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Comprising a third of humanity, Christianity is among the most influential cultural  factors worldwide.  Moreover, it is growing at a fast rate in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  Thus it is hardly possible to understand cultural, social and political developments without taking into account how Christianity shapes peoples' lives - worldwide, but also in Europe and Germany.
FIIT sees its particular task in reflecting on global developments theologically and making Christianity's potential in providing orientation accessible also to non-theological academic disciplines.

FIIT's fifteen departments work on research projects in the areas of anthropology and ethics, Biblical studies and global developments as well as religion, culture, and education:


  1. Theology in Dialogue with the Natural and Cultural Sciences
  2. Theology, Bioethics and Medical Law (Human Dignity)
  3. Theology and Legal Studies
  4. Religion in Educational Development
  5. Media Anthropology
  6. Theology and Archaeology
  7. The Cultural Power of the Bibel and the Christian-Jewish Dialogue
  8. Theological Anthropology and Ethics of Early Christianity
  9. Monastries in the High Middle Ages
  10. Religion in the United States
  11. Potentials of Denominational Differentiation
  12. Religious Studies and Intercultural Theology
  13. Theological Studies of Diaconal Work and the Social Sciences
  14. Pastoral Care, Psychology, Medicine
  15. Religious Rites of Passage in Contemporary Society


I. Theology in Dialogue with the Natural and Cultural Sciences

FIIT's department I explores crucial theological and social issues in dialog with  the natural and cultural sciences.  Led by the executive director of FIIT, Prof. Michael Welker, this branch organizes international and interdisciplinary conferences.

These projects involve theologians, legal experts, economists, philosophers, historians, physicists, chemists, and biologists. Under the title "Flesh – Body – Mind – Soul – Spirit: The Complex Unity of the Human Person," scholars work on substantive concepts of the human person,.  Another project discusses "Concepts of Law in the Sciences, Legal Studies and Theology."  In further projects, researchers explore "Concepts and Practices of Freedom in the Biblical Traditions and Contemporary Contexts" and examine "The Standardized Monetarization of the Market and the Impact on Religion, Politics, Law and Ethics."  Cooperation in individual groups, which include 20-25 scholars from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa, is laid out for five years, supported by third party funds provided by various supporters.


As part of its initiative to strengthen excellent academic research, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg has supported the project "Images of the Divine and Cultural Orientations: Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Voices" as well as several projects on "Religion and Civil Societies".



II. Theology, Bioethics and Medical Law (Human Dignity)

In medical and legal practice the concept of human dignity raises complex questions, which call for further clarification also in theology, philosophy and other disciplines in the humanities and human sciences.


Via department II, which is headed by Professors Thomas Fuchs (Medicine) and Klaus Tanner (Theological Ethics), FIIT is connected to the Interdisciplinary Forum for Biomedicine and Cultural Sciences ("Interdisziplinäres Forum für Biomedizin und Kulturwissenschaften," IFBK) of Heidelberg University.


Members of FIIT's research departments I and II are participating in the Marsilius project "Embodiment as Paradigm of a new Evolutionary Cultural Anthropology" (2013-2016). In addition, the department has cooperated with the Marsilius Kolleg in hosting summer and winter schools on  "New Interdisciplinary Anthropology - Body, Mind, Culture" (2012) and "Anthropology of Perception: Science and Humanities in Dialogue" (2015).


III. Theology and Legal Studies

Connections between justice, mercy, and the quest for truth displayed in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible influenced concepts as the rule of law and the welfare state.   The Reformation in particular set the course as it drew on Biblical traditions and thus shaped modern legal developments.


Department III explores the relationship between theology and justice in antiquity, Biblical traditions and modernity.  With Jan Christian Gertz, Christian Hattenhauer, Ute Mager, Christoph Strohm, Klaus Tanner, and Michael Welker, the department is led by scholars from legal studies and theology.  Moreover the branch cooperates with the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (Emory University, Atlanta).


Various seminars on Theology and Legal Studies have been conducted in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. Key texts (G. W. F. Hegels 'Philosophy of Right', Niklas Luhmanns 'Das Recht der Gesellschaft') as well as  were discussed in order to inspire a dialogue on the conditions and perspectives of a legal system which allows for a maximum of freedom in view of the complex conditions of contemporary societies. A cutting edge project has been a series of seminars on the comparison of juridicial and theological dogmatics.


Professors Christian Hattenhauer (Professor of Public Law and History of Law) und Christoph Strohm (Professor of Reformation history and recent Church history) both delivered papers at the conference „Ecclesial Constitutions of Protestant Churches in the 16th Century“ held by the Heidelberger Akademie für Wissenschaften. Prof. Hattenhauer spoke on the issue of interest and usury in protestant ecclesial constitutions, Prof. Strohm contributed a paper on the comparison of Lutheran and Reformed ecclesial constitutions. A publication is forthcoming.


Professors Michael Welker and Klaus Tanner are participating in a project conducted by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (Emory School of Law, Prof. John Witte): "Law and Religion: Interactive Normativites" (Emory and Berlin 2015).


IV. Religion in Educational Development

The many and varied interactions of religion and education are the focus of Research Division IV led by Professors Daniel Krochmalnik, Silke Leopold, and Ingrid Schoberth.

The division is engaged in a project about religious pedagogy and ethics on the topic of “Learning to be peaceable” in which they are conducting a qualitative empirical study of the conditions under which values are instilled through religious pedagogy. Further, a multi-year research project entitled “Theology for Children” involved members of Research Division I as well as scholars from Valparaiso University (USA) and concluded with the publication of several works.


V. Media Anthropology

The research division “Media Anthropology” is directed by Prof. Dr. Philipp Stoellger. Scholarship in this area seeks to generate new fundamental perspectives on religious cultures by also analyzing them as visual cultures. Working on media theory from a theological perspective, the researchers involved engage the wider framework of visual culture by reflecting on the media practices of religious actors. With media anthropology as their focus and field of choice, researchers seek to widen the horizon by drawing on and networking with projects on “embodiment” from the perspectives of phenomenology, visual studies, and theology. This research area has already generated numerous publications and is currently being employed as part of several interdisciplinary joint projects of the FIIT.


VI. Theology and Archeology

We can find traces of Israel's history not only in written sources. Modern archeology contributes significantly to the understanding of the Biblical world.  Department V, led by Professors Peter Lampe, Manfred Oeming, Jan Christian Gertz, and Reinhard Stupperich, carries out regular archeological digs in Phrygia (Turkey) and Ramat Rahel (Israel).


The project in settlement archeology conducted by Prof. Peter Lampe in Phrygia  discovered the two Montanist cities Pepouza and Tymion.  Researchers had been looking for the sites since the 19th century.  The first results have been published in the volume Pepouza and Tymion: The Discovery and Archaeological Exploration of a Lost Ancient City and an Imperial Estate (Berlin/New York: deGruyter, 2008, in German, English, Turkish).  Presently the geographic radius of the project is expanded to 35 km to include all potential Montanist settlements in the area.


The archeological dig in Ramat Rahel, carried out by Prof. Manfred Oeming in cooperation with Tel Aviv University, attracted attention with the discovery of coins from Second Temple times.  Once destined for use in the temple, the coins were hidden by Jewish believers fleeing from the Romans in Ramat Rahel.  Already in 2007, Israel's first garden site, dating from the iron age, and a complex system of water supplies, including a system of pools, were unearthed.  The discovery of a Muslim structure from the 8th-11th centuries CE also stands out.  About 60 students from Heidelberg helped unearth the finds, contributing to the success of the project.

Prof. Jan Christian Gertz heads a research project funded by the "Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft" (German Research Foundation) that explores the locations mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy.  Focusing on the frame chapters of the book (Dtn 1-11; 27-34), which still betray the history of redaction, the project hopes to find hints at the genesis of the writing  that are warranted by historical research.  Specialized studies are devoted to the locations mentioned in Dtn 1 and the few place names in Dtn 12-26.  The endeavor also aims at clarifying little pondered methodical questions concerning the constructive connection between exegetical and archeological work in Biblical topography.


Beginning in 2015/16,  Professors Peter Lampe and Manfred Oeming are excavating a waste dump in Jerusalem from the Roman Imperial Period, which is a rich source for daily life in antiquity. They will cooperate with Israel archaeologists. The project aims to contribute to the investigation of Jerusalem's history and material culture. It is undertaken in the hope to find older structures of living from different epochs (from the Roman Imperial Period back to the Bronze Age) as well as traces of agricultural work and maybe even a canal (Bronze Age) and a part of the eastern city wall dating back to the Iron Age.


VII. The Cultural Power of the Bible and the Christian-Jewish Dialogue

Biblical traditions continue to influence current societal and cultural developments.  Under the leadership of Professors Hanna Liss (College for Jewish Studies, Heidelberg) and Manfred Oeming, department VII deals with the abiding influence of Jewish and Christian traditions.
At the chair of New Testament scholar Peter Lampe an archive on the "Wirkungsgeschichte" of the Letter to the Romans is compiled that is unique in documenting the history of reception and influence in western political philosophy and history as well as church history.  The findings will be made available online.
Further, department VII coordinates the cooperation between FIIT and the Heidelberg College for Jewish Studies (Heidelberg). Prof. Liss (Chair for Bible and Jewish Bible Exegesis) has initiated various projects on the history and transmission of biblical texts in mediaeval times. Among these ist the project „Scholarly Knowledge, Drollery or Esotericism? The Masora of the Hebrew Bible in its Various Material Properties“ as part of the Collaborative Research Centre 933 (DFG) „Material Text Cultures“.

VIII. Theological Anthropology and Ethics of Early Christianity

Professors Matthias Konradt and Gerd Theißen head this department which aims at exploring Early Christianity and the emergence and cultural impact of Early Christian ethics, particularly in its significance for our contemporary world. Early Christian ethics is understood as a unique blend of hellenistic and jewish ethics which integrates values of different social strata.


For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Theißen and Petra von Gemünden (Augsburg) have published a monograph on Paul's letter to the Romans (Der Römerbrief. Rechenschaft eines Reformators, Göttingen 2017). The authors aim at establishing a multiperspectival view on Romans, overcoming one-sided concepts of salvation and displaying the different levels of meaning in Paul's soteriology and ethics.


IX. Monastries in the High Middle Ages

The project of the Heidelberg Academy of the Sciences, "Monastries in the High Middle Ages: European Laboratories of Innovation in Concepts of Life and Models of Order," analyzes how the monastic world of the Middle Ages paved the way for modernity. Within the social and religious change from the 11th to the 13th century, monastries developed a mode of life that had so far been unparalleled for its rationality. The new developments in society and culture arising in those days led to particular constellations of order in European modernity.


Two closely interconnected centers of academic research, located at the Heidelberg and the Saxonian Academy of Sciences respectively, are devoted to these reserach goals. The research areas of the partial projects complement each other mutually. While the Dresden team deals with concepts of order and life within monastries, research in Heidelberg focuses on texts that provide meaning by interpreting the world as well as on exemplary manuals of order. The project is headed by Dr. Bernd Schneidmüller and Dr. Stefan Weinfurter.


X. Religion in the United States

Department X is headed by Prof. Jan Stievermann (American Studies/American Church History). By means of its various activities, it wants to contribute to the research of the often neglected religous dimension of American Studies. Department X wants to bring new interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to the forefront of European historiography of religion. Two main fields of interest are the cultural and theological history of American Protestantism in the 18th and 19th century as well as the relation of religion and literature.


Via Department X, FIIT is connected with the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA). The HCS and the Theological Faculty grant the James W.C. Pennington Fellowship for international doctoral students. The scholarship is granted in memory of the first Afro-American who received an honory doctoral degree of a European Faculty. Pennington received this degree in 1849 at the Theological Faculty Heidelberg. A further initiative is the „Jonathan Edwards Center Germany“, a cooperation of the Theological Faculty (Heidelberg University), HCA and the Jonathan Edwards Center of Yale Divinity School. It is headed by Prof. Stievermann.


Prof. Stievermann is editor of Cotton Mather’s hitherto unpublished Biblia Americana, the first comprehensive Bible commentary produced in British North America.


XI. Potentials of Denominational Differentiation

The denominational differentiation within Christianity is not solely a matter of concern - we should also explore the positive options it offers.  This is the basic idea that governs the work in department XI.  Led by Prof. Friederike Nüssel the branch examines the correlation between confessional differentiation and interdenominational contacts on the one hand and societal developments and processes of ethical  decisions on the other.
Denominational differences in the interpretation of the Christian faith not only influence the ecumenical relations between the churches, but also their response in various societies as they react to challenges in politics, academics, worldviews and education.  In cooperation with theologians of different denominations as well as sociologists, the department contributes to a more precise description of denominational differentiation in such processes. For these tasks the guiding question is in how far denominational/confessional differentiation can be understood as a resource in responding both critically and constructively to the challenges of pluralistic societies.

Every semester the Ecumenical Institute, which is led by Friedrike Nüssel, hosts an "Ecumenical Forum", which connects department XI with various other departments of the FIIT. The 2014 Forum  discussed "Church and Civil Society in Contemporary Russia", the 2015 Forum asked the question "Dying in dignity? Theological, Legal and Philosophical Perspectives".


The Ecumenical Institute also participates in the research project "Potentials of Young and Old Age. An Interdisciplinary Research Project on the Social Possibilities of different Age Groups", cooperating with the Institute for Diaconal Studies and the Institute for Psychology.


Prof. Nüssel takes part in the graduate research school "19th and early 20thGlobal Religious History from a Regional Perspective" together with two FIIT-members, Profs. Stievermann and Bergunder.


XII. Religious Studies and Intercultural Theology

In association with the European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism and the universities of Amsterdam and Birmingham, department XII explores the rapid growth of the worldwide pentecostal movement.  The department is led by Professors Michael Bergunder and Gregor Ahn.  Research on the importance of pentecostalism among migrants shows that such growth also changes the situation in German churches and society. The research project "Nigerian Pentecostal Churches, Networks and Believers in Three Northern Countries" is supported by the European Union.
Department XII also maintains the multi-user online platforms for IAKP and GloPent.  The performance of these research tools has been greatly enhanced during the past two years.


XIII. Theological Studies of Diaconal Work and the Social Sciences

Under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Johannes Eurich (Director of the Institute of Diaconal Studies, Heidelberg University) and Prof. Dr. Andreas Kruse (Director of the Heidelberg Institute for Gerontology), this research division reflects on the social impact of contemporary societal transformation. Several projects currently underway bring together methods and perspectives from diaconal work and social science:

One project entitled “The Technological Compatibility of Networks in the Ambulant Care of Patients Suffering from Dementia” seeks to identify the factors contributing to success in building networks and using innovative technology in ambulant care, especially for people with dementia. The project is being carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT).

In April 2015, the Institute of Diaconal Studies also began a new project entitled “Differing opportunities during the beginning and end phases of advanced age” (Potentiale jungen und alten Alters). This project is also interdisciplinary in nature and is being conducted with the Institute of Psychology (Prof. Hans-Werner Wahl) and the Ecumenical Institute (Prof. Friederike Nüssel) of Heidelberg University.


XIV. Pastoral Care, Psychology, Medicine

Prof. Wolfgang Drechsel (Practical Theology) and Prof. Dr. Hubert Bardenheuer (medicine: palliative care) coordinate department XIV.  In cooperation with the newly founded Center for Pastoral Care Heidelberg of the Protestant Church in Baden, new perspectives in interdisciplinary cooperation (medicine, theology, psychology) are further developed for research in pastoral care and concrete application.
The Center for Pastoral Care Heidelberg, which is located in FIIT's building in Hauptstr. 240, offers a forum that initiates academic research on the practice of pastoral care and its conditions, but also reflects on the conditions and possibilities of poimenic research itself.  The center participates in the education in pastoral care both for present and future pastors as well as for volunteers.


XV. Religious Rites of Passage in Contemporary Society

The practical theologians Prof. Dr. Fritz Lienhard und Prof. Dr. Helmut Schwier (University of Heidelberg) coordinate Research Department XV. The Department focuses on the analysis of (Protestant) rites of passage within contemporary society. A joint research project with two Protestant Churches (Baden and Palatinate) on "Pastoral Communication surrounding Religious Rites of Passage" explores these on an empirical basis.


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Letzte Änderung: 2017-11-23
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