On 1 September 2014, Edward van ’t Slot was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology and Church in the 21st Century, a chair sponsored by the Confessionele Vereniging (CV). Van ’t Slot was a Fellow at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen for two years prior to this appointment, also thanks to the CV’s chair fund.
The CV is a ‘classic’ movement within the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Although its content is rooted in orthodoxy, the society is always open to new words and new forms, so that those who have stopped practising religion can still be taken into account. The CV is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Although the society has had a chair fund for over a century, this is the first time that a professor has been appointed – a truly historic event.
Edward van ’t Slot was awarded a cum laude PhD from the Protestant Theological University (PThU) in 2010 with his thesis Openbaringspositivisme: Bonhoeffers kritiek op Barths actualistische geloofsbegrip. Since 2012 he has been Chair of the Dutch division of the International Bonhoeffer Society. Needless to say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer will also play a role in Van ’t Slot’s work as a professor at the University of Groningen. Prof. Van ’t Slot: ‘The Faculty’s programmes focus on interaction between religion and culture. Bonhoeffer was very interested in a related question: how can, and should, the Church change in today’s “empowered” world, where the Church is increasingly marginalized? Being a CV member, and a proponent of the systematic approach, I still find this an extremely interesting question, which even the more “confessional” movements can no longer ignore. Based on Bonhoeffer’s as well as other theories I would like to consider what the notion of “Church” can, or should, mean in a 21st-century context.’
‘Systematic theology analyses how people speak about God. Although you can do this to improve your own religious discourse, it is of crucial importance to take a certain philosophical distance here and also to learn from other fields, such as philosophy. In addition, a theologian always questions cultural trends. But how should you phrase those questions? I also work as a minister in Zwolle, and I feel that my position of professor enriches my work as a minister and gives me extra energy. I like to approach the ministry from an academic perspective. And conversely, the questions that I ask myself as a minster also affect my work at the University.’
‘The College van Bijzonder Hoogleraren [College of Professors by Special Appointment] was wholeheartedly embraced in 2012, which was very nice. I really feel at home in the Faculty, even though I am not here a lot. There is an excellent library and the contact with students is enjoyable. Over the past two years, as a Fellow, I have mainly focused on publishing articles. In my new position of Professor by Special Appointment I will still be conducting research, but I will also be able to concentrate on these Church-related questions, hopefully together with a few PhD students. I will also be in Groningen more and have more contact with students, perhaps also by teaching an elective now and then. I am really looking forward to that.’
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