PURPOSE AND AIMS
Inaugurated in 2017 on the five-hundredth anniversary of the European Reformation, the Aberdeen Centre for Protestant Theology (ACPT) is purposed to facilitate, coordinate and promote advanced research in the field of Christian theology. Its intellectual ambition encompasses both critical examination of the historic forms, developments and implications of Protestant thought as well as constructive engagement in its most pressing contemporary tasks in relation to church and world.
Pursuing its work in the context of collegial and ecclesial collaboration with partners from Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox traditions, ACPT is tasked with investigating the viability, integrity and fruitfulness of distinctively Protestant orientations, emphases, and trajectories in Christian dogmatics as part of a vibrant research programme in the wider field of theological sciences. To this end, the Institute maintains close connections with colleagues in disciplines cognate to systematic theology, most significantly church history, biblical studies, theological ethics, and practical theology. As befits work in this tradition, questions concerning the centrality of the doctrine of grace, as well as concerning the authority, interpretation, and application of Scripture, provide notable foci for our inquiries.
The tradition of research and teaching theology at the University of Aberdeen goes back to its foundation in 1495, and its study of Protestant theology in particular includes its two historic Chairs in theology—the Marischal Chair of Divinity (est. 1616) and the King’s Chair of Systematic Theology (est. 1620)—and its incorporation of the Aberdeen United Free Church College (originally Aberdeen Free Church College and later Christ’s College) in 1929. Its faculty has included many notable Protestant theologians over the years, from the ‘Aberdeen Doctors’ and Henry Scougal in the 17th century to 20th century figures such as David S. Cairns, J.K.S. Reid and James B. Torrance, and more recent luminaries such as David A.S. Fergusson, Ian A. McFarland, and John B. Webster. Today, the University of Aberdeen is acknowledged as a world-class centre of research and postgraduate formation in the field of Protestant theology.
ACPT faculty are currently involved in the editing of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Karl Barth and Oxford Handbook of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They also serve as senior or consulting editors for numerous international peer-reviewed journals including the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal of Reformed Theology, the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, and Holiness. They are prominent as series editors of the Studies in Systematic Theology (T&T Clark) and Explorations in Reformed Theology (T&T Clark), as well as of the Edinburgh Critical History of Christian Theology (EUP). They also serve on the editorial boards of Companions to Modern Theology (Brill) and Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture (IVP).
ACPT faculty are active in leading research collaborations in the field of Protestant theology. Recent projects of this kind include an AHRC funded investigation of Doctrine After Christendom: The Public Impact of Research in Christian Doctrine and a Templeton Foundation funded project on the question of Immortality and Eternal Life. Another three-year interdisciplinary project exploring the theme of ‘Normativity’ in theology, philosophy and law supported by the University itself has just concluded in 2017.
ACPT faculty regularly contribute to church doctrine commissions, ecumenical organisations, and related bodies; one of our members is currently appointed to the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. They are also active in the work and leadership of the Society for the Study of Theology, and various sections within the American Academy of Religion, including the Reformed Theology and History group, the Schleiermacher Group, and the Bonhoeffer and Social Analysis Group. They also hold offices within the North American Karl Barth Society, the International Bonhoeffer Society and other similar scholarly associations.
Aberdeen University Library holds valuable research collections, including a historically continuous collection of primary works of Protestant theology from the time of the Reformation, through the era of Protestant Scholasticism, up to the present day. It is also home to a number of special collections in this area, including, e.g., extensive rare book holdings from the era of Protestant Orthodoxy and the David Lewis Collection of materials relating to the life and work of Karl Barth.
At the heart of the standing programme of ACPT are its Core Seminars in Historical Theology and in Systematic Theology. These provide opportunities for faculty and postgraduate studies to undertake systematic exploration and critical analysis of both classic and contemporary texts. Our intellectual community is primarily built up and cultivated by way of this sustained and shared engagement with both long theological tradition and the best of contemporary scholarship.
The formative work of the Core Seminars is accompanied by regular events hosted by ACPT’s Research Seminar, which serves as a venue for visiting scholars, as well as for the presentation and discussion of faculty and postgraduate papers throughout the academic year. ACPT faculty also organise and host regular Development Workshops, in which training and guidance are offered to postgraduate students in respect of doctoral work and careers advice. ACPT members also contribute regularly to the departmental Joint Research Seminar which brings together theologians, ethicists, and biblical scholars for inter-disciplinary dialogue.
Working groups regularly come together from within the membership of ACPT to develop and test new research project ideas, to workshop grant proposals, and to provide thorough peer-review of work in progress. ACPT also serves to support and coordinate collaborative research projects undertaken with other departments within our University, as well as with others universities in the UK and further afield. Locally, we benefit in particular from notable synergies with the work of the Centre for Early Modern Studies (CEMS) and the Centre for Ministry Studies (CMS).