Theology as Science in Russia and the German Model

blog briskina müller theology as scienceAnna Briskina-Müller
A Blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University

“The Moscow University was founded on the same principles as all German universities” – so says a Russian report from the early 1770s. Because no Russian professors were available, “no theological faculty was established […] That said, it would be beneficial to establish such a faculty for the training of the clergy” – so states the report.

Both the statement that theological faculties are necessary and the reference to “German universities” are still relevant today. Nowadays, we observe controversial discussions around this question in Russia.

There is a wide spectrum of positions here: “hard positivists” (“all the humanities are basically not science”), “moderate positivists” (“theology is, in contrast to the other humanities, not a science because of its denominational limitation”), “religiously-interested positivists” and “religious scholars” (who deny the scientific nature of theology because of its subjective character), neutral to benevolent “observers” and theological autodidacts (representatives of humanities dealing in theological issues), and lastly, the representatives of the Church (the “positivists” call them “clericalists”).

One of the central points of the discussion is: what would theology do at a university that is not already done by the other humanities? The vast majority of the advocates of theology at the university argue, among other things, that theology would “enrich” the university thanks to establishment of chairs for theology in all faculties (!). Do they consider theology to be a science with a special status?

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