“Of course, us theologians do have a certain image. We are seen as ideologues, people who write about something or someone they can never measure in time and space, can’t prove or meet and can’t even verify. That person, that ‘something’, is God. Does that make theology meaningless? It does in the eyes of a lot of people. But not in mine, of course. With my students, I read texts from the history of Christianity in which the captivating is expressed by the inexplicable. That stretches their frame of reference. But I’m not running a Bible school here or anything.
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Diversity in times of polarisation
Discussions on diversity and inclusion in higher education have in recent years become…
“It goes without saying that we do have discussions about the differences in the scientific principles behind economics and theology. I love these discussions, I like entering into them and they keep me on my toes. By constantly asking me about the scientific importance of theology – because is it important if I can’t prove the existence of God? – they make me think. And sometimes even doubt the ‘act of faith’. This is also necessary because if you no longer doubt and just know, that makes you unsuitable as a theologian. So I’m very grateful to them for that, and it makes me feel even more at home.”
“On the other hand, I notice that I also keep the economists on their toes. With discussions about our image of mankind, for example. Economists base their theories on the homo economicus. He is rational, consistent in his preferences and does not evolve. His actions are focused on self-interest. These days, there are economists who find this perception of mankind too limited. Humans are not always rational when they make choices. When you enter into a relationship, you trust that it will go well, but you can’t be sure. Despite the fact that marriage is a choice with far-reaching economic consequences.
“And there are many other driving forces that are certainly not all in line with those of homo economicus. The Bible contains all the different virtues, vices and images of man that still hold true in the marketplace today. Freedom and equality are originally Christian values. Just like worthiness. When is a person worthy? Do you earn it by achieving a certain status, or are we born worthy? We theologians argue for this intrinsic worthiness to come to the fore in any economic transaction or relationship. This allows you to regard the economy as something other than an anonymous series of transactions, but also as entering into relationships in which people are given a face. If we continue to question each other critically, economists would say that this creates a win-win situation. And I would say the same.
“If you’d asked me ten years ago, ‘Paul, where will you be in ten years’ time? Will you be working at the Roman Curia or will you be a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam?’, I would undoubtedly have chosen the former. I would have been studying in the library of the Vatican right now, because that’s the place to be for every theologian. Things didn’t exactly go that way, though. But now I’m here and I feel completely at home.”