Summaries of papers

International Conference ‘Academic Theology in a Post-Secular Age’ (9-12 Nov. 2011, Lviv, Ukraine)




One challenge for academic theology could be to delineate the limits of reason and of faith, both in regard of God/the divine and of science/secular thought. The proper locus for determining the boundaries could be a revision of scientific hermeneutics. For both theology and science share certain hermeneutical premises. In particular, modern hermeneutical developments (linguistic turn, reception history, reader response) have led to an impasse in understanding christian tradition and legacy.

Theology should be the discipline for methodological reflection on the limits set on human reason in approaching the divine. On the one hand, this would enable ‘metaphysical’ questions to re-enter the academic sphere in a substantial (not just a historical-formal) manner. Indeed, explicitly or implicitly, most scientific disciplines (more or less following Kant on this) claim such questions are outside their province. However, this carries the danger of discrediting these questions altogether; as such, the claim already suggests an answer. As examples could serve the debate on free will and the localization of religion in the brain (neurosciences), or that on the sociopolitical implications of religious revival in Eastern European countries. In both cases, part of the problem is precisely that the limits of reason and faith are not being acknowledged (by neither party involved).

On the other hand, the sense and awareness of the divine as unspeakable and ungraspable forces theology to account for its own speech about God. Here, again, the hermeneutical relation to tradition and history is crucial. Drawing on Charles Taylor’s notion of ‘social imaginary’, the question is how one relates to the religious imaginary of the past (both on cultural and individual levels). This does, of course, not deny our knowledge and ciriticism of tradition, but raises the question: what does this gap between modern and historical imaginary imply for the status of our knowledge and faith?

A critical hermeneutical reflection on the historical paradigm might serve as common ground for acknowledging the limits of reason in relation to God (‘metaphysics’) and the limits of faith in relation to knowledge (for there are methodological restraints on the claims of faith). A dialogue between Western and Eastern theology might serve to formulate a systematic theology preserving the Gospel, giving reason and faith their due each at the right moment. To work out these limits and restraints could be one project for academic theology in the 21st century.



Modern theology is completing its historical cycle, returning to its beginning, to the beginning of Christianity. Having been enriched through the experience of thought, enclosed in complicated systems and having stood up for confessional traditions, theology returns to the basics of faith, to its foundations, without which it is left hanging in air. This return to simplicity can be observed in various traditions, this synchronicity and universality cannot fail to draw attention to itself as a sign of sorts, a demonstration of the general principles of the growth of Christianity and theology as its (Christianity’s) self-understanding.

A return to the Gospel, and an unbiased reading of it, a search for new forms of communality, an enlivening of church life, a rediscovery of the forgotten values of thanksgiving, fellowship, and service have all become signs of a post-historic Christianity, i.e., a Christianity which is coming to the end of a major historical era, or history as a whole.

Beyond the bounds of historical Christianity a new epoch may arise, a new history, which will be made up of only the simplest and most necessary elements of Christianity’s past.

The simplicity of Evangelical churches has provoked and still provokes criticism from theologians’ studies, or sect-fighters from other confessions with a richer theology. Even to Evangelicals it is clear that the opportunity for reflection, for a systematization of theology, and a theologization of the church, a development of her intellectual culture, should be taken. To turn a lack of intellectualism from a weakness into a strength is irresponsible before both God and men. But it is no less irresponsible to, out of concern for the development of theology, use aged concepts and approaches, to position the opportunities and special nature of theology in an outdated picture of the world.

Of course the liberal theology of the first half of the twentieth century looks more progressive than the theology it inherited from the Evangelical churches of the second half of the nineteenth century. But today both models are of little use.

The progress of history is such that in postmodernity everyone found themselves lost, and both modernist and pre-modernist theology look equally inadequate. Evangelical Christians, unread and simple, ended up in a situation similar to that of their progressive Western brothers, who have been so successful at systematization and developing a diversity of genitive theologies. Both groups find themselves in a situation where little is in demand of all their historical baggage other than the simplest indivisible elements, theological atoms.

Now we must address the following question: How can we develop theology with full intellectual responsibility, keeping in mind the disheartening fact that our rich traditions could lose their value? This is a complex question, containing two simple and mutually exclusive questions, which have been asked before. How can we create our own tradition of theology for Evangelical churches, leaning on their simplicity? How can return to the reality of spiritual experience and simple trust in those, who are versed in theological knowledge and rich in its traditions? T

oday theological-cultural forms, in which knowledge and experience were expressed and shared, have lost their value, therefore we are faced with the difficult question of their new connection—of theology retaining the immediacy of spiritual life with the highest responsibility for its intellectual expression. And this point in the history of theology could become a departing point for dialogue and the joint investigation of representatives of various traditions, including post-Soviet Evangelical Christians, who have traditionally kept their distance from such questions and those who ask them.

A common ground has emerged in discussions of the future of theology, not mediatory history, but early history, beginning history, from which it can project itself, and on the basis of which a system can be built. Methodological reconstruction, restoration, and reproduction of that which was given in history is replaced by a methodology of projecting that which will be; attempts at modeling, building on a foundation, preconditions.



Traditionally, the Bible was translated as the book of the Church, and the translation was regarded almost exclusively as a tool for missionary activities. It was still the case in the early 19th century, when first Bible Societies were founded, with the main goal to give all people access to the Bible in their mother tongue. However, people involved in the process of translation belonged to different (mostly Protestant) denominations, so in most cases they decided to set aside their particular theological positions and to translate the text “as it is”. For a while, it looked realistic. On the other hand, we have seen many different attempts to reconstruct the “Biblical theology” that was supposed to be the common ground for all the traditions. Not surprisingly, each time it came out as a representation of the author’s personal or confessional convictions.

So it was quite logical that Bible translation in the 20th century became a sort of a rapidly growing industry which eventually elaborated its own global standards, paying little attention to theology. With the revolution started by E. Nida and his followers, this field became largely dominated by linguists, anthropologists, historians etc.

Postmodernism has changed it all. Now realising one’s own subjectivity became a necessity; no one could claim the absolute understanding of the text written millennia ago. “How do you read it?” started to sound as a question of personal choice rather than scholarly analysis. This brought theology back into stage: the Bible is being translated exactly because it is believed to be the book communicating truth about God and man and showing the way for salvation. This perception, however subjective it may look, makes Bible radically different from other ancient works like “Iliad” or “Enuma Elish”, it gives momentum to the entire process of Bible translation.

It is theology that deals with these characteristics of the text. After decades of the seemingly secular translation methods when pure science seemed to dictate, Bible translators are coming back to some questions of theological nature. Now, however, they do not aim (at least ideally) at propagating their confessional positions. That would be a poor strategy in the modern world which hardly notices these subtleties and nuances. Instead, they have to engage the existential problems of the modern humanity and to make the Bible available and relevant to the reader not only in linguistic or anthropological terms, but also in the terms of human beliefs. Sometimes they have to do with confessional allegiances and cultural traditions indeed but there are many more aspects of this process.

Those who are professionally engaged in the process of Bible translation (like myself) and those who call themselves theologians are only beginning to realise the importance of theology for Bible translation, and they are still looking for ways of positive cooperation. My paper will present some experience and invite to further reflections on the subject.



The main problem of the theology in post-secular age can be recognized as the problem of a common ground. It may seem that, willing to pass on a fruitful dialogue between „the scientific reason” and „the theological reason”, we are in need of some neutral meeting place. The Wittgensteinian Philosophy of Religion seems to give us the place – an elucidation of the grammars, a description of linguistic differences. However the standard Wittgensteinian standpoint – expressed in works of Rush Rhees, Peter G. Winch and Dewi Z. Phillips – entails a claim that the religious use of the language (religious „language-game”) has nothing in common to any scientific (say, historical) investigation or description of facts. Basically, according to so called Swansea School, the Christianity (and any other religious tradition) has practically no epistemic content (in the usual meaning of „epistemic”). Therefore some may find this view as a kind of very special and critical theology (with some similarities to Barth and Bonhoeffer) rather than a philosophy, especially a philosophy of „a pure description”. And because of this it cannot give us the common ground we need.

It can be thought that the idea of purely descriptive philosophy is good and the whole problem lies in its correct realization. But it is just another philosophical utopia. Any reasonable description of a language requires many decisions regarding relevance of the grammatical features we observe. Most of these decisions can be made with a sense of the obvious, but this very sense is shaped by our view of the world. Hence, all possible descriptions of grammars are always conditioned by our first order beliefs, values and aims.

Does it mean that the neutral ground is unreachable by means of the philosophy inspired by Wittgenstein? Not necessarily. I am going to sketch a solution of the problem which is – I believe – in the spirit of the author of the Philosophical Investigations.



The post-secular situation implies an active involvement of theology in various social practices, which are traditionally known as secular. This involvement demands from the theologians to assimilate secular languages and styles of thinking. The dialogue with the academic science so implies the assimilation the academic thinking. It seems natural, that the theologians can speak with the scientists as colleagues. As distinct from other modern social practices, theology has here its own tradition. The theology can consider itself as an academic activity with rich and developed language and conceptual base.

In many respects theology is similar to academic science. This similarity is, however, connected with some danger: applying academic standards to theological discourse can distort it and transform theological concepts into ideological simulacra. It is rather difficult to avoid the danger not only for academic theology but also for all kinds of intellectual activity. It is necessary to consider, how scientific and theological concepts are generated, what exactly can be similar in the process and what the difference is. Probably this consideration will not show us what academic theology must be, but it will give us understanding what it must not be.

In the paper we shall compare academic science, theology and ideology and shall describe the essential difference between science and theology on one hand and ideology on the other.



The transition from secular to post-secular society is a subject of numerous scientific and theological discussions in the last few years. However it is hardly possible to posit a single prevailing view of the issue. There is still no universal common definition of post-secularization and post-secular society. Post-secularization appears to have a wide range of meanings: from identifying post-secularization as desecularization seen as a revenge of religiousness, replacing the secular values with traditional religious values, to identifying it as a new "post-secular ideology", which itself has no precise definition as of yet. Due to the diversity of meanings behind post-secular society, it is necessary to posit its essential properties.

First and foremost, it should be pointed out that post-secularization and desecularization are not identical processes. Post-secularization should be understood as acknowledgement by the western culture that society cannot be entirely secular, absolutely void of religion from social and cultural life. However post-secularization does not defy secular mindset itself, it does acknowledge equality between religious and secular.

On the other hand, post-secularization does not mean return of traditional religious values. Contemporary world with its globalization, intense cultural exchange and developing mass communication technologies has its influence over how religious awareness develops. Thus, post-secular religiousness cannot be described in traditional society's terms.

Typical characteristics of religious awareness transformation in post-secular society are syncretism, variability, uncertainty, inconsistency, and change in value status of religious experience as opposed to other life experiences. Syncretism stands for melding of rituals and dogmas of different intro an integral belief system. Uncertainty means vagueness of religious concepts, lack of a single standard view of God. Change in value status of religious experience as opposed to other life experiences means that such experience is no longer believed to be ultimate; it is considered as one of the possible life experiences, comparable to other experiences. At the same time, the declared religious belief often does not hint at the content of the belief itself in post-secular world.

Peculiarity of religious awareness transformation in post-secular society poses a few problems to the academia that need special attention. The most important of these questions are the following. Who and how will be studying the contemporary post-secular awareness - philosophers, sociologists, theologists? Which language should be chosen to discuss the problems - theological, philosophical or scientific? Does academic theology have the methodology to conduct such research? Is the dialogue possible between theology and other fields of study? Is the shaping of global religious awareness feasible and what features will it have? This thesis deals with attempting to provide answers to these questions.



The distinction between the Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology is one of the most widely discussed problems in Ukraine in the context of Theological education development. May the Philosophy of Religion, because of its ecumenical potential, be the place of secular theology? Or maybe the Philosophical Theology will be able to be such a place, where all theologies can meet? Do we need non-confessinal Theology? These questions are to be discussed in the Paper.



In the Paper the contemporary situation with christian theological education in Ukraine will be analyzed. The key tendencies and perspectives of its development in Higher Education institutions of Ukraine in the context of the last changes in national laws on education would we outlined.



After licensing of Theology as an academic discipline by Ukraine’s Ministry of Education, there began a discussion concerning possibility of opening the Theological faculties at the state universities. And this fact launched the discussion on what kind of theology should be taught in secular universities.

According to one conception, theology, taught in universities, suppose to be “over-confessional”, “universal” in its content. According to the secular status of these universities, in the consequence, theology by its character has inevitably be “secular”.

The others hold that theology, as an academic discipline, should bear a clear confessional definition, while being not apologetic in its presentation, but rather be open to discussion with other confessional traditions on an academic level. Therefore, minimal number of cathedras should be four: catholic, orthodox and protestant theology, plus that of philosophic theology.

The author is adherent of the second conception, but to his mind, he believes that it would be good to adopt an ecumenical approach.



The aim of the paper is to stress the importance of the ecumenical formation in the Christian academic institutions, and to show its benefits and dangers. We will try to see the work for implementing ecumenical formation that has already been done in the academic institutions of the different denominations, as well as inside the ecumenical organisations. We will also analyse the principles of ecumenical formation on academic level expressed in the WCC’s documents and in the «Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism» of the Vatican Council for the Promotion of the Christian Unity. Finally we will present and analyse the vision of metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon how to overcome the confessionalism in the theological research and teaching.