Faculty of Theology
Theology has been taught in Heidelberg since 1386, forming an integral part of life in the Christian community. Members of the Faculty celebrate services (German) at the University church, and inter-religious exchange is an essential part of communal life and encounter at the Ecumenical Hall of Residence and the Theological Study Centre. Teaching in Heidelberg welds research and practice into an indivisible unity.
Theology draws upon a host of historical sources to study the religious convictions of the Christian tradition and their roots in Judaism. This study is crucially geared to the examination of their claims to truth and present-day relevance. The concern with the question of truth, as expressed in religion and other world-views, defines theology as critical scholarly inquiry into the fundamental questions posed by the human condition.
Tradition and the present
As such, its goal is to initiate and sustain a dialogue on the conception of reality and the image of humanity that should ideally inform scholarly and scientific research and teaching. It is this that makes theology (German) a critical partner for other branches of learning, with which it has much in common from a methodological viewpoint. Theological inquiry is scholarly engagement with issues that feature prominently in public debate on the fundamental questions of human existence and are hence of crucial import for society.
Much as medicine is geared to the practicalities of health care and jurisprudence revolves around the existing legal system, theology relates to the Church as the sector of society where such fundamental issues are addressed. Protestant theology is especially aware of its allegiance to a tradition rooted in the Reformation. From this point of view it seeks dialogue and exchange with the other Christian denominations, other religions and world-views. By clearly defining its own identity it displays its readiness to engage with critical inquiry.
In a society in which many different religions and cultures are represented, it thus plays a leading role in achieving consensus on the guiding principles essential to human co-existence. In so doing, Protestant theology makes a fundamental contribution to the ongoing dialogue between different religions and cultures in the age of globalisation.
When the University was founded in 1386, the Faculty of Theology represented what might fairly be termed its germinal cell. The history of the Faculty mirrors the history of European debate on issues related to religious faith. Knowledge of this history is essential to any genuine understanding of present-day Europe. The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) was an essential document of religious instruction and a fruit of the response triggered in the Faculty by the insights of the Reformation. From the outset the Faculty has been associated with many famous scholars who have left their mark on the history of theology. Richard Rothe (1799-1867) and Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) were significant figures in the translation of Christian traditions into a modern form of religious faith. In the 20th century, major thinkers and teachers like Gerhard von Rad (1901-1971), Günter Bornkamm (1905-1990) and Edmund Schlink (1903-1984) made Heidelberg a centre of international theological debate.
Study and research in Heidelberg means communicating with other disciplines. Heidelberg's interdisciplinary research and teaching links within the University make it a location of choice for conferences.
Today, the Faculty of Theology is widely involved in scholarly cooperation on an international scale. There are exchange programmes with the Princeton Theological Seminary, King's College London and the Universities of Montpellier, Prague and Budapest. Academic life at the Faculty is enhanced by the presence of many visiting scholars and international students from abroad.
Theology in Heidelberg encompasses five main disciplines: the Old Testament, the New Testament, Church history, systematic theology and practical theology. Among the special teaching and research interests pursued here are the history of religion and missiological studies. Distinctive features in the specific profile of the Faculty are the Institute of Diaconal Studies and the Ecumenical Institute.
The Faculty's four libraries boast a collection of over 238,000 volumes and a large number of media work stations. Ideal research conditions make one of Germany's largest theology faculties an attractive venue for doctoral students and visiting academics from all over the world.
Many students study theology as a preparation for entering the clergy or teaching religious instruction at secondary-school level. The range of courses and degrees is wide, offering many opportunities for embarking on activities in other sectors of society as well. Major importance is attached to the work with young scholars embarking on an academic career after their doctorate, a further factor ensuring that research and teaching never lose touch with one another.