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Panels and Paper Abstracts


The timetable for the parallel sessions will be announced shortly.

Panel 1: Luther and sociality

Organizer(s): The Lumen Network

It is a general perception that Luther’s theology, unlike its scholastic counterpart, did not contain a social theory as such. With this session, however, we want to suggest that Luther’s theology entails a social theory forming social cohesion and influencing our society in an often unnoticed way up into modernity. In the doctrine of justification, Luther redefines the human relation to God in a way which has fundamental consequences for his conception of social relations. According to Luther, humans are self-centered sinners incapable of maintaining proper relations to God and to fellow human beings. God reestablishes these relations through Christ urging individuals to acknowledge their sin and receive salvation by faith alone. In this process of justification, humans participate in the real presence of Christ palpably expressed in the Eucharist when believers eats his flesh and drinks his blood. Hereby, humans are empowered to reenter their social reality and fulfil the commandment of neighborly love by reenacting the sacrifice of Christ for other humans out of a surplus of faith. In his later writings, Luther reacts to the social instability brought about by his break with the Roman church by clarifying his understanding of sociality as God-given. In the Catechisms, Luther expounds the Decalogue as a fundamental norm for proper social relations. In his Lectures on Genesis, Luther describes how God has ordered the world in three estates of household, church, and state. Whereas the state serves to repress sin and secure social order, the household and the church safeguard the possibility for proper worship of God and for works of love. In the confessional culture, which develops in the Lutheran countries in the years following Luther’s death, the household gains a central position as the epicenter of sociality. Here, God is served in the daily life of his believers as they tend to their duties in honor of God and his creation.


Jette Bendixen Rønkilde (Aarhus University): Liturgy as social imaginary – sacramentality and sociality in Luther’s liturgical writings

Luther´s ‘renewed’ theological discourse – particularly his understanding of sacramentality – necessitated a new liturgical practice. His understanding of real presence in the Eucharist, the priority of the lay people´s participation in the sacraments and his translation of the Bible into the vernacular transformed the previous norms of the liturgical agenda, and his emphasis of the necessity of new hymns to enable everyone to speak of God in his or her own language marks a radical counterpart to the tradition in which his works originate. The argument of this paper is that this renewed understanding of sacramentality and its inherence in concrete liturgical practice laid the foundation of a revaluation of social and religious identity. Luther emphasized how liturgy could and should have a strong pedagogical center of teaching the youth about God’s Word and deeds. The paper examines how this renewed understanding of liturgy is also a radically different understanding of the inherent social images. The aim of the paper is to investigate how Luther´s understanding of sacramentality and sociality correspond and correlate in his liturgical writings.

Sasja Emilie Mathiasen Stopa (Aarhus University): Sin and trust as focal points of Luther’s conception of sociality

Whereas modern humans tend to find themselves defined by their social relations, late medieval existence pivoted around the relation to God as creator and sustainer of reality. Luther’s reformulation of this relation to God in his doctrine of justification by faith has profound impact on his understanding of social relations, which play out in the hierarchies of the earthly realm. In the paper, I investigate this impact analyzing how Luther patterns his understanding of the relation between authorities and their subjects on the trusting relation between God and human beings. Moreover, I examine Luther’s emphasis on the justifying relation to God as a precondition for fruitful social relations in a world infused by sin. According to Luther, the human relationship to God is left completely shattered by the Fall upon which humans become sinners leading egocentric lives. Consequently, the pivotal question for Luther is how to know himself accepted by God despite of his boundless sin. In the doctrine of justification, Luther describes how God reestablishes his broken relation to humans. Justified humans remain sinners in relation to the world but are perceived as righteous in their trusting relation to God established through faith in Christ. According to Luther, interpersonal relations in the earthly hierarchies of household, state, and church mirror the hierarchic relation to God. As substitutes of God, princes, priest as well as fathers and mothers of the household are to be loyally obeyed and honored. However, Luther emphasizes that obedience should never be blind and that honor encompasses not only fear but also love and trust. Moreover, Luther maintains that even princes are sinners in need of God’s saving grace. Hereby, Luther stresses the equality of all human beings as subjects in relation to God and as partakers of a priesthood of all believers.

Nina Javette Koefoed (Aarhus University): Socio-emotional obligations within the Lutheran household

In his small and large catechism Luther explained the mutual obligations build into the social relations within all of his three estates, the household, the church and the government, quite thoroughly. The obligation had both a social and an emotional character. Especially the small catechism had a huge influence through its central status in childhood teaching throughout the centuries following the reformation, but also the large catechism had a central position within the Danish society. In this paper I will explore the socio-emotional obligations connected with the household by Luther, as they were explained to ordinary people through the catechism and the influence this understanding of society as knit together through mutual obligations had for the development of the Danish society. I will follow the understanding of the socio-emotional obligations through catechism, legal development as well as everyday practice and suggest how our understanding of the gendered relation between state and citizen is influenced through a interplay between these factors.

Panel 2: Rethinking God in his Relation to the World

Organizer(s): Svend Andersen (Aarhus University), Sasja Emilie Mathiasen Stopa (Aarhus University)

This panel contributes to contemporary theological discussions on God in his complex relation to the world. Lutheran theology rests on the assumption that God is the constitutive force behind human existence, whom humans continuously fail to acknowledge because of their self-centeredness. As Aarhus theologian K.E. Løgstrup states, individuals fight to become sovereigns of their own lives and refuse to accept existence as God-given. Consequently, theology is challenged to ponder how sinful human beings become able to recognize God as a giver and the world as his graciously given creation. Martin Luther dissociates himself from scholastic speculations on God’s metaphysical being and states that because of the limits to human cognition caused by sin God appears as an incomprehensible and terrifying presence in his majestic being and can only be known as a God of love in the suffering of Christ on the cross. This distinction between God as an omnipotent creator God per se and God as he reveals himself in Christ pro nobis gives rise to two central questions, which continues to haunt theology: How is it possible to establish a connection between God as an ontological power to be and God in his revelation? How are humans to trust the Christian promise of union between the overwhelming wrath with which the hidden God confronts sinners and God’s mercy revealed at the cross? In answering these questions, the papers enter into discussion with contemporary attempts to post-metaphysically redefine the notion of God. Luther’s theology paves the way for a modern dismissal of a metaphysical notion of God in favor of existential or hermeneutical theology emphasizing God in his revelatory Word. Moreover, Luther’s theology of the cross has inspired postmodern philosophers such as John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo to weaken the notion of an omnipotent creator God in support of an anti-metaphysical, relative notion of “god.”


Svend Andersen (Aarhus University): Luther and the ’Postmodern God’

Martin Luther defends a ’strong’ concept of God as the almighty power, creative in all reality. This way of thinking seems to contradict contemporary ideas of ‘weak’ thinking, anti-theims etc. The paper will present K.E. Løgstrup’s re-formulation of Luther’s concept of God the Creator and discuss its relation to the philosophies of religion in G. Vattimo and J.L. Marion.

Sasja Emilie Mathiasen Stopa (Aarhus University): The Hidden God and the Promise of Unification

Luther’s understanding of God pivots around the distinction between God in his hidden majesty and the revealed God suffering on the cross. Luther emphasizes the affective experience of the living God rather than God as an abstract, metaphysical idea and unfolds the relation between the hidden and the revealed God from the perspective of pastoral care. According to Luther, sinful humanity experiences God in his majestic omnipotence as a terrifying presence revealing sin. Through faith, however, sinners are able to recognize the unity between this wrathful, hidden God and the loving God revealed in Christ. Based on this paradoxical understanding of God, Luther admonishes Christians to seek refuge in God against God. In this paper, I counter the attempts of postmodern theology to weaken Luther’s powerful notion of the hidden God in favor of a post-metaphysical “god” compassionately suffering on the cross. I argue for the necessity of both the hidden and the revealed God in order to adequately define human experience of God in a paradoxical existence lived in the interplay between death and life, condemnation and forgiveness. A weak, postmodern theology finds it difficult to believe in an omnipotent God. In light of human experience, though, a forgiving and loving God seems outrageous in light of sin. Thus, Deus absconditus is in fact, as Regin Prenter claims, “the near God, whose actions we experience daily without being able to decipher them” (Prenter: 1982, 147). Moreover, I claim that if God is merely a powerless human being expressing his compassion for suffering humanity, the Christian promise of unification between sinful human beings and Christ the redeemer remains unfounded and theology is reduced to compassionate anthropology.

Tyler M. Tully (University of Oxford): "Lord Over and the Center of All Things: Martin Luther and a New Materialist Approach to the Role of the Human in Creation"

Between 1535 and 1545, Martin Luther produced his longest of lecture series concerning the creation account as found in Genesis. In Luther's view, the creation was inherently good and wondrous. Creation demonstrated the goodness of God's grace through the material world (Gregersen 2005). For Luther, humankind was the most beautiful work of God's creation. As the "peculiar and superior creature of God," humankind alone held the "very gift of immortality of the soul," (Luther on Creation, IV. V. 14b. II.). Humanity was created in the Divine image and given dominion over everything, such that "the care and the concern for nature" would be "the response to the belief that God is the cause and source of all creatures," (Westhelle 2016). In Luther's view, time did not exist before the creation of the Earth even as time would cease in the life hereafter. But while God existed "outside the scope of time," the Father eternally generated the Son--the Word--who sustained and preserved all of creation (Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe 1883). As the creator and sustainer, the Word was mysteriously present in all things and yet also distinct (Luther WA 32.134.34-136.36), such that creation itself constituted "the most beautiful book or Bible" wherein "God has described and portrayed himself," (Luther WA 48.201.5-6). While Luther's commentaries have been considered from a multiplicity of perspectives, this essay considers the eco-theological readings of the human as "steward" (Johnson 1993; Birch, Brueggemann, Fretheim, and Petersen, 1999; Nash, 2009) or "despot" in relation to the rest of creation (Glacken 1967; Attfield 1983; Tucker 1997). Although the stewardship tradition offers a more robust ecological ethics than the despotism school, I argue that it still develops from a hierarchical framework of human exceptionalism in need of correction. This paper re-articulates known weaknesses within the stewardship tradition before leveling a criticism that has received less attention: the role of God’s ongoing involvement in creation. This essay offers the stewardship tradition an alternative cosmology using a New Materialist lens (Rasmussen 2001; Barad 2001; Wolfe 2008; Ferrando 2012) in conversation with Luther's reciprocal theology of the Word and world (Rasmussen 1996; Gregersen 2005; Brunner 2013). Finally, this paper posits that vulnerable, embodied materiality is the site of God’s ongoing involvement in creation and that such a hermeneutic not only dislodges the stewardship/despot binary from its framework of human exceptionalism and essentialism, but also avoids problematic theodicies that arise from these assumptions.

Eilert Jan Lohne (Bergen University): The Ethics of Meeting -  has Levinas Restored the Horizontal Dimension of Christian Faith?

In the Gospel of Mathew ( Chap. 22) Jesus is asked: What is the greatest commandment? His wellknown answer is : Love your Lord the God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as your self. On  these two commandments hangs the whole law and the prophets. This passage expresses the two dimensions of Christian (and Jewish) faith: The religous – vertical - dimension (love your God) and the ethcial - horisontal – dimension (love your neigbour). It has of course been many interpretations concerning the connection - if any- between those two dimensions.  Whatever we migth say about Luther, he seems to have suspended the horisontal dimension by claiming that any human effort of achieving salvation is impossible. The redemption of man is solely the result of God’s grace. It can be achieved by religious faith only – sola fide - not by action. How you live your life,  how you act and how you meet other persons, in short: your ethical dimension does not matter at all, coming to the crucial question of salvation. In his Introduction to Contribution to the Critique of  Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Karl Marx accuses Luther for having shattered the faith in authority because he restorde the authority of faith. He turned priests into laymen because he turned laymen into priests. He freed man from outer religiousity because he made religiosity the inner man. He freed the body from chains because he enchained the heart. An enchained heart can not  function. It is – in a way - a dead heart, and leaves therefore the way open to moral apathy. The American poet James Baldwin once said  that I am deeply scared of the moral apathy – the death of heart - which is going on in my country (US). Baldwin said so in 1963 – and the moral apathy does not seem to have decreased since then. It might be that Luther’s view on the ethical dimension of faith is contributing to such an apathy. Nevertheless: if mans heart  is enchained, the question is: how to restore it?How to make a living heart? How to turn apathy in to sympathy, making man responsible not only to own life, but- at the same time- responsible to others. The Danish theologian and philosopher Knut Ejler Løgstrup has tried to handle the tension between the religious and the ethical dimension of Christian Faith, by means of what he calls mans ethical demand: In an interpersonal meeting man is always and constantly given a responsibility to the other (your neigbour). Consequently: In man’s natural striving for own happiness, she/he is deemed to fail – unless she/he tries to achieve happiness through awereness of – care for - the other. Løgstrup conciders the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) and Kant’s Categorial Imperative as expressions of this ethical demand. A thinker who is much in line with Løgstrup, is the Lithuanian – French philosopher Emmanuel Lèvinas. Lèvinas is not a Christian. He has his jewish faith. Consequently, he has to cope with the same tension between the religious and the ethical dimension.  And like Løgstrup he puts attention to the interpersonal meeting, claiming that ethics – not ontology (Heidegger) nor epistemology (Husserl) is the first philosophy. In this paper I shall try to put light on some of Levinas’ viewpoints, especially how he is considering a genuine meeting -in contrast to a superficial meeting. And I will do so in a rather strange way – namely by putting Levinas into a dialogue with Henrik Ibsen. This dialogue is based on an analysis of one of Ibsen’s most famous poems, titled: “GONE” which precisely describes a “meeting”.

Panel 3: Models of Authority and Societal Development

Organizer(s): The Lumen Network

Luther’s understanding of authority was central to his social teaching. In his doctrine of the three estates he divided society into the estates of the household, the church, and the government. Luther’s concept of authority was influenced by the twofold character of his legacy and pointed both to hierarchy and equality, individuality and solidarity, patriarchy and shared responsibility. In all three estates authority was given by God and represented God on earth. Above all three was the order of common Christian love. All social relations build on the fourth commandment, to honour your father and your mother, but also on reciprocal relations, with duties inherited in both obedience and authority. With this session, we want to explore Luther’s concept of authority and discuss how it influenced the process of modernisation and democratisation in Denmark. We will focus on how Luther’s ideas about authority was influenced by European heritage, how it differed from and corresponded with other contemporary and later European thinkers and how the understanding of authority, duty and social responsibility influenced the formation of a household culture during the centuries following the Reformation, with consequences for the understanding of the relationship between individuals as well as between the individual, society and state.


Gorm Harste (Aarhus University): Absolutism, authority and the legitimation of power – the importance of obedience as Lutheran work ethics

The long title of the presentation indicates that the particular strong Danish form of empowered absolutism got a stronghold beyond state power. The constitutional absolutism in the Danish monarchy and its ‘raison d’État’ certainly was necessitated by wars. One the one hand the wars were between the protestant (Lutheran Danish, Swedish and German) powers including a transconfessional French state and the Catholic Habsburg powers; one the other they were between the two Lutheran Danish and Swedish monarchies. Yet whereas this macro scenario synchronized necessities top-down, the competing powers also competed about the authorization of power, not only theologically top down from God; they also developed a bottom up form of authorization in the obedience, loyalty and discipline of the citizens and households synchronized into forms of cooperative power organization. The presentation argue that the Danish-Norwegian Empire promoted an strategy of obedience favored by the Lutheran Reformation, whereas other powers (the United Provinces) attempted a more Calvinist disciplinary form and the French superpower a still more post-confessional strategy that dissolved any legal need of rights and duties to resistance by uniting law and state power.

Nina Javette Koefoed (Aarhus University): Authority and social responsibility within the household

This paper will explore how the figure of the housefather represented the authority of God and the kind of responsibility placed on the father of the house through catechism and legislation as well as the popular understanding of this authority during the 18th century. It will be an argument that the religious, legal and cultural understanding of the father of the house informed the male citizen established during the early democratization of the 19th century in Denmark. Through this the paper will argue for a religious heritage in our present understanding of the relation between the individual and the state and the responsibilities build into this relation.

Bo Kristian Holm (Aarhus University): The role of Roman philosophy in the Lutheran view on authority

Roman philosophy plays a key role in the reformers understanding of the role of worldly authority. European ideas of the benevolent ruler were modelled through the lens of the biblical Father imagery found in both the Old and the New Testament. This presentation follows the ideas of the ideal ruler from Seneca and Cicero over Melanchthon’s Loci communes from 1521, explicating the consequences of the doctrine of justification for the understanding of worldly life, and Luther’s Catechisms, teaching benevolence towards neighbors in all respects, to Luther’s Lecture on Genesis, which to a large extent includes exemplary narratives functioning as guidelines for the handling of authority. It will be shown how antique ideals of political authority corresponds to the Lutheran anthropology a forms an especially anti-Machiavellian understanding of power. Special emphasis will be given to the both reactionary and dynamic potentials inherent in the Lutheran view on secular authority, thereby contributing to the discussion of both the impact of Lutheranism on the formation of society and of the possible critique of the current political situation inherent in the Lutheran tradition.

Giovanni Tortoriello (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg): The Praeceptor as philosopher: the meaning of philosophy in Melanchthon’s thought

During all his career, Philipp Melanchthon followed the Lutheran distinction between the Law, which commands what is ethically admissible to do and what not, and the Gospel, which proclaims the remission of Sins through the faith in Jesus Christ. One must non misunderstand the word Law and Gospel confusing them with the classical distinction between Old and New Testament. Melanchthon, as well as Luther, argues that the Gospel is not only what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote, just like the books of Moses are not only law. On the contrary, the message of the Gospel is spread throughout all the books of the Bible. The distinction between Law and Gospel marks a sharp separation between philosophy and theology, the former pertaining that part of the Law of God which deals with the nature of men and of all created things, the latter the infinite love of God which forgives human sins gratis. This second kind of knowledge is unintelligible for human reason, and only faith can grasp it. According to Melanchthon, the aims of philosophy and theology are different and the two fields do not have to be mixed. However, philosophy can be useful for theology. For this reason, in many of his speeches Melanchthon argues for a “learned theology.” His well-known humanistic background, the influence upon him of thinkers like Erasmus of Rotterdam, and the points of divergence through Luther’s positions seem to indicate that the role that philosophy played in Melanchthon’s theology is deeper than what he himself was willing to admit. However, this is still a matter of debate among Melanchthon scholars. The paper wants to investigate the philosophical positions assumed by Melanchthon throughout his career and put in evidence continuity and discontinuity with Lutheran orthodoxy.

Panel 4: Luther as a Philosopher

Organizer(s): Robert Stern (University of Sheffield), Hans Fink (Aarhus University)

While Luther has been widely studied by theologians and historians, he has been largely ignored by philosophers who work on the history of ideas (e.g. the authoritative and comprehensive Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy has no entry on Luther). This is in contrast to other key theological figures, such as Augustine and Aquinas (who have extensive entries in SEP). However, many of his key positions have significant philosophical implications and are often defended in terms that are not just theological. Moreover, because historians of philosophy have not generally engaged with Luther’s work, they have also overlooked Luther’s influence on philosophers who have come after him – but where the key northern European philosophers such as Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Feuerbach were all educated in the broadly Lutheran tradition, while Heidegger studied it closely. So how far can we go in thinking of Luther as a philosopher, and what might this mean? The papers on this panel will address these questions from different perspectives.


Robert Stern (University of Sheffield): ‘Luther as a Philosopher’

In this introduction to the themes of this panel, I will consider Luther’s relation to philosophy. Luther’s characterisation of reason as ‘the devil’s whore’ may seem to put him beyond the philosophical pale; but of course he had a much more nuanced conception of the relation between reason and faith than this would suggest, while he was himself trained within the Augustinian and nominalist traditions of late medieval philosophy. I will suggest that the philosophical interest in Luther’s opposition to philosophy lies in his rejection of certain Aristotelian assumptions which philosophers find it very hard to do without – a claim that I will illustrate by appeal to Hegel.

Bjørn Rabjerg (Aarhus University): ‘Luther’s Anthropology Seen From a Philosophical Perspective’

A key idea in Lutheranism is the contrast between the selfishness of the human being as a sinner through and through as opposed to the grace of the goodness of God. A parallel contrast is the one between the absolute powerlessness of the human being and hence the impossibility of working on one’s own salvation, as opposed to the absolute power of God and salvation as an undeserved gift. While these are obviously theological conceptions, I will try to use them constructively as a way of offering a possible philosophical perspective on philosophical anthropology and human existence.

Wayne Martin (University of Essex): ‘Luther’s Will’

Luther’s account of agency is known among philosophers chiefly for his uncompromising rejection of the traditional doctrine of freedom of the will, and for his polemical exchange with Erasmus on this topic.   I propose to abstract from the particulars of that debate in order to focus on a more fundamental question:  what is the will, on Luther’s understanding?  I approach the question primarily through analysis of the 1525 text, De Servo Arbitrio, and plot his position by comparing it against three markers from the subsequent history of philosophy:  Hobbes’ theory of will as effective desire, the Kantian rational will, and Schopenhauer’s theory of will as striving.

Hans Fink (Aarhus University): ‘On Conceptions of Philosophy in its Relation to Theology after Luther’

Quite contrary to his wishes Luther inaugurated no reformation of the Christian Church, but the splintering of it. Along with economic, political and scientific developments this helped to make philosophy and theology more independent of each other while at the same time creating certain characteristic ambivalences both in philosophers’ conception of theology and in theologians’ conception of philosophy. I shall illustrate the latter by discussing the rather different attitudes towards philosophy in the two Aarhus-theologians, K.E. Løgstrup and Johannes Sløk, who have an equally good claim to be good Lutherans.

Panel 5: Philosophy and Reformation: Existence

Organizer(s): Anders Moe Rasmussen (The Protestantism Network, Aarhus University)

From a historical perspective, the Lutheran Reformation appears as a marked event in a long line of social, political, technological and intellectual events that all tended toward a radical reconfiguration of the order of the world: the rediscovery of the antique in the Renaissance, the concentration of political and economic power in the Italian city-states that increasingly challenged the papacy, the proto-globalization that came with the great discoveries and the “new world” etc. A common trait in all these events is a tendency to give priority to the human and the inherent intuition that the greatest philosophical questions must be explored not with a dogmatic scholastic world order, but with the human being and the human conditions of knowledge, moral and religion as their point of vantage. Are the seeds of modern philosophy with its emphasis on subjectivity, cognition, perception, reason, freedom, enlightenment etc. to be found in these historical conjunctures in their entirety? Or, does the Lutheran Reformation contribute with a unique inspiration and impetus? Where in the philosophical tradition do we meet these Lutheran traces? Who is the protestant philosopher par excellence? Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard? Finally, the question seems to encroach: where is the thinker, Luther himself, placed with respect to the philosophical tradition? These and related questions are considered in two themed panels. The first panel deals with the rethinking of human existence that occurred in the wake of the Lutheran Reformation. The second panel considers the ties between the Lutheran critique of the dogmatic theologico-political order of his times and the critical consciousness that during the subsequent centuries would become emblematic of European Enlightenment.


Markus Kleinert (Universität Erfurt): Transfiguration in View of the Cross

The transfiguration of Christ has been of relatively little interest within the Western churches. Luther’s theology of the cross, as presented in the Heidelberg disputation 1518, seems to justify and support this marginalization. By means of the example of transfiguration, the paper discusses the relation of passion and glory in Lutheran theology (e. g. Peder Palladius) as well as its traces in the history of philosophy, e. g. Kierkegaard’s gospel of suffering and Nietzsche’s glorification of the world. So, different positions towards the transfiguration reflect existential attitudes towards God, man and the world still powerful until today.

Bengt Kristensson Uggla (Åbo Akademi University): Extra Nos & Homo Capax: What Makes us Human?

This paper explores the link between the extra nos in Gustaf Wingren’s theological anthropology and the homo capax in Paul Ricoeur’s philosophical anthropology, both considered as creative receptions of the tradition from Luther. I will argue that the reason that we find such synergies between these two thinkers, even though neither of these two thinkers ever referred to the other, has to do with their common roots in and ability to rethink the Reformation. Wingren takes his specific place in twentieth Century theology as an angry critic of the dominant anti-liberal movements that took the distinctively Christian—in opposition to what we all share as human beings—as methodological starting-point to understand the Christian faith, developing a what it means to be human starting “outside” oneself. Ricoeur’s philosophical position is developed as an creative alternative to both humanist and anti-humanist approaches expressed as the capacity to imagine oneself as another. For both these thinkers the starting-point in a decentered subject, is closely related to a centering move, integrated as parts of a wider dialectics which relates this initial experience of being decentered to a new centering move of action. This opens up for new ways of coping with human capacity, what really makes us human, alternative concepts of sociality and identities beyond the religion-secularity binary, when confronted with the current post-liberal, post-secular and post-humanist challenges.

Niels Wilde Langballe (Aarhus University): Weird Allies? Kierkegaard and Object-Oriented-Ontology

What does existential philosophy and object-oriented-ontology have in common? In the age of the Anthropocene, we are forced to either drastically rethink the notion of the human being – our role, position, responsibility etc. – or to leave the ego in favor of the eco, the human in favor of humus. Does the future of the earth belong to us or to the non-human? Or both? In this paper existential philosophy and object-oriented ontology are brought together in order to rethink the place of the human within the scope of what Harman calls guerrilla  metaphysics  or  what Morton  calls the dawn of hyperobjects.

Tone Frank Dandanell (Aarhus University): TBA

Panel 6: Reformation and the Question of Modernity

It is well known that Max Weber linked the development of capitalism to the Protestant ethic. But is the Reformation more broadly conceivable as a catalyst of the disenchantment of the world characteristic of the Enlightenment culture in the wake of which we are still living? Or did the redefinition of the human place in the world prompt a correlative reconceptualisation of the modalities of sacred and divine presence instead of disenchanting the world? Several problems arise from this development and the interpretation of this development. Among others, the problem of the place of religion in modern life and accordingly the place of religious institutions in modern life.


Eva Krause Jørgensen (Aarhus University): Disenchantment as the Red Herring of Modernity? Rethinking Sacramentality and Sociality in the Narratives of Protestant Modernity

For the past century, the notion of living in (some relation to) Modernity has held a major grip on the self-perception of Western communities. The concept of modernity itself has a frustratingly ambivalent both common and scholarly usage to the point where a precise definition seems almost impossible to extract. Among the historical ‘master narratives’ treating the genesis of modernity, one of the most tenacious heralds the Protestant Reformation as an important catalyst for later processes of rationalization, capitalism and secularization. In the ongoing debate on this narrative, some scholars have recently pleaded for a reinvigoration of religion in post-secular society, whilst others have proposed a rejection of the confessional roots of the modernity as no longer self-evident in a post-Christian society. The very paradigm of modernity as disenchantment and rationality enabled by Protestantism might however be a question mal posée and historiographical red herring. If this is the case, what directions do we then need take for prospective interpretations of the Protestant Reformation and the significance of confessional cultures for the development of the modern societies? As I will argue, a keener awareness of religion as a historical force of modernization might indeed provide an ample contribution to our understanding of the essence and future of modernity. I suggest that confessional, geographical and temporal differentiation, however trite it might seem, is of pivotal importance for the qualification of the impact of the Protestant Reformation. For example, a reconsideration of how Lutheran understanding of sacramentality and sociality carried into modernity might challenge the common narrative of the Reformation as an engine of disenchantment.

Dritëro Demjaha (University of Oxford): The Problem of the Protestant Post-Secular

The Protestant post-secular has been defined in terms of its stipulation of a strict distinction between the transcendent and the immanent, a distinction constitutive of secularity itself. This paper addresses this problem for Protestant articulations of post-secularity with special reference to Bengston's threefold typology of Protestant, French Catholic, and Deleuzian post-secularities (whose most notable representatives are Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor and John Milbank, and William Connolly, respectively). It identifies three places where views about the transcendence/immanence divide come into play and problematise a Protestant post-secular project: (1) the relative difficulty for Protestant theology to appropriate contemporary and post-modern critiques of modernity (and of its lingering presuppositions about the secular); (2) the relative difficulty of Protestant churches, which remain nationally organised, to adapt to new civilisational and cultural constellations with increasingly trans-national characteristics; and (3) the problematic linking in some Protestant theology of the doxastic definition of religion with the covenantal definition of the relation between God and humanity. It furthermore argues that Bengston's typology may be collapsed into a twofold distinction between post-secular visions wedded to the traditions of modernity – of which Protestant post-secular is the chief instance – and those visions predominantly critical of modernity's legacy. This distinction recalls a simplistic but historically significant Protestant/Catholic division vis-à-vis modernity which has notably resurfaced with the advent of post-secular discourse. The paper will finally argue that Protestantism's relative difficulties in articulating a post-secular vision are a result of an historical reliance on the institutions of modernity (such as the nation state) as bulwarks against Catholic hegemony, a reliance however which is today stultifying Protestant attempts to secure the place of Christianity in a modern world.

Panel 7: Theological Interpretations of Luther 1914-2017

Organizer(s): Niels Henrik Gregersen (University of Copenhagen)

At the 500 year anniversary of the reformation, the social impacts of Martin Luther and his contemporary Reformers have been at the forefront of discussion. What were the historical and social trajectories ignited by the Reformation processes initiated from Wittenberg and other early Reformation cities? This session will deal with theological and cultural receptions of Reformation theology in 20th century Europe. How to rethink the theological structures of Martin Luther, and other Reformers?  


Christine Svinth-Værge Põder (University of Copenhagen): Luther’s Lectures on Romans in the works of Karl Holl, R. Hermann, and Karl Barth

The two dominant theological movements of the interwar Germany, dialectical theology and the Lutherrenaissance may both be dated to the close of 1921, where Barth’s Epistle to the Romans and Holl’s Luther appeared. While Holl interpreted Luther’s early concept of justification in terms of existential crisis and self-judgment, to Barth it became indirectly the ideal of theological method.

Niels Henrik Gregersen (University of Copenhagen): Triangulating Scandinavian Creation Theology: K.E. Løgstrup, Regin Prenter, and Gustaf Wingren

in 20th century German theology, Luther’s creation theology became first a contested and then a  neglected field, tainted as it was by Nazi theologies of the orders of creation. In post WW-II Scandinavia, by contrast, creation theology came to be seen as a liberating theme as developed in the creative triangle between the philosopher Løgstrup and the systematic theologians Prenter and Wingren. What were their common concerns, and what were the diving issues between the three main protagonists of Scandinavian Creation Theology?

Panel 8: Music, Community, and Modernity: Rethinking the Musical Impact of the Reformation

Organizer(s): Hyun-Ah Kim (University of Toronto / Theologische Universiteit Kampen)

The Reformation gave singing back to the laity, whereby they were no longer passive spectators of Latin liturgy but became active participants of Christian worship conducted in vernacular languages. Modern scholarship has attested that music played a vital role in the success of the Reformation; songs served not only as an effective way of disseminating new religious ideas but also as a significant source of consolation. Above all, Lutheran reformers and their successors thoroughly exploited music as a means of both edifying the Church and evangelizing the world, by combining moral and religious education with popular musical entertainment. This trend became stronger under the influence of empirical philosophy during the Enlightenment when key Lutheran leaders and theorists defended theatrical music used in the worship, the musical style which appeals to the senses and is governed by the doctrine of affections (Affektenlehre).  While scholars are aware of the importance of the Lutheran Reformation in relation to the history of European music, little research has investigated the extent to which the musical enterprise of the Reformation exerted on the secularization of society in modern Europe at large. This panel examines the musical impact of the Reformation on the formation or transformation of religious community as an ‘audience,’ and vice versa, in terms of the relationship between the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and modernity. From interdisciplinary perspectives, the panel demonstrates how new concepts and perceptions of music, developed within the Lutheran tradition, eventually led to the rise of concert church music that is essentially theatrical and communal. Further, it examines modern interpretations of the effect of the Reformation on Western musical culture and phenomenon, in which Christian musical practice converges with popular theatrical performance by creating a culture of learning where pedagogy vies with pleasure, education with entertainment within and beyond the Reformation churches.


Hyun-Ah Kim (University of Toronto / Theologische Universiteit Kampen): Music, Adiaphora, and Secularisation: Rethinking the Musical Impact of the Lutheran Reformation

As the doctrinal disputes of the Reformation developed, music was often regarded as one of ‘indifferent matters,’ adiaphora. While early adiaphoristic controversies were confined to religious ceremonies, later controversies concerned a broader context of morality and culture. Against their opponents upholding adiaphoristic positions, Orthodox Lutherans affirmed music as essentially good rather than as neutral, if not always consistent about musical forms in question, and defended instrumental music and singing in foreign languages in church. Consequently, church music was allowed in all its forms, despite its potential negative effects on the congregation, and their accommodation to popular musical taste for Christian outreach, through musica poetica appealing to the affections, paved the way for the rise of concert church music. This trend became stronger under the influence of empirical philosophy arguing that the senses are no longer regarded as impure bodily elements in need of control by the mind but rather as direct channels to the soul. This paper reviews the impact of the Lutheran Reformation on the musical practices of community, focusing on the changed meaning of adiaphora. I argue that whilst early Lutheran reformers transformed the laity, a passive audience of Latin liturgy, into a vital, singing community, later orthodox Lutherans’ verification of theatrical music (operas) as adiaphora eventually made them an audience if engaged, which created a gulf between musicians and congregations but erased the borders between the sacred and the profane. I investigate how music has supported or subverted post-Reformation religious community, by illustrating that the changed notion of adiaphora led to a culture of moral-religious education combined with ‘permissible’ musical entertainment, alongside the heightened sacred oratory (preaching) that had already become theatrical performances. Furthermore, I discuss what impact this ‘theatricalisation’ of Lutheran worship, centring on the performance of sacred and musical ‘orators,’ has exerted upon modern religious practices.

Oane Reitsma (form. VU University Amsterdam): Religious community and audience: The ambiguous role of religious music in shaping community

Charles Taylor traces the modern perception of the individual, as a ‘buffered identity’, back to the Reformation(s), as he does with modern experience of the world as ‘constructed social spaces’. In search for a way out of the ‘immanent frame’, he suggests looking for answers in ‘subtler languages’, like art and music. Besides, the liturgical ‘community gatherings’ of the religious institutions, society created ‘metatopical spaces’, based on a more horizontal order, in which people meet as equals. This division though, has never been as sharp as it lookes at first sight. Both religious and secular community gatherings borrow features from each other. This happened for example in the eighteenth century, when religious music came into the concert hall. In reverse it happens again since the traditional churches try to redefine their own position in a secularized society from the second half of the twentieth century onward, e.g. by their attempt to connect to more secular forms (and contents) of community gathering, both liturgical and non-liturgical. In Lutheran tradition, church music and concert music have always been interwoven. This current practice compels us to rethink about the type of community the church envisages. After applying Taylor’s concepts to modern concert culture and referring to Gadamer’s conception of the ‘non-aesthetical differentiation’, I will re-evaluate this question from a situational viewpoint, focussing on the term ‘engagement’ in relation to music.  What role does music play in engaging with a community and what kind of engagement does it provoke? In other words, what exactly happens inbetween the music and the community members? What role does the music play in shaping the community and what kind of community does it form in religious-ethical or secular perspectives?

Nils Holger Petersen (University of Copenhagen): Martin Luther and Thomas Mann’s Idea of the Faustian Musical Modernism


In his novel Doktor Faustus (1947), Thomas Mann famously and in a fictional framework, gave an interpretation of western music culture, appropriating Theodor W. Adorno’s (at the time still unpublished) understanding of the necessity of Arnold Schoenberg’s musical modernism (based on the so-called twelve-tone technique). Mann’s interpretations in some measure turned Adorno’s argument around by letting paraphrases of important parts of Adorno’s text (contextualised by ideas of Søren Kierkegaard) be spoken by the Devil in the central chapter in which his composer protagonist Adrian Leverkühn is made to accept his Faustian pact, which, in Mann’s construction, associates Leverkühn and his invention of the twelve-tone technique with human isolation and intellectual coldness as well as with an intellectual and artistic climate which allowed Nazism to grow strong in Germany during the 1920s. This cast a suspicion on actual musical modernism (including Schoenberg who made things worse by demanding to be mentioned as the “father” of Leverkühn’s ideas in the novel, although Schoenberg actually returned to his Jewish faith precisely in face of Nazism). An important point in Mann’s construction, however, is the place of Luther in the implied historiography of the novel. Here Luther is associated with a new tendency for religious fervour that came to influence Romantic music, especially the German Lied, and became essential for the breakdown of traditional major/minor tonality in modernism. Adorno’s and Mann’s interpretations became influential for musical composition in the decades after the Second World War, in each their ways. In this paper, I shall use Thomas Mann’s construction and his influence as a backdrop for discussing 1/ whether Mann had a valid point in giving Luther the mentioned historiographic position in western music history, and 2/ what happened to Luther’s significance for music at the time (beginning in the 1970s) when composers began to react against the strict serialism (and twelve-tone music) of the previous decades. Has the situation for musical composition after “traditional” modernism lost its ties to a Lutheran tradition – in religious as well as secular contexts?

Panel 9: Reformations, Diversity and Religious Encounters

Religion and identity are as closely linked as identity and conflict. In addition to theological and institutional innovations, the Lutheran Reformation added diversity to the already complex range of identities in Europe and opened up new zones of religious and political conflict. The experience and the memories of waves of armed conflict from the Wars of Religion and the Revolutionary Wars all the way to the world wars of the 20th century and the struggle with terrorism in the 21st century have had an enormous impact on the very idea of Europe and the self-definition of its citizens. What role have the churches and religious communities of Europe played in these conflicts, which have marred Europe for 500 years? These are not purely intellectual or historiographical concerns. The way in which we analyse and remember the past has a decisive impact on how we envision our future. In this context it is particularly important to reflect about collective fantasies of belonging and the very real divisions between inside and outside, centre and periphery, and privilege and oppression that they create. How have the key registers of modern European identities – religion, science, politics and mass entertainment – created visions of collective destiny through powerful symbolic processes of inclusion and exclusion? How have prejudice and racism and the memory of prejudice and racism shaped Europe’s perception of itself?


Lars Vissing (DIIS - Danish Institute for International Studies): Reformation and Cultural Divergence

Five hundred years after the Reformation the Catholic Church confronts new challenges.  Sectarianism has become an important and menacing factor. Out of the XVIth century heresies only reformatory currents such as those headed by Zwingli and Calvin are still deemed incompatible with the guiding principles of the Apostolic faith; and the Vatican position on Luther has evolved significantly. Right around the corner lies the admission that Luther only did what Rome was not capable of doing - at that point in time. A late echo of the initial Luther conviction of being more catholic than Rome. In spite of this stance, and of a largely pacified situation between the apostolic and evangelical churches of Germany, the North/South field of contention remains. The short explanation is that this confrontation is less religious than secular and cultural, leaving its trail through History, including in contemporary goings-on of the European cooperation. Hence the question mark with regard to Max Weber: is the North-South divide in Europe primarily the result of the economic, societal and political developments leading up to 1517, or is the Reformation just one actualization – among others - of an ancient, essentially cultural polarity? The paper explores diverging conceptions and behaviors regarding institutions and contractual obligations; public and private spheres; time, space and discourse; governance and economics; and also those related to negotiating patterns – handling substance, or avoiding problems, gaining time, playing tactics, looking for lowest common denominators. Proceedings during the religious encounters of the Reformation are not without parallel in contemporary dealings of the European cooperation. 

Esra Özyürek (London School of Economics): Reformed Islam in Europe: Return to Fundamentals or Traditions?

After more than a half century of mass migration of Muslims into Europe, a number of West European Muslims call for a reform in Islam that will make it compatible with European life-style and values. However, the ideas on how this reform would look like differs radically. At the one end of the spectrum is the orthodox Swiss Muslim Tariq Ramadan. He suggests that the fundamentals of Islam are totally compatible with European values. He argues that the problems associated with Islam, such as gender inequality, actually belong to local cultures. He suggests if Muslims leave Turkish, Arab, South Asian cultural traditions behind and return to Islamic fundamentals, they will have no contradictions with European values. The other end of the spectrum is the brand new liberal mosque movement in Germany, Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, where men and women pray together behind a woman imam without a headscarf. Promoters of this kind movement suggest that in order to fit European values, fundamentals of Islam need to be reformed: one should not take the Quran as the word of God but as a historical document that needs to be evaluated in its context; rituals such as circumcision should be replaced by a symbolic act; fasting and praying should be adjusted. At the same time, they argue traditions that create community such as eid celebrations should be kept. This presentation will map out the wide spectrum of debates about European Islam and will discuss the social and political conditions that make these discussions possible at this European moment. It will also suggest how a comparison of these debates with those of Reformed Judaism 200 years ago will help us better understand the changing dynamics of minority-majority relations in Europe.

Panel 10: Rethinking Luther, Reformation, and Gender

Organizer: Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen (Aarhus University)

Martin Luther’s view of women and gender is one of the most debated themes pertaining to the Reformation’s impact on theology, church, and society. Feminist and/or modernity scholars have criticized Luther for causing anything but a reformation of gender roles, maintaining that women’s place in society became even worse than before. The critics contend that particularly Luther’s opposition to monasticism and virginity as a holy ideal and his reevaluation of Mary as a real woman rather than a saint meant a step backward for women. The claim is that as Luther and the reformers, contrary to the medieval Catholic ideals, valued marriage higher than the cloistered virginity of monks and nuns, women’s career opportunities were reduced to those of becoming wives and mothers, while men gained from the new arrangements. Furthermore, Luther’s new understanding of church ministry and the priesthood of all believers did not improve women’s place in church and society. Conversely, Luther contemporary opponents accused him of opening avenues for women to circumvent set gender norms by speaking publicly. In fact, one of the 41 errors for which he was condemned and banned by the Catholic magisterium in 1521 was that of regarding even women as better priests than a bishop or the pope. To be true, many women felt called by Luther’s reformatory writings, some of them nuns leaving their convents to begin a new life and career. Many of them became pastors’ wives and mothers in an acting out the reformatory ideas and ideals, some by acting publicly as teachers or preachers of the new theology. This panel opens for rethinking what impact Luther’s reformatory ideas of church, sacraments, scripture, salvation, vocation, and social Christian life had on gender roles and women’s place in church and society by constructively revisiting Luther’s theology, its reception, and its potentials.


Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen (Aarhus University): Women, Gender, and Church in Luther’s New Theology.

In his endeavor to reform the church of his day, Luther totally reformulated the doctrine on ecclesial offices. In this enterprise, his principles of sola scriptura and solus Christus played a decisive part. Claiming the free right to interpret the bible for every Christian, and Christ incarnate in his radical humanity, the Word of God, as the only authority of the church, Luther subverted the understanding of church and its ministry. Luther thus rejected the ontological difference and power hierarchy between lay and ordained priests taught by the papal church, and recast church ministry as a reciprocal and symbiotic relation between the priest ordained to preach the word of God (ministerium verbi) and those truly ordained through baptism to the priesthood of all believers (sacerdotes). In this paper, I want to show how Luther’s radical incarnation theology with its focus on Christ as a human being inevitably led to his humanization of church ministry. This together with his empowering of laypersons opened avenues for women to see themselves as equal authorities to read and teach scripture and preach the word of God. Luther, indeed held that women could do so in emergency situations when there were no competent man present, such as in convents, otherwise the norm as set by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34 prescribed a male preacher. Yet, when scrutinizing Luther’s texts on this matter, he is extremely loose in his formulations and even self-contradictory. Hence, I shall conclude by engaging the question whether Luther is simply ambivalent to women as his predecessors and peers, or if he is ambiguous, even intended ambiguous as a strategy in the context a predominantly misogynistic, feudal society and church. However we interpret Luther, most Lutheran churches today ordain women pastors, unlike the church that he wanted to reform.

Kirsi Stjerna (California Lutheran University): Women as Interpreters of the Word: Argula von Grumbach, Katharina Schütz Zell, and Marie Dentiére.

Exercising their public theological voice without visions or scholastic training, the publishing Protestant women Katharina Schütz Zell, Argula von Grumbach, and Marie Dentière stretched the "holy maternal calling" to include caring of the Word and with the Word. Each of them faced significant resistance as they, in their own place, reacted to a theological issue in a particular political situation and challenged their male counterparts with their biblical interpretation. Each of them emerged as a theologian compelled by their situation and when witnessing injustice and suffering, emboldened by their profound knowledge of the Scriptures and their sense of Christian duty in regards to the gospel, and the Protestant theological principles they had embraced. In the effort to rewrite Reformation histories with women at the center and to re-examine and reconstruct the theological sources that shape Protestant theologies today, it is indispensable to engage the Reformation mothers’ theological voices. This requires methodological flexibility and imagination, and breaking disciplinary boundaries. In the exercise, the lasting values – or pitfalls – of Reformation theologies come to new light, and the study of so-called “woman’s experience” gains so far utterly unexplored material. A question of interest is also this: Can we identify emerging themes in the reformation women’s theological reflection? As the theologies of Argula, Katharina, and Marie suggest, some of the compelling theological urgencies for the reformation women were justice/injustice and violence/anti-violence, right to marry and the equality of vocations, and women’s rights to interpret the Scripture.

Agnes Arnorsdottir (Aarhus University): Marriage and Motherhood in the Nordic context.

In this paper, I will discuss the changing regulation of marriage after the Reformation in the Nordic context. I shall discuss the direct impact of the Protestant Reformation on marriage legislation and legal practice, especially how the sacrament of the Holy Communion came to play an increasingly important role in sexual control. Special focus will be on the symbolic role of the household for establishing a new importance of the earthly family in Lutheran society. Lutheran pastoral care aimed at altering the Catholic practice of using the saints as helpers for mothers during birth. Instead, Lutheran pastoral care manifested another ideal for mothers’ identities. As time passed, motherhood gained another meaning in the earthly life of the Lutheran families as a source of piety and even salvation.  The paper concludes by discussing the implications of these changes for larger social questions. For instance, how can we better understand the principles of social organization in the Reformation by examining the special status of childbirth and motherhood in the Danish Church Ordinance from 1537/1539? More generally, what does this focus suggest about the changing notions of gender after the Reformation?