Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The souls of Europe: identity, religion and theology

INTRODUCTION: 'DIVINITY' AND ITS DISCONTENTS

My topic, that of the conflicting identities of Europe (a theme that I have focused metaphorically as the 'souls of Europe'), is one which shows how 'divinity' might now operate today, in what has been influentially represented by Jean-Fran¸cois Lyotard as the 'postmodern condition'. I am also concerned to show how 'divinity' understood as the study of religion and theology, whilst fraught with difficulty, is simultaneously and equally a task full of promise; that is when, as I shall argue, the term 'divinity' is rightly understood.1

Given my experience as a Professor of Divinity in Scotland, this chapter has a relative focus through which an array of major issues can be refracted, in part at least, on the basis of participant observation. What, then, is 'divinity'? In the ancient Scottish university divinity faculties as founded, or refounded at the Reformation, this term came to comprise dogmatic or systematic theology, philosophy of religion and 'apologetics'. Through this subdisciplinary triad it was possible to articulate 'faith' in dogmatic or systematic theology; to explore the nature and limits of 'reason' as applied to central conceptions of faith in the philosophy of religion; and then to articulate both in forms answerable to the world in 'apologetics'.

One purpose here is to show how the disciplinary range and remit of 'divinity' has in effect been changed and extended almost beyond recognition by force of circumstance, not least through cultural transformations taking place at the heart of European culture and society in which the quest for and the rebuilding of identities has become a matter

____________________
1
This chapter originated as my Inaugural Lecture when I was Professor of Divinity at the University of St Andrews. It was entitled 'The Souls of Europe' and was published as 'The Construals of “Europe”: Religion, Theology and the Problematics of Modernity', in Paul Heelas (ed.), Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), pp. 186–217. The text is lightly revised.

-217-

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