On Tuesday, November 7th, I successfully defended my dissertation on the relevance of evolutionary studies of religion for theology. With that, a period of fifteen years came to a close, a period in which I studied theology, for the better part in combination with a full-time job as a teacher. So the defense was a very emotional experience on the personal level, not to mention that it really is a milestone in my professional life.
Jury Members (from left to right):
Prof. Dr. Stephan van Erp, Coordinator of the Research Unit of Systematic Theology and the Study of Religion, Ku Leuven – Co-Promotor
Some of the questions asked during the defense I will certainly continue thinking about (paraphrased, not quoted):
- Can you speak of dialogue when you’re the only one actually having an interest in dialogue?
- Does the current title of my project really clarify the theme I’m developing? Shouldn’t I announce more clearly that ‘praxis’ is what I am focusing on? I think so, and I also think that there is still much to say about a ‘practical cooperation’ between science and theology – in education and beyond.
- I compare Ian Barbour’s four models of relation between science and religion with the tension between wanting to be in continuity with one’s own field (in my case: theology) and wanting to be open for contributions of other fields (e.g. evolution). That comparison needs further clarification, possibly modification, the jury suggested. It might work better if I develop this tension further, instead of starting from/clinging to Barbour’s work.
- One of the jury members mentioned how Teilhard de Chardin’s work influences Philip Hefner’s theology. Certainly something I want to study some more. I suspect this might also help me in getting a better grasp on what it means today to say that we want to help young people to ‘grow as a person’ in education.
These, and other critical but generous remarks from the jury will certainly be helpful in the upcoming task of revising the manuscript into a publishable text. My adventures in theology are far from over!