Doctoral Colloquium 'Hope Beyond Judgment'

04 - 08 September 2023


Doctoral Colloquium 'Hope Beyond Judgment'

Location : ETF Leuven

Language : English

The annual Doctoral Colloquium is an essential part of our PhD program. Students working on a dissertation gather during this week and meet with their professors, prepare for exams and present their research. Public defenses of dissertations also usually take place during this week.

You are welcome to attend one or more sessions of the public program (see schedule below).

If you want to attend a promotion or the Emeritus Celebration please send an e-mail to . You don’t need to register to attend the opening chapel, morning devotions or faculty lectures. Attending the sessions is free of charge.

Public program

Monday 4 September

8:45 – 9:30 Opening Chapel
12:00 – 13:00 Faculty Lecture (Parallel Sessions)
Seeing religious leadership afresh through the prism of identity leadership
Prof. dr. Jack Barentsen (PT) Go to abstract
Is it God Who Makes us Want What He Wants? Revisiting a Controversial Leuven Legacy
Prof. dr. Nico den Bok (ST) Go to abstract

Tuesday 5 September

8:15 – 8:45 Morning Devotions
14:30 – 16:15 Promotion: Jürgen Schulz (OT)
Presentation & Defense of Dissertation:
Shame [בושׁ and Cognates] in the Hebrew Bible and Akkadian Texts with Main Focus on the 10th to 6th Centuries: A Linguistic Study and Its Implications
16:15 – 17:00  Reception

Wednesday 6 September

8:15 – 8:45 Morning Devotions
12:00 – 13:00 Faculty Lecture (Parallel Sessions)
The Political Theology of Just Peace
Dr. Arttu Mäkipää (ST) Go to abstract
The Pentateuchal Crisis as Crisis of Literary Criticism
Dr. Siegbert Riecker (OT) Go to abstract

Thursdag 7 September

9:00 – 9:30 Morning Devotions
12:00 – 13:00 Faculty Lecture (Parallel Sessions)
Judgment Without Hope: The Fall into the Technical, “Magical”, World
Dr. Emilio Di Somma (ST) Go to abstract
The Eucharist and Early Christian Identity from the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch
Dr. Drake Williams III (NT) Go to abstract
19:30 – 21:30 Emeritus Celebration prof. dr. Martin I. Webber
Reading the New Testament as Part of Early Christianity: Lessons, Challenges and Opportunities
Followed by a Reception

Friday 8 September

8:15 – 8:45 Morning Devotions
12:00 – 13:00 Faculty Lecture (Parallel Sessions)
The Motives of the Maccabees
Prof. dr. Geert Lorein (OT) Go to abstract
Longing for God: Gisbertus Voetius on Happiness and Wellbeing
Prof. dr. Andreas J. Beck (HT) Go to abstract
14:30 – 16:15 Promotion: Randall C. Ford (OT)
Presentation & Defense of Dissertation:
“The New Covenant” in Jeremiah 31 in Jewish Literature from the First Century until the Time of Don Isaac Abravanel”
16:15 – 17:00  Reception

1. Seeing religious leadership afresh through the prism of identity leadership
By Prof. Dr. Jack Barentsen (PT)

Institutional dimensions of church have largely fallen mute. Where once institutional structures nurtured resonant relationships with God, the community and the world, these structures have now fallen mute (cf. Rosa 2019). Moreover, they no longer offer meaningful contextual understandings of the dynamics of community, leadership and identity (cf. Kellerman 2012, Barentsen et al. 2017). This raises the question, how to obtain a fresh understanding of the dynamics of community and leadership in a late modern religious context, in order to develop more viable proposals for religious leadership?

Based on the social identity theory of leadership, this paper proposes:

First, leaders – including religious leaders – are entrepreneurs of identity (Haslam, Reicher & Platow 2020). They craft a relevant sense of identity, they preside over activities and rituals to celebrate this identity, and they embed this identity in everyday life (Robert, Sims 2017). Hence, religious leaders should be skilled interpreters of their own culture and constituencies, engaging in dialogical sensemaking in their context (Cormode 2020, Rodriguez 2021), in order to shape a relevant community identity within their social and religious contexts.

Second, leaders derive their power from the group while in turn empowering group members for meaningful participation and social action (Reicher, Haslam 2013). This engages members in experiencing and expanding the value of their religious identity. Hence, religious leaders grow in power and authority to the extent that they empower and mobilize group members (Volland 2015, Benac 2022). When religious leadership grow in power at the expense of the group, they are in danger of loosing their ingroup prototypicality.

Third, leaders develop a leader identity in alignment with the community (Haslam et al. 2022), functioning as community prototype. A resonant relationship between personal leader identity and corporate community identity enables religious leaders to serve effectively while maintaining personal balance. However, this resonance is always changing as a result of changes in context, membership and leader development, so that religious leaders need to continually attend to this dynamic.

2. Is it God who makes us want what he wants? Revisiting a controversial Leuven legacy
By Prof. Dr. Nico den Bok (ST)

The debate on free will and grace (and on Augustine’s understanding of it) was one of the defining moments of the emancipating Modern mind. The debate raged in five stages: Luther-Erasmus 1524-26 (Melanchton 1521/35); Baius-the pope’s post-Tridentine verdict 1564-79; Molina-Banez, Lessius-Lemos 1588-1607/11; Jansenius (Arnauld, Pascal) 1640-1713; Malebranche 1674/1713. I will briefly describe and assess the three major views advanced in the last stages of the debate as it originated mainly in Leuven. Interestingly, the 17th century answers cut through the newly established Reformed and Roman-Catholic positions, as in response to the scientia media view proposed by Jesuits, and Arminians, the concursus view was advanced by Dominicans, and Orthodox-Reformed, whereas both were rejected in favor of a delectatio victrix view by Jansenists. I will concentrate on one systematic-theological question: How is the divine will involved in the occurrence of a human volition? If Augustine is right in summarizing his whole conversion by saying that ‘all came down to this: that I willed what You willed’ (Confessiones IX 1), it is of great consequence for our view on divine power and human dignity, to know who is the author of our will to do God’s will. I hope to show that all three answers claim to be Augustinian yet loose at least one of Augustine’s core-aspects by stressing others. May be the most promising and most Augustinian elaboration emerged in response to the Jansenist view: in Malebranche.

3. The Political Theology of Just Peace
By Dr. Arttu Mäkipää (ST)

The path to ‘just peace’ is a challenging endeavour in conflict settings where violence has brought about wrongdoing and guilt. Reconciliation between communities requires both (some degree of) forgiveness, but also justice to be done. The question asked in this lecture is how, in dialogue with theological ethics, the dynamics of justice and forgiveness interact on the road to ‘just peace’.
The Old Testament understanding of shalom is presented as one in which justice and peace move in parallel harmony, even “kiss each other” in the language of Psalm 85:10. The New Testament can be interpreted to theologically decouple the two notions by introducing a primacy of forgiveness that is unconditional and a prerequisite for justice/justification. In real life social and political ethics, the (simplified) theological NT exhortation often stands in contrast to the natural human intuition to see justice as a prerequisite for forgiveness. How should theology and churches position themselves?
This paper explores the question from a socio-ethical and political theology perspective, placing the biblical witness and ethical exhortations in dialogue with the reality on the ground. Prominent church declarations from the midst of conflict such as South Africa (Kairos, 1985) and Palestine (Kairos Palestine, 2009) are discussed as examples. The paper attempts in particular to engage with Eastern Orthodox theology, applying the insights to current day (post)conflict settings in Cyprus, but also other topical contexts.

4. The Pentateuchal Crisis as Crisis of Literary Criticism
By Dr. Siegbert Riecker (OT)

It would be too simple to attribute the current crisis in research on the Pentateuch to the demise of the Wellhausen paradigm (documentary hypothesis) and the resulting diversity of methods. Rather, these are merely symptoms of a fundamental crisis of the source critical paradigm as a whole. The difficulties with the nature of sources, their literary scope, and the criteria for their division are only part of the problem here. The introduction of non-verifiable “redactors” and “Fort¬schrei¬bung” (updating) to cope with anomalies of a hypothesis seems methodologically as questionable as the reconstruction of the social historical background of individual literary strata (“pseudo historicism”). The increasingly complex diachronic overall models are lacking plausibility and credibility, especially since the reconstruction of several development stages is practically impossible from an empirical perspective. The alternative to the classic paradigm of source criticism is a literary paradigm that returns to the starting point of the testimony of the biblical texts themselves. Of course, literary tensions and sources must not be ignored. However, systems of interpretation to explain inconsistencies should not be based on methods developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, but on the ancient literary conventions of the Bible and its environment.

5. Judgment without Hope: The fall into the technical, “magical”, world
By Dr. Emilio Di Somma (ST)

In his 2015 best-seller, Homo Deus, Yuval Harari affirms that “Famine, Plague and War…. are no longer unavoidable tragedies beyond the understanding and control of a helpless humanity. Instead, they have become manageable challenges.” His argument is that pre-modern humans gave up the power to change the world in exchange for the belief of playing an important role in the cosmic order. In modernity, humans reject any kind of cosmic plan. Terrible things may befall us without having any kind of power external to us that is there to help. However, in exchange for this danger, we are freed from pre-ordained roles, we become masters of the world, where our limit is only our ignorance.

The social configuration depicted by trans-humanist narratives looks sinisterly similar to primitive configurations of society, in which a shaman, as the “provider” of security and redemption, as an expert in things of the world, possesses the power to determine who should be “saved” in the community. This comparison is born out of inspiration from the work of Ernesto De Martino, an Italian historicist anthropologist.  De Martino describes the shaman, or the mage, as a historical and anthropological necessity for people of ancient eras, a necessity that, however, modernity has been able to overcome. Instead, my argument is that trans-humanist accounts are at a risk of develop a form of society in which we give up our own sense of hope and power to achieve redemption to “technocratic mages”, thus forsaking God (or any kind of absolute value).

6. Longing for God: Gisbertus Voetius on Happiness and Wellbeing
By Andreas Beck (HT)

In this paper, I will discuss the conception of happiness and wellbeing in the theology of Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676), a leading figure of Early Modern Reformed theology. Without neglecting the perspectives of physical and mental wellbeing, the focus will be on spiritual wellbeing. I will argue that for Voetius the ultimate goal of life is to be found in communion with God. Religious life can lead to earthly wellbeing, although communion with God is ultimately expressed eschatologically in the beatific vision of God. I will explore how Voetius discussed the debate between the Thomistic and Scotistic schools on the question whether happiness is situated in the intellect (as Thomas Aquinas argued), or the will (as Duns Scotus argued), or in both faculties. In this context, I will argue that Voetius leans toward Scotus’s view, following the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition and emphasizing “the love of friendship or enjoyment with which the will finds rest in God as the greatest good.”

7. The Motives of the Maccabees
By Prof. Dr. Geert Lorein (OT)

In line with the doctoral colloquium’s theme, Hope beyond Judgement, this paper discusses the question what was moving the Maccabees, in times that the worldly judge had already decided that they had to give up their faith, or to face death penalty.
We shall consider four Jewish documents most near to the facts:
– II Maccabees: a Pharisaic text, from the year 124 BC, written in Greek and considered as deuterocanonical in the Roman Catholic church;
– I Maccabees: written in 100 BC in Sadducean circles; we have a Greek version, also deuterocanonical;
– IV Maccabees: dated in the middle of the first century AD; appreciated by some Church Fathers, but nowhere considered as canonical;
– Megillat Antiochos (or Hasmonäerbuch): dated somewhere in the first centuries AD, written in Aramaic (because of the different nature of this document and for time’s sake, it will not be treated in full).

We shall first describe the different texts with the main motives they mention for the Maccabees. Then we shall see that some motives occur in all four documents, and describe the varieties that exist between the texts (and their theological backgrounds).

Different motives for persistence can be mentioned, even awareness of interests and circumstances, but most important are: the awareness that God is demanding something; trust in Him, in coherence with what He has done in the past; His guidance, looked for through Scripture and prayer.

We shall end with some general considerations about persecution, not only in the days of the Maccabees, but throughout the centuries.

8. The Eucharist and Early Christian Identity from the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch
By Dr. Drake Williams III (NT)

The identity of early Christianity is a fruitful field for exploration. While many studies are investigating identity in New Testament texts, fewer are taking place in the study of earlier second century texts, such as the Apostolic Fathers. This paper will examine early Christian identity as portrayed through Ignatius of Antioch’s presentation of the Eucharist.

Identity and the Eucharist has been explored by various scholars exploring New Testament texts. As Christians gather to take the Eucharist, insiders and outsiders are distinguished from each other. Since the Eucharist was a repeated event, lines of identity were reinforced. Authoritative roles can also be classified as the meal is being administered and core elements of the faith are presented.

All of these aspects can be seen in the way that Ignatius writes about the Eucharist. For him, the Eucharist is the “medicine of immortality” (Eph. 20.2). Proper and an improper celebration of the Eucharist occurs in his Letter to the Philadelphians and Letter to the Smyrnaeans. These show that the Eucharist had a unifying aspect focused upon a distinct understanding of the person of Christ (Phld. 4.1; Smyrn. 6.2). His Letter to the Smyrnaeans also displays a certain level of social stratification, as only certain ones can administer the Eucharist properly (Smyrn. 8.1-2).

His remaining references to the Eucharist correlate the meal with Ignatius’s own experience as he anticipates martyrdom.  He wishes to be “pure bread” (Rom. 4.1) and desires “divine bread” as he anticipates his martyrdom (Rom. 7.3). His concept as a martyr, thus, intermingles significantly with his understanding of the Eucharist.

These references taken together exhibit a Christian identity in a section of the second century church. Together they elevate the experience of suffering, the authority of certain individuals, and an ethos of unity around Christ who has suffered and been raised.

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