International conference "Academic theology in a post-secular age" – epilogue

2011-12-01 16:45

This factor somehow influenced on a number of participants. But lively discussions during meetings confirmed that the theme was chosen well, because it "made" the participants to look at theology in kind of new discourse.

The first question: Why theology, namely, scientific or academic theology? What it is and why it is needed today, why to invest time and means in its existence?

Theology – language of the Church, it is preaching the Good News. The Church expresses her faith and hope in salvation through Jesus Christ by theology. In this sermon there are a living belief and experience that salvation fulfilled by the Son of God points out to man the exit, brings liberation, offers new perspectives. Therefore, theology as an explanation of the mystery of salvation and love of God to man, should be appeal of the Church to man.

Such appeal must be open, that is not posted in just one sphere, let us say church and liturgical, or purely academic. Then it will be separated from life and become not authentic. Detachment of theology in itself sooner or later will lead to its extinction, and therefore theological schools or theological systems, which will be self-sufficient, not dialogic, within some time necessarily will "degenerate", will not bring a concrete fruit.

Theology must be open and inclusive as it speaks of the mystery of God and man, society. Theology can and should go to "people", universities, community organizations... It can change the environment, it can be a mustard seed, of which mentioned our Savior.

Another thing – what language to use in university, in society... The language should be understandable for the modern listener that is if we go to university, we must use scientific methodology, academic standards in order to be understood. If we come to university and become apologetic blaming all of sin, they will not only understand us, but also show us the exit. The Gospel approach is: be therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves – it can be applied in this situation.

Why to study theology as an academic discipline?

The Church can and should also witness her faith at the university: the presence of good and educated Christians in academic staff will not affect badly on this institution. Also, academic disciplines, which students can take, can provide some "normal" Christian values to the younger generation. Of course, the task of the Churches is cooperation in establishing departments of theology, which would not be competing with each other, but would be able to coexist and co-create a good and moral academic atmosphere.

How is useful theology at the university?

Many years` experience of the Church could help many scientific disciplines offer new and practical approaches to illumination of certain issues. In particular such disciplines as philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, economics and other could benefit directly from the Christian heritage...

It means, that understandable and justified use of Christian discourse in academic theology could bring mutual benefit for both theology (a stimulus to growth, finding a new language, communication) and "secular" disciplines (new ideas, practical experience).

Why a post-secular age?

The notion of secular age began to be used by some authors to outline the modern period, usually beginning of the second half of the ХХ century. At this time, the discourse about Christianity or religion in general European political or public life, began to move to the side, in the private sphere. Some philosophers have even predicted its complete collapse in the next few years.

At this time, discussions about banning crosses in schools, the wearing of religious insignia in public places and so on started. As if Christianity or other religions still further continued to exist, a post-secular age was characterized by a certain return of the public or scientists to religious issues.

Returning to theology, this age is significant for it, as if there is a new chance to influence on society, identify core values, orientations. However, this language should not be dictatorial, condescending, "pre-secular". The language of theology must be ecumenical, authentic, modern, at the same time deeply rooted in centuries-old experience of the Church.

And finally: the evangelical call of Christ "go and preach the Gospel throughout the world" refers to every Christian. Reevangelization of academic and scientific spheres can be a task for theologians today. We can achieve this goal only by united and coordinated actions, realizing our common goals and putting aside our ambitions.

Fr. Roman Fihas


We remind that the international conference "Academic theology in a post-secular age" took place on November 10-11 2011 in Lviv. The event was organized by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University in cooperation with St. Andrew`s Biblical Theological Institute (Moscow) with the support of the Missionary Relief Organization Kerk in Actie (Netherlands).