Research concept

This research field - systematic theology and sociology of religion - has been under development in the Department of Theology since the summer semester of 2006.

Interdisciplinary communication between theology and sociology of religion, the two main lines of interest in our research, is our highest priority. We understand theology and religion as specific forms of human practice. Thus, theological reflexivity begins with an analysis of human life conditions and, drawing on texts and traditions, formulates recommendations and contributes to dialogues aimed at creating normative Christian orientations and lifestyles. Sociology of religion carries out a theoretically and methodologically trained analysis of religious and theological practice. More on this approach can be found in Schäfer: Praxis – Theologie - Religion.

The theological research is marked by the sociologically expanded influences of hermeneutic theology (Ebeling, Jüngel and Tillich) as well as the contextual theologies of the Third World, particularly of Latin American liberation theology. Thus, we practice theology in close examination of the concrete, varying life conditions of humans that vary with their social positions, because theologically relevant meaning can not arise in the absence of a relationship between theological or religious symbols and social reality. The theological research is closely related to the ecumenical movement in as much as this research is directed at the problems of the “inhabited world” (oikumene):

Peace, justice, preservation of creation; globalization and communitarian ethics; the shift of Christianity’s focus to the southern hemisphere; inter-religious cooperation. We focus particularly on peace ethics and together with Prof. Streib, we also focus on a teaching and research project closely involving students, in the field of conflict mediation in schools.

The religio-sociological research is marked by a theoretical orientation towards Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology and by various problematic situations in regions of crisis and transformation, particularly in the Third World. The theory formation aims to theoretically advance,and methodologically operationalize, basic theorems (social space, field, capital, habitus, and practical logic) of Bourdieuian sociology for empirical research and to theoretically capture religious practice. The projects in the various empirical research fields such as religion and conflict, religion and social injustice, which includes Pentecostalism also serve the development of theory and method. In this context, close communication with Prof. Streib's biographical religious research is also very important.

Finally, the fields of activity and the individual projects are in many ways linked on an interdisciplinary level. For example, a systematic-theological research project on the subject of reconciliation is working with, among other things, the empirical results of research on religious peace builders in the Bosnia conflict.


Schäfer: Praxis Theologie Religion: Grundlinien einer Theologie und Religionstheorie im Anschluss an Pierre Bourdieu. Frankfurt: Lembeck 2004.

Heller, Schäfer et al. (Hg.): Mache dich auf und werde Licht. Festschrift zum 70. Geburtstag von Konrad Raiser. Frankfurt: Lembeck, 2008.

Schäfer: „Identität als Netzwerk. Ein Theorieentwurf am Beispiel religiöser Bewegungen im Bürgerkrieg Guatemalas.“ In: Berliner Journal für Soziologie Bd. 15, 2005, Nr. 2, S. 259-282. [download PDF]

Schäfer: Antrittsvorlesung, 7. Juli 2006, veröffentlicht in längerer Fassung als „‚We gonna bin laden them!’ Überlegungen zu einer methodologisch-kommunitaristischen Friedensethik”. In: Zeitschrift für evangelische Ethik, 51. Jg., 2007, Nr. 3, S. 169-181.