Seminar: Human Freedom and Dignity - Origen and Political Theology

In April 2019, the ITN and Aarhus University will host a seminar on Origen and political theology with both contemporary and ancient perspectives. Everyone interested in attending and/or giving a short paper is welcome.

2019.02.13 | Birgitte Bøgh

Human Freedom and Dignity - Origen and Political Theology

In April (5-7, 2019), the ITN and Aarhus University will host a seminar on Origen and Political Theology. The program presents renowned international scholars offering a variety of lectures with insights from and perspectives on both Origen in antiquity and pre-modern times as well as religion, human freedom and dignity in contemporary society. 

Program with abstracts:

Friday, April 5

18.00-19.00: Welcome and sandwich

19.00-20.30: Ben Ryan (Theos Think Tank): Populism, values and identity: religious and political engagement in contemporary Europe

After decade of relative neglect the twin dangers of extremist Islamic terrorism and the rise of nationalist groups and parties have brought questions of identity and religion back into the heart of contemporary political debate. This paper looks at the extent to which such fears are justified, and the paradoxical role that religious identity and discourse plays in both reinforcing and potentially undermining the Western liberal democratic political system.

Saturday, April 6

9.00-10.15: Alfons Fürst (University of Münster): Nomos and Natural Law in Origen's Commentary on Romans

Origen developed his concept of natural law in the Commentary on Romans, above all relying on Paul’s sentences about it in Romans 2:14sq., and in his dispute with the Platonic philosopher Celsus. Within the broad range of meanings of the Greek term nómos Origen stressed the practical dimension of nómos as obliging custom, tradition and law. As to the notion of nature, he conceived it not as fixed substance but as dynamic network of interrelated self-determined beings who define their nature by their actions. Based on these notions, his concept of natural law is a law of reason and freedom. The aim of the article is to describe these pillars of Origen’s idea of natural law which is a heavily understudied topic in Origenian research and not at all known in general displays of the history of natural law concepts.

10.15-10.45: Coffee

10.45-12.00: Christian Hengstermann (University of Cambridge): Divine Goodness and the Sources of Political Power: Origenist Politics in Late Antiquity and Early Modernity

Origen’s Contra Celsum is a major work of western political philosophy. In response to Celsus’ allegations against Christianity as a subversive religion inimical to the Roman body politic, Origen restates the Platonic conviction of God’s goodness as the only legitimate source of all political power. His notion of universal a priori normativity as the sine qua non of all political agreement informs the Cambridge Platonists’ rejection of Thomas Hobbes’ and Baruch de Spinoza’s contractualism at the dawn of the modern age. The present paper reconstructs Origen’s and the Cambridge Origenists’ doctrine of political power, assessing its lasting historical and systematic significance.

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-14.00: Fernando Fradejas (Universidad de Valladolid) Title and abstract to be announced

14.00-15.30: Open slot two short presentations

15.30-16.00: Coffee

16.00-17.15: Peter Lodberg (Aarhus University): Anthropological perspectives in Palestinian theology.

The conflict in Israel/Palestine has contributed to formulate a Palestinian theology. It wants to be local, contextual, and ecumenical. One of the leading Palestinian theologians, Mitri Raheb, has developed a theology of culture that involves an awareness of Palestinian identity as an important element in being a Christian in a context dominated by Islam and Judaism. Peter Lodberg will try to show some of the anthropological perspectives in Palestinian theology and discuss its relevance today.

17.15-18.30: Zaynab El Bernoussi (Al Akhawayn University): DNA Testing and Islamic Law: An Example of a Bioethical Issue in Morocco

A child born out of wedlock is typically not entitled to paternity recognition in Morocco. In an unprecedented move, the First Instance Family Court in Tangiers recognized the familial relationship connecting a father to his biological daughter. The court also required the man to pay for the material and moral harms caused to the child through her mother from denial of paternity or familial relations. The defendant appealed the judgment. On October 9, 2017, the Tangiers Court of Appeals overturned the First Instance Court decision, rejecting the DNA tests and any recognition of familial relation. The court also invalidated the lower court’s use of international conventions, explaining that the child is so foreign to her father that the possibility of their future marriage would not be overruled.

19.00: Dinner

Sunday, April 7

9.30-11.00: Open slot for two short presentations

11.00-12.00: Final discussion

Everyone interested in attending and/or giving a short paper is welcome to write an email to Birgitte Bøgh ( before March 15.

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