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24 april 2017

Internationale PThU-conferentie 2017

­New Quests for God. Contributions of Theology to a Resilient Society

God is risen again from the dead after having been proclaimed dead by Nietzsche and after the razing impact of secularization on religious institutions and society. At the same time, our global society seems to succumb to different understandings of the risen God and of current religions. Perhaps more than ever religion dominates the news, while people in astonishing numbers revert to God and religion, be it as a postmodern 'soft' power, as a traditional stronghold, or even as a destructive power that inevitably excludes, destroys, enslaves and sows hatred. All the more so, religion is locked in ambivalence in our days.

Quite naturally, theologians also undertake a new quest for God again in their desire to serve the resilience of society. And as in the old days, they take different positions in their reflection on the resurrected God. Many search for a weak power - ‘God after God’ - that irresistibly reveals itself as love, compassion, liberty and cohesion. Others reexamine new and fresh understandings of the ancient God of venerable and esteemed traditions.

What is going on with God?

God is risen again from the dead, but how exactly does (s)he reappear on the scene? And how do we analyze the phenomenon? In other words, how do we describe and re-describe the re-appearances of God from an academic point of view? How is God re-staged in practices, discourses, narratives, values and lines of thought, not only in the post-secular western European world, but also in other parts of the global world, and how can these reappearances be understood? This description and re-description of the risen God include the question, which metaphors, symbols and narratives of God emerge from the sources of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions and how to evaluate them. In short, the question is presented how the risen God of late-modernity is described and reflected on and how s/he can be reflected on with a view to logic and ethical consequences.

How do we arrive at a resilience-promoting God?

The 'death of God' or the loss of shared values that transcend the empirically measurable world has left us with individual or group meanings of traditional narratives, discourses, values and thoughts concerning God. Moreover, fundamentalism and populism have surged and prefer to create a chasm between 'us' and 'them'. Thus individual freedom, autonomy and expressivity are guaranteed, but they have also left us with a crisis of shared stories, standards and beliefs. How do hyper-individualism and commonality relate, and how do they refer to God? Does hyper-variety evoke polytheism or on the contrary call for monotheism? Is ecumenism commanded or passé?

Thus, inevitably the question arises which practices, narratives, values and lines of thought concerning God may strengthen the resilience of society, and how they relate to the sources of religion. With a nod to Luther, we may frame this question as: how do I arrive at a resilience-promoting God? How can a uniting and peace-enhancing God be re-invented and re-thought in conversation with the classic humanistic European spirit and with sources that have come available in the universal post-colonial society? How can s/he be re-rooted in the traditional sources of the Bible, the liturgy and beliefs?

How to redefine the academic statute of theology?

The need for academic theological reflection is widely recognized in our time. As a consequence, the questions regarding God and the academic nature of theology are prominent on the National Research Agenda in the Netherlands.

The return of God and the new shapes, narratives and beliefs in which religion is re-staged ask for fresh reflections on the academic statute of theology and the very nature of its research object. How will the very notions of religion and theology themselves be re-defined? What is the status of theology among other academic disciplines, which as a rule are highly secularized in this era? How may thoroughly Western European or even protestant Western European Christian discourses on God and religion be changed by the challenges of non-Western ontologies and epistemologies?

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