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Concilium 2006/2 Theology in a World of Specialization

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ISBN-13: 9780334030881
Published: 20/06/2006
Product description
Introduction. Theology in a world of specialization / Erik Borgman, Felix Wilfred -- The social background to the process of differentiation in society and the life worlds of human beings / Karl Gabriel -- Theology in the modern university : whither specialization? / Felix Wilfred -- Theology and religious studies in an age of fragmentation / Sheila Greeve Davaney -- 'Many have undertaken-- and I too decided' : the one story or the many? / Elaine Wainwright -- Theological ethics without theology : assessing theological-ethical reflection of moral challenges posed by pluralism in relation to theology / Christoph Baumgartner -- Church history without God or without faith? / Willem Frijhoff -- From shaken foundations to a different integrity : spirituality as response to fragmentation / Mary Grey -- Theologies of the South : incarnate and holistic / Diego Irarrazabal -- Who framed Clodovis Boff? : revisiting the controversy of 'theologies of the genitive' in the twenty-first century / Marcella Althaus-Reid -- Theology in relation to the natural sciences / Palmyre Oomen -- Theology and the social sciences / Richard H. Roberts -- Saving doctrine : towards a theology of health and medicine / Stephan van Erp -- Theology : discipline at the limits / Erik Borgman.
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Extended Information

Introduction

Ours is a world of fragmentation. Today's human beings are subject to what social theory calls `functional differentiation': what once was a unified life world has split up into a variety of functional structures which each have their own inherent form of rationality. Forms of behaviour and routines in the economic world are, for instance, considered inadequate in the world of personal relations. As a consequence, approaches traditionally considered to be all-encompassing and holistic are now themselves seen as limited and specialist. Religion has become a specialized form of behaviour among others, with its own limited functions and specific logic. This behaviour can be described, these functions and this logic can be analysed, which makes the study of religion one academic discipline among others.

This issue of Concilium on `Theology in a World of Specialization' starts with a description of this socio-cultural situation, an analysis of its back-ground and an indication of its consequences by Karl Gabriel. In a second article, Felix Wilfred makes clear what the consequences of this situation for universities are. There is a tendency for them to mirror the fragmented social worlds in their increasing and ongoing specialization. They try to commodify and commercialize their knowledge in order to be able to market it to today's society. In this situation theology's role is, according to Wilfred, to present the wisdom of the religious and theological traditions and work towards integration of the different and often separated fields of knowledge.

This issue focuses on the question of how theology deals with and reacts to this situation of fragmentation. Traditionally the Christian tradition is viewed as embodying an encompassing view on all activities of human beings. Theology is supposed to study the whole of reality and its different aspects sub ratione Dei. However, the academic fragmentation and specialization takes its toll on theology as well.

There are several trends working at the same time. On the one hand, fragmentation in society and in the universities is something that influences [8] the theological situation. Sheila Greeve Davaney analyses the position of religious studies and theology in today’s universities, especially in the United States. Theology should not consider itself the queen of sciences, but neither should it be a rejected former sibling. Theology should be seen and should behave like one intellectual partner among many and a collegial voice among should behave like one intellectual partner among many and a collegial voice among equals. Elaine Wainwright shows the proliferation of approaches, methods and hermeneutics in biblical studies, leading to ongoing differentiation and specialization. She argues that this diversity is in itself biblical and a contribution of biblical studies to contemporary theology. Christoph Baumgartner discusses the situation of theological ethics. Here, the tendency towards specialization seems to lead to de-theologizing: to concentration on the ethical discussion which, in a secularized society, is mainly secular and philosophical. Baumgartner makes clear, however, that the norms established by philosophical ethics need to be legitimized by the different normative traditions to which the citizens of a society subscribe. Here he sees an important role for theological ethics and a possibility for strengthening its theological identity. Willem Frijhoff makes clear that there is an analogical movement within the field of church history. History as the story of God's developing relationship with humans is part of the Jewish, the Christian and the Islamic traditions. As a consequence of developments in (the perspectives on) scientific inquiry, there is a tendency towards interdisciplinary research into religiousness and the religious. This might result in a more fragmented view of the field that traditionally was covered by `church history', but also in a view that is more nuanced and multi-focused. No discipline has the monopoly on the religious person.

On the other hand, there are attempts to unify the fragmented and ever more fragmenting discipline of theology around certain specific themes or issues. There is spirituality as an integrating theme not only for theology as a discipline, but also for the lives of human beings in the contemporary, fragmented and differentiated world, as Mary Grey makes clear. There are liberation and other contextual theologies that unify theology by stressing its obligation to the preferential option for the poor in the actual situations where they are situated. As is shown by Diego Irarrazaval, this in fact means that they are developing forms of theology that are at the same time local and universal, concrete and holistic. Marcella Althaus-Reid argues that just stressing unity suggests an attempt to re-install hegemony. She presents alternative models for developing connectivity and avoiding atomization, without the necessity for all to be subject to the power of one view of reality.

In the final part of this issue, several attempts are introduced to reconnect [9] theology to other disciplines and fields of knowledge. Thus, theology is taking up its responsibility to see the world as unified in its relation to the God who is its creator.

Palmyre Oomen defends the importance of connecting theology to the natural sciences and presents their interface as a possible field of great theological relevance. Dialogue with the natural sciences and philosophical reflections on their discoveries make it necessary and possible to rethink fundamentally the relationship between God and world. Richard H. Roberts argues for the exploration of the field where social sciences and theology meet: the religious and theological views of social reality and the social scientific study of religion and the religious. He argues strongly against religion and theology becoming entrenched, and in favour of a theological dialogue with the complex re-composition of the religio-spiritual field that is currently going on and that is investigated by the social sciences. Stephan van Erp defends the theological significance of the field of medicine and what is going on in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Traditionally, bodily health was an important issue in Christian tradition and there is an important spiritual and religious aspect in the way we in our societies and cultures deal with suffering and illness. What is necessary is not so much an external criticism of medical practices, but a dialogue between theology and con-temporary medicine, so as to view and experience it as the space in which traces of the divine can be encountered.

In conclusion, Erik Borgman argues that interdisciplinary research can be a way to rediscover theology as a discipline, not by studying religion as a separate social field, but by studying everything sub ratione Dei, under the aspect of God. This issue of Concilium makes clear that the current fragmentations and differentiations in society and the university constitute not only a major challenge for theology, but also give theology the opportunity to develop a new contemporary relevance.

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