The grammar of tradition – TST’s research programs
Religions focus on the future of humankind and are also humankind’s memory. Theology as a form of academic reflection has rarely been more topical than it is today. After a period in which it seemed that technology and the technical sciences were pushing art, philosophy and theology to the margins of the current academic and societal context, the French-American critic, essayist and philosopher George Steiner argued in his Grammars of Creation that fundamental human questions on purpose and meaning require a broader vision. The scientific question of the ‘how’ of human existence in the world demands an additional question: ‘for what purpose?’ In this context, a new focus on worldviews again appears valuable.
The Tilburg School of Catholic Theology’s two research programs, each in their own way and using a multidisciplinary approach, contribute to the broadening of scope which Steiner advocates. They examine how religious traditions functioned in the past and how they have shaped and continue to shape the present. Tradition is the key to understanding the dynamic of the transmission of knowledge, practices and rituals, a dynamic that crucially affects how human beings deal with questions of identity and with the world they live in. The great questions of today deserve more than technical ingenuity. They also need existential reflection, focused on renewing the present through a dynamic relationship with the past. Research at TST is sensitive to this dynamic.
The TST has two research programs. In the ‘Teaching and Tradition’ program, Bible scholars, historians, philosophers and educationalists investigate the strategies that were used in the past to hand down traditions. In ‘An Altar to an Unknown God’? The Changing Place of Catholicism in the Late Modern Context’, practical and systematic theologians, sociologists, educationalists, liturgical scholars and historians analyze the traces that tradition continues to leave in very diverse sectors of society in Late Modernity.
An overview of the 5 most recent publications: