I’m quoting an article written by Tom Verenna, a member of The Jesus Project. I’ve written more than I’d care to write about Jesus mythicism vs Jesus Historicity in the past few months, and I want to make the disclaimer that I’m not reposting this article in support of The Jesus Project specifically. As I’ve said often, I’m not a mythicist, and I don’t particularly care whether there was or was not a historical Jesus. What I care about is that the evidence is weighed without bias, and that good methodology is used consistently when examining any and all questions concerning the history of Christianity. This decision by the German government is a step in the wrong direction, and not a small step, either. Limiting the reach of academic scholarship in the name of religion is nothing short of a reaffirmation of Dark Ages policy.
I encourage free thinkers on all sides to band together and express outrage at this intrusion of religion into the world of academia.
The following is written by Joe Hoffmann concerning news we, at the Jesus Project, have just heard this morning. Gerd Luedemann has lost his ten-year-long court battle in Germany. The ruling should surprise every critical mind, but it should be of great concern to those in the academy. Gerd writes (in regards to this piece below);
“As for Küng who is always mentioned when people hear about my case, he never went to court but settled with his university. My case is different because for the first time in history the German Supreme Court has issued a full statement on the role of theology in the university and the statement is anti-enlightenment because it plainy states that at German Universities the confession of a church or of any future religion overrides the academic freedom of a professor. That is an intellectial scandel against which the international intellectual community should protest the more so because the University of Göttingen rightly boast of being an enlightenment university (founded in 1737). And this ruling makes truely critical work at German theological faculties – both protestant and catholic – impossible.”
Where the once proud enlightened scholars brought the academy into a new world of theological inquiry, the courts have rules that such inquiry has limits. This is not the first time a scholar has been quieted in German universities because of dogmatic boundaries. And unfortunately, as this case proves, it will not be the last. All of academia should be in an uproar over this incident.
Gerd Luedemann: Non sine causa…laudatus
Gerd Luedemann, Professor of History and Literature of Early Christianity in the University of Goettingen, has received word from the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany that his appeal against an earlier ruling excluding him from the teaching of New Testament in the University’s Faculty of Theology has been rejected.
The basis for the Court’s ruling hinges on the fact that Professor Luedemann was “reassigned” to a position outside the Faculty offering essentially the same teaching and research opportunities as his previous position. In addition, the Court decided that the confessional teaching of theology is a unique responsibility of the Theology Faculty and that its interest in retaining a distinctive identity outweighed Professor Luedemann’s claim that the reassignment impinged on his academic (“scientific”) freedom.
The tradition of theological education in many European countries, including Germany, differs substantially from the American situation, where ministerial training is largely the province of private and parochial institutions or, in the case of distinguished private divinity schools such as Harvard, Yale and Chicago, subject to the same guarantees of academic freedom that obtain in the university as a whole.
Professor Luedemann’s distinguished work in the study of early Christianity now serves as a test-case for the entrenched and sometimes unnoticed parochialism of the European model, where—in this case–the open criticism of doctrine and theological axioms such as the resurrection of Jesus has been deemed impermissible, precisely in the interest of maintaining parochial identities. One can imagine no other area of serious study in the modern university where such a rule should be permitted to stand, or be used as the basis of a legal judgment. This case throws into bold relief the archaic nature of the marriage between Christian theology and scholarship as it is still protected by law not only in Germany, but in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Switzerland as well.
Rooted in the political compromises of the Reformation, the structure of European theological education should become a matter of concern and a priority for the educational commissions of the European Union. Cases such as Luedemann’s, and earlier Hans Kueng’s at Tuebingen on the Catholic side, suggest that it is feckless to complain about the regressive nature of scholarship in the Arab world when seminal Christian doctrines can prevail over common sense and free inquiry in some of the most distinguished institutions of higher learning in the world.
We congratulate Gerd Luedemann in bearing the torch in this cause–and “fighting the good fight”
R. Joseph Hoffmann, Chair
Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion;
Co-Chair, The Jesus Project