For the first time in its existence, the Protestant university will have a full-time professor of liberal theology. The chair’s costs are paid in part by the Liberal Protestant Association, a movement that advocates for liberal interpretations of scripture and faith.
“I understand this as recognition of liberal theology,” says Rick Benjamins, a PThU theologian who will occupy the new chair. “I get a more solid position in Professors College, and liberal theology gets more room in the program at the university.”
The latter means to students, many of whom are conservatives, that they will deal with liberalism in any case. “That’s not necessarily the case now,” Benjamins says. “It contributes to their realization that there are also forms of Christianity outside their bubble, and that there has always been.”
Traditionally, liberalism has been one of the movements within the Reformed Church, which merged with the Reformed and Lutheran Church in 2004 into the PKK. The Reformed Church was not interested in it for a long time. The books of theologian Harry Queirat in particular have created more space for liberal views.
Benjamin describes liberal theology as a mixture of piety and critical thinking. “Everything is negotiable, everything is up for discussion, even in your own garden. Does the Bible come to us from heaven or through people? Does God exist? This is also a question to ask.”
Liberals should not be concerned with the assertions of orthodox believers. According to the new professor, there is only one dogma in liberal theology: everyone should be free to believe according to his or her conscience. “And I believe that God is real, and I see God as a human word with which we refer to something that is real to us.”
It follows the new chair, on which the PThU will strike an agreement with the Liberal Protestant Union on Tuesday, shortly after Arnold Huygen was appointed Professor of Christian Reformation. PThU President Martin Weiss recently said in this paper that it was a conscious choice to put someone on the conservative side in this position: He found Orthodoxy to be underrepresented on staff, while it was well represented in the student community.
Liberal wing contact
Rector Weiss says the creation of the Liberal Theology Chair is a conscious choice. We believe it is important to strengthen the relationship with the liberal wing of the PKK. This is visible in this chair. We have to serve the wings well, otherwise you will lose them.”
The Benjamins have been associated with PThU for years, which is located in Amsterdam and Groningen. He is a Lecturer in Dogmatics and also has a 0.1 foot designation at PThU as Professor by Special Designation in Liberal Theology. This is not only a small number of hours, the professor is also removed by special appointment from the permanent staff. He is now given the status of Personal Professor. This means that the chair will disappear if it expires, unless the university decides to extend it.
The president of the Liberal Protestant Society, Alec Liebich, spoke of a major “upgrade” of liberal theology. The association funds a small portion of the appointment, as it considers it important that “critical thinking is well developed in the training of ministers”. “And I hope that PThU maintains a climate in which students with non-orthodox views feel comfortable as well. We want to contribute to that.”
Conservative Theology Professor: A little crazy. But not so crazy that it wasn’t possible.”
Opening the academic year, the Protestant Theological University examines church and theology in the year 2040. Although students may become increasingly conservative, some members of the church remain liberal, university president Martin Wes predicts.
“Twitter junkie. Lifelong communicator. Award-winning analyst. Subtly charming internetaholic.”