Church History - Historical Theology / History of Dogma

Church History, Historical Theology/History of Dogma is concerned with Christian claims in the course of history since the beginning of the public proclamation of Christ. Its justification as a theological teaching subject results from the fact that today’s Christians are not only in an indirect but also always in a direct relationship of reflection and practical comprehension to God’s revelation as is tangible in the Bible’s writings: Up to two thousand years of communication and representation lie between us and the events themselves. In research and teaching, the subject unites two academic traditions which for a long time were separated: In Church History, the development of Christian claims across the centuries from the original situation to modern day is reconstructed and interpreted under various aspects. In terms of method, this work is committed to the historical disciplines and differentiates between methodical and theoretical concepts from the areas of history of philology, cultural studies, and social sciences.

By contrast, in Historical Theology/History of Dogma the Christian norm-building process is retraced. Teaching and research are concerned with the historical plausibilization of establishing norms and contesting them. For a long time, the History of Dogma had the reputation of replacing dogmatics in Systematic Theology. This is not the case. It is far more so that the History of Dogma lays the groundwork necessary for the new formulation of a normative reflection on faith and its criticism as is required at the focus of current developments. God’s self-revelation takes place in the area of hermeneutic tension between law and gospel. It occurs under historical conditions. This obliges us to reconstruct both the traditional process of interpreting the revelation as well as its realization in religious culture. This historical reconstruction takes place in the frame of critical confrontation with the interpretation and religiousness which are at present self-evident. Historical Theology is thus a crucial part of the theological discourse.

The history of the interpretation of written testimony and its religious and cultural enactment are tangible in historical sources, whereby all types of material are understood (texts, objects or testimonies in other media) which can serve to reconstruct the past. Thus both the explicit reflection on Christian teaching as well as the spontaneous and contoured co-existence amongst Christians are mirrored. From this stems a focus on the “History of Theology” and “Church History and History of Piety”. Since theological reflection has also led to definitions, which are institutionally recognized and have normative function for respective church communities, the History of Dogma represents a special aspect of the History of Theology. Teaching this subject is structured in accordance to historical epochs. Basically the five larger epochs in the History of Christianity we concentrate our teaching: The Early Church (represented by the Chair of New Testament Studies/Early Church), Middle Ages, Reformation, Recent and Modern Times. In research and teaching, staff at the chair focus on the history of Latin Christianity in western traditions and consideration of its global impact.

An introduction to the methodologies in the subjects of Church History and History of Dogma is provided in the framework of foundation courses. Historical Theology generally utilizes the same range of instruments typical in other historical disciplines for the purpose of source analysis. Traditionally, intellectual history is particularly significant here, but it is combined with other methods such as institutional, social, gender history, history of mentalities and cultural studies.

For those students aiming for a Diploma (in Protestant Theology), the First Examination in Theology (qualification as protestant minister), a teaching degree or a BA/MA (Study of Religion and History of Religion), subjects of Historical Theology (History of Theology and Church History; History of the Christian Religion) are either compulsory or an elective.

Research priorities focus on "Communicative Structures and Processes":

  • Reception of the Patristic Legacy
  • Piety and Theology in the Late Middle Ages and the Reformation
  • Denominational Cultures and History of Education in the Early Modern Era
  • Forms of Piety and Theologies in the 18th and 19th Century
  • Local Church History

All these specialist areas are closely intertwined in a focus on questions concerning the forms and representations of the Christian proclamation as well as its pragmatic culmination in practice in the area of pastoral care.

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