On 1 January 2019, Jeroen de Ridder was appointed Professor by special appointment of Christian Philosophy. This chair is a collaboration between the UG Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and the Stichting voor Christelijke Filosofie (Foundation for Christian Philosophy).
Jeroen de Ridder: ‘The Stichting voor Christelijke Filosofie (SCF) wanted to have a special chair in Groningen again. The SCF was founded in the 1930s to further develop and spread the philosophical ideas of Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam professors Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven. These philosophers wanted to develop a philosophy that was fully in line with their Christian, more specifically: reformed, principles. In recent decades, the SCF has broadened its scope to the promotion of all kinds of Christian philosophical thinking. Most of the SCF’s work consists of making special chairs possible at Dutch universities that provide teaching in various forms of Christian philosophy. I am now one of their professors by special appointment.
The director of the foundation, Dr Sander Luitwieler, notes that, in recent years, the conversation between philosophies of life has increasingly taken place at faculties of Theology and Religious Studies. The UG Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies already hosts various special chairs that study the relationships between religion and modern society from a specific philosophical tradition. The SCF is therefore pleased to collaborate with the UG Faculty to make this chair possible.
Jeroen de Ridder is a philosopher specialized in epistemology (knowledge theory) and the philosophy of science. He is also involved in the philosophy of religion. ‘I want to use this chair to work on questions about the relationship between religion and science and the rationality of religion. I draw on all kinds of sources, mostly from the analytical philosophy of religion, which has experienced a huge revival since the 1980s, but also including historical thinkers such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Reid and others. Previously mentioned VU Amsterdam philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven are also a source of inspiration for the Stichting voor Christelijke Filosofie tradition.’
The professor by special appointment of Christian Philosophy is mainly focused on teaching. De Ridder: ‘With as many students as possible, I would like to think through a number of big issues at the interface of philosophy and religion: does God exist; do religious faith and science necessarily collide; is religious faith a matter of blind trust or can it be an attitude founded in reason; is science the best source of knowledge, always and everywhere? These are all issues that people sometimes think about. In recent decades, it has become increasingly clear that religion will not disappear from society – about 80% of the world population call themselves religious! That is why it is important to study religion and think it through; from the outside, with a detached academic attitude, as well as from the inside, from the perspective of believers themselves. In the Netherlands, religion is often still subject to caricature and misunderstanding, so there is room for improvement.’
On the one hand, De Ridder hopes to discuss Christian philosophy with many students and colleagues. ‘So much interesting work is being done on the philosophy of religion in the UK and the US, only tiny bits of which are trickling down to our secular country. On the other hand, I also hope to learn a lot from the students: what questions about religion and philosophy are relevant to them and why?’
De Ridder will not easily forget his first day in the office: ‘The entire Oude Boteringestraat was cordoned off due to a threat: a letter with suspicious powder was delivered to the Confucius Institute! That was a bit scary. The colleagues at Theology and Religious Studies nevertheless gave me a very warm welcome. I immediately noticed the benefits of working in a small, independent faculty: people know each other well, the lines of communication are short and it is easy to drop in on others. In short: a pleasant way of working. It is also immediately apparent that the research conducted here is internationally oriented and of high quality, and that the teaching is up-to-date and challenging. I am really looking forward to contributing to this.
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