The research of central theological and socially relevant topics in dialogue with natural and cultural sciences is the purpose of Division I of FIIT. The research department, headed by the managing director of FIIT, Prof. Michael Welker, regularly organizes international and interdisciplinary conferences.
Supported by sponsors from Germany and abroad, it has been possible in recent years to carry out and publish major multi-year projects on the dialogue between theology and the natural sciences, theology and the legal sciences, and theology and the economic sciences. The project “Images of the Divine and Cultural Orientations: Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Voices” (with colleagues from Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago) and several projects on “Religion and Civil Societies” (Hungary, South Africa) were funded within the framework of Zukunftsoffensive IV of the regional state of Baden-Württemberg. Several consultations with universities in Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, and Seoul led to joint publications.
Since 2018, a series of two international and interdisciplinary consultations each year on the thematic complex “Character Formation, Ethical Education, and the Communication of Values in Late Modern Pluralistic Societies” (on Market, on Religion 2018; on Law, on Science 2019; on Family, on Education 2020; on Media, on Defense 2021; on Politics, on Medical System 2022) has been conducted.
The concept of human dignity poses complex questions in medical and legal practice, pointing to a need for clarification also in theology, philosophy and other humanities and human sciences.
Through the research conducted by Profs. Klaus Tanner (Theological Ethics) and Thomas Fuchs (Medicine), FIIT is linked to the Interdisciplinary Forum for Biomedicine and Cultural Studies (IFBK) at Heidelberg University.
Members of Research Departments I and II participated in the Marsilius Project “Embodiment as a Paradigm of an Evolutionary Cultural Anthropology”. They participated in international summer and winter schools of the Marsilius-Kolleg of Heidelberg University. Book publications: G. Etzelmüller/ A. Weissenrieder, Verkörperung als Paradigma theologischer Anthropologie, TBT 172, Berlin/Boston 2016; G. Etzelmüller/ Ch. Tewes, Embodiment in Evolution and Culture, Tübingen 2016; G. Etzelmüller/ Th. Fuchs/ Ch. Tewes, Verkörperung – eine neue interdisziplinäre Anthropologie, Berlin/Boston 2017.
In 2019, a BMBF project on the future of the patent system was completed, in which Profs. Klaus Tanner, Paul Kirchhof, and Rüdiger Wolfrum were involved. The project analyzed the patenting of human embryonic stem cells (hEs cells) on the basis of relevant developments in the law, legal interpretation processes, ethical statements, and societal discussions at the international and national levels. It focused on a patent system that has been extended by essential functions in the last decades due to scientific-technical upheavals, legislative initiatives, non-legislative further development of the law and civil-societal activities. The aim was to develop cornerstones for the formation of a judgment that allows a more differentiated weighing of economic interests and ethical-legal arguments.
The Old Testament insights into the intrinsic connections between the development of law, an ethos of protecting the weak, and a search for truth that is also religiously relevant have helped shape the conceptions of a legal and social state right into the 20th century. The Reformation, in particular, set the course for the modern development of law by drawing on biblical traditions. The work of Department III takes up numerous biblical-exegetical and Reformation-historical impulses. However, they are also looking for interdisciplinary cooperation in the development of scientific normative concepts (book publication: Concepts of Law in the Sciences, Legal Studies and Theology). The complex relationship between legal dogmatics and theological dogmatics was discussed in the exchange between theology and legal studies in several consultations (Profs. A. von Bogdandy [Max Planck Institute for Foreign Public Law and International Law], U. Mager, E. Schmidt-Assmann, Ph. Stoellger, K. Tanner, M. Welker). In connection with Prof. J. Witte and the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, Atlanta, and the Journal of Law and Religion, Cambridge, numerous research and publication projects have been and are being pursued. (Links to projects in Division I)
Department IV reflects the manifold interactions of religion and education. Religion in the educational process is currently challenged in a special way by the changes in contemporary religious culture. Also, there are only few meaningful empirical studies so far that contribute to a differentiated picture of the religious present situation among children and adolescents. However, since accurate theological, empirical, and didactic perceptual perspectives are of fundamental importance, there is an urgent need for research in this area. Accurate perceptions are the prerequisites for a didactic profiling of religious education processes in schools and congregations. Based on this task, research projects on learning to judge in religious education have been carried out, which were continued in 2019 with a more in-depth question. An expert conference will ask, primarily in relation to Scripture, whether and how Scripture can provide criteria for judgment formation and judgment learning in religious education processes. Accompanying this, a publication on moral education will be prepared.
The research department “Medial Anthropology” is headed by Prof. Philipp Stoellger. It aims to broaden horizons in the study of religious cultures by analyzing them also as visual cultures. As a horizon of visual culture, it wants to reflect the media practices of religion, i.e., to do media theory in a theological perspective. As a focus and research field of this broadening of horizons, media anthropology will be worked on, following and networking with projects on ‘embodiment’ in phenomenological, image-scientific and theological perspectives. This research perspective has already led to numerous publications and is currently being tested in ongoing interdisciplinary cooperation projects.
Traces of the history of Israel and the first Christians are not only found in written sources. Modern archaeology makes an important contribution to the understanding of biblical life. Research Department VI headed by Profs.
Peter Lampe, Manfred Oeming and Jan Christian Gertz regularly carries out excavation campaigns in Phrygia (Turkey) and in Israel. The settlement archaeological project in Phrygia led by Prof. Peter Lampe succeeded, among other things, in discovering the two Montanist towns of Pepouza and Tymion, for which research had been searching since the 19th century.
In cooperation with Tel Aviv University and accompanied by students, Prof. Manfred Oeming carried out numerous excavations in Ramat Rahel in recent years — among other things, an Iron Age garden complex was excavated for the first time in Israel and a complex water supply system with a pool system was uncovered. The publication of two volumes of the excavation report at Ramat Rahel is funded by the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation and the German-Israeli Foundation, with a final third volume to follow in 2021. The close cooperation with Tel Aviv University continues in the form of the Lautenschläger-Azekah Expedition. The eighth campaign will hopefully be followed by the ninth excavation period in 2021. Here, too, numerous publications are on the way.
Prof. Jan Christian Gertz is leading a DFG-funded research project on place-names in the Book of Deuteronomy. The project aims at gaining historically validated clues for the genesis of the book, in particular for the editorial history tangible in the frame chapters (Dt 1–11; 27–34), by examining the place indications of Dtn. Special investigations apply to the place names of Dt 1 and the few toponyms in Dt 12–26. The research project also serves to clarify hitherto little reflected methodological questions concerning the constructive connection of exegetical and archaeological work in the field of biblical topography.
Biblical traditions influence social and cultural processes up to the present. The formative power of Jewish and Christian traditions is reflected in Research Department VII under the direction of Prof. Hanna Liss (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien) and Profs. Manfred Oeming, Peter Lampe and Helmut Schwier.
Under the direction of Old Testament scholar Manfred Oeming, international and interdisciplinary symposia on the topics of the Bible and trauma and the Bible and humor have been held in recent years. Their results will be published in 2021. In addition, the connection between the Bible and the Qur’an is being researched within the framework of courses and post-doctoral projects in cooperation with Arabic Studies and Islamic Studies. The first literary fruits of this cooperation are in preparation.
Under the New Testament scholar Peter Lampe, in cooperation with the American colleague Robert Jewett (Chicago), a worldwide unique archive on the history of the impact of the Epistle to the Romans (also in occidental state philosophy and political history) was compiled, which was not least evaluated in R. Jewett’s extensive commentary work on the Epistle to the Romans and on which further research is being conducted.
At the Chair of Biblical and Jewish Biblical Interpretation (Hanna Liss) at the Heidelberg University of Jewish Studies, a number of projects have been launched in recent years that deal with the (high) medieval text and its tradition. The focus of the work is the study of Oriental and European biblical texts and interpretive traditions, including Masora and Targum research. Thus, the project “The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible in its different material forms in Western Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries” is funded within the framework of the DFG Collaborative Research Center 933 “Material Text Cultures”. Another project at the chair (with PD Dr. Gianfranco Miletto) on the “Bible Text of Manuscripts with Babylonian-Yemenite Punctuation: Recording Textual Variants” began in 2016 (funded by the DFG).
The Research Department VIII, headed by Profs. Matthias Konradt and Gerd Theissen, focuses on the one hand on the study of early Christianity, and on the other hand it illuminates the emergence and contemporary orientational power of early Christian and early church ethics. Gerd Theissen has developed a research approach that starts from the specificity and universality of the early Christian ethos. This ethos represents a synthesis of biblical commandment ethics and Greek ethics of insight, of the ethos of neighborliness of the Jewish strata of the people and of an upper-class ethos that included a wise handling of power and property. The basic values of autonomy and solidarity, rationality and mercy, insight and charity, which are still recognized today, stem from this synthesis.
The project “Monasteries in the High Middle Ages. Innovation Laboratories of European Life Designs and Models of Order” analyzes the monastic world of the Middle Ages as a precursor of modernity. Especially between the 11th and 13th centuries, medieval monasteries and religious communities developed new and innovative ways of organizing life. In doing so, they fulfilled an important function as mediators between pious seclusion and the complex dynamics of medieval society. Religion — politics — economy: In all these areas, monasteries created or shaped models of the social and cultural awakening that continued to have an effect into European modernity.
Two closely networked research centers at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig (research center in Dresden) are dedicated to these topics.
Through its activities, Research Department X, directed by Prof. Jan Stievermann, aims both to contribute to the religious dimension of American studies, which is often neglected in Germany, and to open up new interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives for research on the history of religion in Europe. Special emphasis is placed on the cultural and theological history of American Protestantism in the 18th and 19th centuries as well as on the relationship between religion and literature.
Through Research Department X, FIIT is also affiliated with the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA). Together with the HCA, the Heidelberg Faculty of Theology annually awards the James W.C. Pennington Award to outstanding scholars. The award is sponsored by the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. It is intended to commemorate the first African American to receive an honorary doctorate from a European faculty. Pennington received it from the Heidelberg Faculty of Theology in 1849.
Through the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, Dept. X is particularly affiliated with Yale Divinity School. Through the Center, research and teaching cooperation is organized and, at the same time, a forum is created for regular guest lectures and seminars by colleagues from the USA. Through the connection established via Prof. Stievermann, FIIT further participates in the manifold international contacts of the HCA.
Currently, Prof. Stievermann is working with a team of junior scholars on a DFG-funded edition of the fifth volume of Cotton Mather’s “Biblia Americana” (1693–1728), the first comprehensive and previously unpublished biblical commentary from English-speaking North America.
The fact that the confessional differentiation of Christianity is not only to be deplored, but must be opened up precisely in its potentials, is the guiding idea of the eleventh Research Department. Under the direction of Prof. Friederike Nüssel, it investigates potentials of confessional differentiation in the horizon of interconfessional dialogues, socio-political developments and ethical decision-making processes.
In the interdenominational dialogues it became and becomes more and more clear that in denominational differentiation there are potentials for the Christian contribution to deal with ideological and socio-political challenges. The Ecumenical Institute, directed by Prof. Nüssel, on the one hand follows and accompanies the development and shaping of the aforementioned dialogue work and, on the other hand, pursues the question in various interdisciplinary projects of how potentials of confessional differentiation (can) come to bear in dealing with current societal tasks.
Within the framework of this research interest, the Ecumenical Institute organizes an Ecumenical Forum every semester, which networks the department with the work of other FIIT departments. In 2017, an Ecumenical Forum on “Lutheran Identity in Non-European Contexts” was organized to explore and reflect on the role of Lutheran theology outside Europe in contrast to the more Eurocentric celebration of the Reformation anniversary.
Prof. Nüssel was also responsible, together with two FIIT members (Profs. Bergunder and Stievermann) and other colleagues from a total of five theological and extra-theological disciplines, for the LGF doctoral program “Global History of Religion from a Regional Perspective: Historicization and Decentering of Religious Identities in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries,” which concluded with a conference in 2019. As part of the long-standing cooperation of the Ecumenical Institute with colleagues from Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech on hermeneutical questions of scriptural interpretation, a symposium was held in July 2019 on “Values in Islam and Christianity.” Currently, Prof. Nüssel is working with Prof. Jale Tosun (Political Science) on an interdisciplinary research program on the role of values in social crises.
In conjunction with the European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism, Research Department XII, led by Prof. Michael Bergunder, studies the global Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism has become the most dynamic force within Christianity during the 20th century. According to widespread estimates, the reliability of which, however, is difficult to judge, 20–25% of world Christianity is now Pentecostal-charismatic. This not only has consequences for Christian self-understanding outside Europe and North America, but also leads to an increased presence of Pentecostal-charismatic groups in the church landscape of Germany and Europe due to migration movements. In the course of this development, new questions of religious studies perception, Christian identity and ecumenical cooperation arise.
The social consequences of the current social change are reflected in the Research Department XIII under the direction of Prof. Johannes Eurich (director of the Diakoniewissenschaftliches Institut Heidelberg) and Prof. Andreas Kruse (director of the Heidelberger Institut für Gerontologie). In several current projects, the department combines diaconal and social science methods and perspectives:
The project “Technology Compatibility of Networks in Outpatient Care of People with Dementia” asks about success-critical factors for network formation and for the successful use of innovative technology in outpatient care especially of people with dementia. The project was carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and has now been completed. The project results were published in the renowned journal Pflege & Gesellschaft in early 2019: Johannes Eurich, Stefanie Wiloth, Nora Weinberger, Johanna-Bettina Krings, Michael Decker: Explorative analysis of regional support networks for older people in need of care, in: Pflege und Gesellschaft 24/2019, 2, 151–166.
Prof. Eurich and Prof. Kruse were in Taiwan in spring 2019 for lectures and a parliamentary discussion as part of the German government’s lecture program, in order to initiate a research cooperation there with regard to the outpatient care situation of elderly people in need of care.
Research Department XIV is headed by the practical theologians Prof. Fritz Lienhard and Prof. Helmut Schwier (University of Heidelberg). One focus is the analysis of casual practice in the context of contemporary society. This is being empirically investigated within the framework of a research project on “Forms and Functions of the Casual Conversation” in cooperation with the Protestant Regional Churches in Baden and in the Palatinate.
Contemporary society is characterized by an unprecedented diversity of ways of life — with strong implications for church casual practice. Birth, marriage, and death remain important biographical transitions in people’s lives, in which many desire church accompaniment. At the same time, the plausibility of traditional forms is declining, new rituals are emerging, and those requesting a casual practice are increasingly demanding an individualized fit for the service. Not least, this makes the ritual conversation a special challenge that needs to be investigated empirically and reflected on theologically.
The Research Department XV is headed by Prof. Annette Haussmann (Practical Theology). In cooperation with the Pastoral Care Center Heidelberg of the Protestant Church in Baden, perspectives of interdisciplinary cooperation (medicine, theology, psychology) are made fruitful for pastoral care research and concrete application practice (also in other areas).
The Center for Pastoral Care in Heidelberg, which is located at FIIT, Hauptstr. 240, offers a forum from which pastoral practice and the possibility of practice can be reflected upon in the context of poimenical-scientific perspectives. The center participates in the pastoral care training of both future and active pastors as well as volunteers.
FIIT Universität Heidelberg