Author’s Research

My research has been dealing with the consequences of the church gradually losing its central and influential role in Western society. An increasing number of theologians believe that the Western world has moved from an era of Christendom era to an era of post-Christendom during the past three centuries. In a forthcoming monograph published by Wipf and Stock (2015), I go to the heart of the debate related to this shift, asking: How are we to understand the distinctive identity of the church with special reference to its role in a post-Christendom society? To answer this, I present an analysis of the work of the English Reformed theologian Lesslie Newbigin and the American Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder who both reflect on how we should understand this important question. According them, the church is a chosen people (ecclesiology), meant to embody God’s mission in the world (missiology), manifest the kingdom of God in the world (eschatology), be a distinct social order in the world (social ethics) and embody a tradition of a particular way of viewing the world (epistemology). In this book and also in an article in Exchange: A Journal of Missiological and Ecumenical Research (2012) and in an anthology soon to be published in Denmark (2014), central aspects of the role of the church in a post-Christendom society are unfolded. At the end of the forthcoming book mentioned above, and also in an article published in Missiology: An International Review (2013), I argue that the task that lies before the church in the Western world is not to bypass its distinctiveness with accusations of sectarianism, but to recapitulate an understanding of its own distinctiveness that should be seen as a precondition for its engagement in society. Such an ecclesiological position holds, I assert, important potential for an understanding of the role of the church in pluralistic Western cultures.

In addition to the material mentioned above, I have been exploring other aspects of the life of the church in a post-Christendom society in a number of publications. For example, in an anthology published in Denmark (2012) and articles published in Swedish Missiological Themes (2012) and in International Review of Mission (2013), I argue that existing in post-Christendom societies, a new awareness of the missionary task of the church may come alive. In this way I have contributed to the development of a Lutheran missional ecclesiology. My article in the European Journal of Theology (2014) presents a liturgical perspective on the life of the church in a post-Christendom society, and in three hermeneutical articles all published in Danish Journal of Theological Studies (2013-2015), I shed light on the life of the church with the Bible.

Recently, I published an article together with Kyle D. Bennett in International Journal of Public Theology (2014) which proposes that framing civil society under the category of solidarity is something to be affirmed, as is the quest for a space in which religious pluralism can be encouraged and facilitated. Thus, the article proposes that Christian theologians would do well to lean on a contemporary voice such as American philosopher Jeffrey Stout, an ally in assessing and critiquing secular liberalism’s prospects in our day, and on Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, a provider of theological resources for advancing Stout’s general project, although with some qualification, all with the intention of moving the conversation regarding religion and civil society forward.

I am now working on a research project with the working title Christian Ethics in a Pluralist Society. The project aims at contributing to the development of a theological ethics which does not neglect its universal foundation, but at the same time expresses its particularity, all with special reference to its relevance in a pluralistic society. I aim at arguing that in a Lutheran theological tradition we find a strong emphasis on the universal foundation of Christian ethics, but an underdeveloped understanding of the particularity of Christian ethics. In my opinion both aspects are important and necessary for the development of a Christian ethics on a par with a pluralistic society. The universal basis of Christian ethics is important when ethical conversations take place in a diverse pluralistic society. Simultaneously the particularity of Christian ethics must not be neglected because in a pluralistic society various ethical traditions will inevitably exist side by side. If this is not recognised our ethical reflections will be out of line with present reality.