by interacting with theology, could widen and deepen its, otherwise rather narrow, horizon, thematizing religion as a multilayered experience without reducing it merely to its functional role. In Greece, the existing university departments of theology, both that of Athens and that of Thessaloniki, have included religion studies as a distinct sector in their structure. The value of the science of religion, either with regard to the education of theologians or, more generally, with regard to the education of educators, should be acknowledged and enhanced. In order to creatively encounter the global challenges of the present, theology should trigger, and be actively involved in, intellectually and spiritually productive forms of interconfessional or interdisciplinary dialogue and orientate itself towards a future of openness.