Meaning of Theology and Theological Disciplines

Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also deals with religious epistemology, asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.

Theologians use various forms of analysis and argument (experiential, philosophical, ethnographic, historical, and others) to help understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote any myriad of religious topics. As in philosophy of ethics and case law, arguments often assume the existence of previously resolved questions, and develop by making analogies from them to draw new inferences in new situations.

The study of theology may help a theologian more deeply understand their own religious tradition, another religious tradition, or it may enable them to explore the nature of divinity without reference to any specific tradition. Theology may be used to propagate, reform, or justify a religious tradition; or it may be used to compare, challenge (e.g. biblical criticism), or oppose (e.g. irreligion) a religious tradition or worldview. Theology might also help a theologian address some present situation or need through a religious tradition, or to explore possible ways of interpreting the world.

Theological study centers around five classic disciplines. All Protestant Theology and Religious Pedagogy is grounded in these disciplines, even though individual study programs may differ from one another in terms of goals, structure and focus.

1. Old Testament studies

This discipline covers all aspects of the history of origins of the Old Testament (as the first part of the Christian Bible); equally, the impact of the Old Testament scriptures is analysed.

The following main lectures are offered regularly: History of Israel, Introduction to the Old Testament and Theology of the Old Testament. Additionally to courses basing on the Hebrew text, at least two courses for students in teaching degree programs are offered every semester that do not require Hebrew.

2. New Testament studies

New Testament Studies has both a historical and a hermeneutic dimension. The intention is to create a philological and a historic-critical approach, as well as to develop an understanding for our present time.

Greek is required to study the New Testament. The following main lectures are offered in a four semester rotation: Introduction to the New Testament, Theology of the New Testament, History of Early Christianity. Additionally, studies in the main scriptures of the New Testament (Synoptic Gospels, Pauline Epistles, Johannine works) are offered regularly.

3. Church History

Church History examines past events connected to the church, as well as the histories of theology and dogmatics. The discipline covers the origin and the development of theological concepts, teaching, and confessions. As such, it examines the whole history of philosophy and intellectual history. The main lectures integrate several eras and are offered in rotation: Old Church, Middle Ages, Reformation and Modern Age. For the bachelor program we offer extra lectures for a general overview of topics.

4. Systematic Theology: Theology of Dogmatics and Ethics

This discipline unfolds the specific content of the Christian faith (Theology of Dogmatics), and the foundation of the Christian way of life (Ethics) as it concerns the perception of self and the present world. Special interest lies in the tradition of the Reformation, in the transformation of traditional teachings considering the criticism through philosophy and theology as well as in general phenomenas of religion.

The faculty regularly offers Systematic Theology lectures for all research areas in Dogmatic Theology (Prolegomena, Doctrine of God, Anthropology, Christology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology), History of Theology in the 20. Century, History of Philosophy and an overview of Dogmatic Theology.

The following courses in Ethics are offered: History of Ethics, Groundwork of Ethics, the Appliance of Ethics.

A specification in Göttingen is the professorship of Reformed Theology researching the Reformed Dogmatic Theology and Confessionalisation as well as the social forms of Reformiertentum in history and present-day.

5. Practical Theology and Pedagogy of Religion

This discipline analyses the different facets of responsible religious practice in society as they reflect on: worship (Liturgy), sermon (Homiletics), pastoral care (Poimenik), community care (Diakonie), administration and leadership (Cybernetics), educational work in school and community (Pedagogy of Religion).

Every semester contains various courses for the different fields of Practical Theology (courses in community care are offered every second semester). Practical-theological main lectures for Homiletics, Liturgy, Poimenik, Cybernetics and Community Care are offered in a four semester cycle.

Pedagogy of Religion as a specific diadactic is integrated in the study program for a teaching profession. In the field of Pedagogy of Religion the following main lectures are offered: History and Theory of Pedagogy of Religion, Religious Education of youth and adults, sociological and developmental psychcological percpectives, methods and media in Religion classes.

In addition to the five classic areas of theological study, the Faculty in Göttingen also offers the disciplines of Science of Religion, Judaic Studies and Ecumenical Theology.

6. Science of Religion

The Science of Religion researches the pluralistic views of religion in areas including: large religious traditions like Islam and Buddhism, regional cultures of religion (e.g. China or Central America) and newly emerging forms of religion. Therefore different academic perspectives and methods are required (e.g. empirical, historical-philological and comparative-systematic). Main lectures center around topics like: founders of religion, death and coping mechanisms with death, introduction to religious traditions, ethics of religion, history of the research of religion and new forms of religion.

7. Judaic Studies

Judaic Studies focuses on Judaism in its various forms, allowing for a broad interest, methods and interdisciplinary curricula. The faculty in Göttingen offers a Modern Hebrew language course as well as regular lectures, seminars and tutorials in Talmud and Midrash, Jewish religion, philosophy and mysticism, celebrations and rituals and Jewish interpretation of text. Additional focus include German language Jewish literature of the 20. Century.

8. Ecumenical Theology

Ecumenical Theology expands the horizon through the research of other Christian denominations and other characteristics of Christianity. The Focus at the Göttinger Faculty is the Orthodox Christianity. In addition forms of Christian faith and life in Africa, Asia and other regions influenced by European missions are of interest. In the field of Ecumenical Theology, we regularly offer lectures to gain an overview of the topics Denominationalism, Ecumenism, History of Mission, Orthodoxy, Oriental Christianity. Seminars and tutorials focus on the History of the Eastern Church with regular held excursions.

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