Introducing Theology and Society

| by managing editors Kyle Trowbridge and Stephen Waldron

What does academic theology have to do with the world we are constructing? In many cases, we might say “not much.” After all, much of the world is becoming more secular and less religious. Modern life seems to move along just fine without any contributions from theologians. And theology is often seen as enclosed within religious institutions. Or it is so obscure that it is irrelevant even to most people who practice religion. 

Beyond all that, if you try to read the latest research in theology, you’re likely to hit a publisher paywall or a dense book that calls itself a “monograph.” If all of that isn’t enough to make us move on with our lives, theology can also seem to be a specifically Christian discipline in a world filled with many religious perspectives. So why bother with theology or think that it is relevant to 21st century societies?

In this issue and in future issues, we hope to show how theologians are dealing with some of the most crucial problems that we face. While their work is often unheard, many theologians are doing work that is relevant to how societies deal with meaning and values. Some theologians are addressing research in the natural and social sciences. Some are engaging with the interactions of differing religious traditions. And other theologians are dealing with the countless social and political issues that are emerging in our interconnected world.

Research on how religious ideas and practices actively intersect with these three areas is critical to building a livable and humane world. So we are prioritizing these three strands within theology: interaction with the sciences, reflection on interreligious meeting points, and interventions in social and political topics.

We aim to convey that work in accessible ways. Through short articles, interviews, and reviews, we are providing windows into what theologians have been up to in more academic formats. In these short formats, we hope to capture how theologians are actively engaging in our shared projects of building collective futures.

Our issues will appear every other month, and each issue will focus on a particular theme that connects the concerns of theologians to the lives of our societies. In our next issue (March 2022), we will encounter different Theologies of Belonging. If you are interested in contributing, see our call for contributions.

Future issues will continue to engage widely, respecting particularities but disregarding borders. Theologies for our future will have to be collaborative, reaching across national, religious, and disciplinary divides to build solidarity and understanding. Moreover, with this project we especially want to cross the divide between academic researchers and the broader audiences that they can productively reach.

We are making a bet that one of the oldest academic disciplines has significant things to offer to a present and future world in which religion is playing complex and confusing roles. It will benefit all of us to make the connections that we are making.

Managing editor Kyle Trowbridge is an incoming Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh.

Managing editor Stephen Waldron is a Ph.D. student at Boston University School of Theology.