Individual sub-projects – University of Copenhagen

Individual sub-projects

  1. Invisibility and Faith (Anna Vind)
  2. Imago Dei and Human Dignity (Claudia Welz)
  3. Death and the Limits of Visualization (Philipp Stoellger)
  4. Metaphors and Parables (Iben Damgaard)
  5. Cognition and Poetry (Therese Bering Solten)
  6. Mediality and Aesthetics (Sven Rune Havsteen)
  7. Tangible Church and Sacred Space (Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen)
  8. Church and the Kingdom of God (Kirsten Busch Nielsen)
  9. Relationality and Vicarious Representation (Karina Juhl Kande)


The individual sub-projects are in the following set out in four groups corresponding to the four sub-themes mentioned above.

(1) Human existence between visibility and invisibility


(1) Invisibility and Faith

Sub-project 1 takes its point of departure in Martin Luther's theology. At the core of the analysis stands an explanation of Luther's distinction between the visible and the invisible with a primary focus on its anthropological consequences. Pauline distinctions between wisdom and folly (1 Cor 1.2) and faith and hope in what cannot be seen (Rom 8,24/Hebr 11,1) lie behind Luther's understanding, so that the primary material is his exegesis of Paul. In focus is thus Luther's Commentary on the letter to Galatians of 1519 read in the light of other relevant Lutheran texts from the same period. Luther's exegetical method, his view of Scripture and other contemporary interpretations of Paul must be accommodated, just as his relations to scholastic theology, to monasticism and the mystical tradition and finally to humanism, especially to classical rhetoric, are to be brought in (Associate Professor, PhD Anna Vind, University of Copenhagen). Til toppen

(2) Imago Dei and Human Dignity

If the human being is understood as the image of an invisible God (imago Dei), what then does this image show? The biblical motif will be discussed in regard to current debates devoted to the human being's in-visible, and at times disregarded, dignity. The visible refers to and implies something transcendent that cannot be conceptualized without involving imagination, which transforms the invisible into something visible and therefore graspable. The love commandment includes both the duty to love those people one can see, with their strengths and weaknesses, and the release from every image that determines once and for all how the other is seen. There is a clear difference between the image someone is and the image anyone else can see. Sub-project 2 draws primarily on Luther, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Barth, Blumenberg and Lévinas, but also on German and English literature, e.g. Frisch and Ellison, self-portraits by Rembrandt and Krøyer, and theories of emotion, memory and representation. (Associate Professor, PhD, Dr.habil. Claudia Welz, University of Copenhagen.) Til toppen

(3) Death and the Limits of Visualization

Continuing the investigations into anthropology in sub-projects 1 and 2 this sub-project deals with "death" as the end of language, which therefore poses radical problems of communication.

"Death" can be considered as the ultimate interruption of any mediatization. The sub-project discusses "death" in four respects: (1) as object of techniques of symbolization and media-analytical studies (Macho); (2) as the terminus a quo and ad quem of the interpretation of others' and one's own death (death of Jesus, literature of ars moriendi); (3) as the imaginative focus of literary and artistic productivity (Blanchot, Didi-Hubermann); and (4) as an existential theme of human finitude (Kierkegaard, Heidegger) and negativity (Adorno), which resists (dialectical, semiotic, and hermeneutic) mediation without being reduced to a myth of the immediate. The study is based on current theories of alterity (Lévinas, Ricoeur, Waldenfels, Derrida) and seeks to clarify the status of death as a possible candidate of that which escapes representation. (Professor, Dr. Philipp Stoellger, University of Rostock.) Til toppen

(2) Language as mediation between the visible and the invisible


(4) Metaphors and Parables

Sub-project 4 investigates religious language as a language of pictures primarily with regard to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. They both reject the language of metaphysics and seek to revive an indirect, metaphorical language. Kierkegaard explores what it means to see with 'the eyes of faith', but he also critically addresses the problem that is crucial to Nietzsche's critique of Christianity: that man may use the invisible (i.e. religious and ethical ideas) to avoid seeing, and seeing the value in the concrete visible world, himself and others. Nietzsche is well known for his critique of the way Christianity places all value in another, invisible world which eventually undermines the value of this world. It is, however, often overlooked that Nietzsche emphasized Jesus as the "great symbolist" who spoke in a language of parables, a language that opens our perception of new possibilities in what we see. But, according to Nietzsche, Christianity has betrayed this ever since by translating Jesus' free-floating parables with a surplus of meaning into static, metaphysical dogmas of a life after death. (Associate Professor, PhD Iben Damgaard, University of Aarhus) Til toppen

(5) Cognition and Poetry

Sub-project 5 investigates N.F.S Grundtvig's use of images and metaphors in his psalms/religious poems in order to make the invisible perceptible or tangible. In his psalm "Eyes, how blessed you were" (1864), Grundtvig portrays the heart as an eye which is born blind but, inspired by the word of God, comes to see. Grundtvig hereby illustrates an intimate connection between the senses and the 'abilities' of the soul, which is crucial for our ability to comprehend the transcendent. What this poem describes in metaphorical language Grundtvig reflects upon in his thesis: "On How scientific method and knowledge relate to the experience and good sense of man" (1817). From Grundtvig a poetic theology emerges combining rationalistic claims of the Enlightenment with a more romantic philosophy of cognition, which appreciates art as a mode of cognition and which calls attention to the power of imagination (Einbildung).

Sub-project 5 treats Grundtvig from an aesthetic-theological point of view, which involves his historical and literary milieu. The theory of metaphor developed by P. Ricoeur will be applied. (PhD student, MA in Theology Therese Solten, University of Copenhagen.) Til toppen

(3) Images, liturgical inventory, and architecture as mediation between the visible and the invisible


(6) Mediality and Aesthetics

Through a detailed historical analysis of the concept of representation in its theological and philosophical aspects from the 16th to the 18th centuries, sub-project 6 continues sub-projects 3, 4 and 5 and also goes back to and embodies the material in sub-projects 1 and 2.

The project intends to reconstruct the different protestant discourses on artistic media. The protestant critique of a medieval concept of visibility was developed and received on different hermeneutical premises and had different historical consequences. This fact gave rise to recurrent disputes within protestant Christianity. In its radical form (Zwingli and Calvin) the critique led to iconoclasm, while Luther's moderate conclusions contained a more dialectical understanding of the relation between visibility and invisibility. The project investigates basic protestant positions in the reflection on the status of images and music in the 16th C (Luther, Calvin, de Bèze, Joh. Arndt) and around 1800 (Schleiermacher). (Associate Professor, PhD Sven Havsteen, University of Copenhagen.) Til toppen

(7) Tangible Church and Sacred Space

Like sub-project 6, the 7th has a linear structure integrating material from the different centuries.

It examines how the invisible and incomprehensible is visually addressed in church design. How this sense is conveyed has changed over time and has thus been expressed differently through the centuries. Tradition and authenticity remain key concepts here, and both have constantly to be renegotiated or confirmed. The focus of the project will rest on the case study of newly built churches and their furnishing, erected from the 17th to the 19th centuries in Denmark, with a view to North Germany and the remainder of Scandinavia. Special attention is to be invested in such specific features as the altar decoration and the use of natural light. The same questions are to be posed with regard to the churches of each of the three centuries: what is revealed, what is not revealed and how shape and structure hint at invisible qualities. What mechanisms were employed by the church planners to convey this sense to their congregation, and to what extent are these issues addressed directly by the theologians in the contemporary debate. Are we able to identify normative influences, and if so, where did they originate and how were they received at parish level? The scope of sub-project 7 is a trajectory based on these questions. (Postdoc, MA in Medieval Archeology Martin Jürgensen, University of Copenhagen.) Til toppen

(4) Visible community and invisible transcendence


(8) Church and the Kingdom of God

Sub-project 8 focuses on the concept of church in the writings of Karl Barth (1886-1968). The possible meaning of visibility and invisibility in religious studies and church theory will be worked out by means of a philosophical and theological analysis of the theory of representation ("Darstellung") applied by Barth in his ecclesiological writings. Second, Barth's influential interpretation of the church as a "provisional representation" ("vorläufige Darstellung") of the Kingdom of God will be critically discussed. His account of the church as the "provisional representation" of what he sees as the justification and sanctification of man in Christ seems to ignore recent attempts to utilize the traditional and often disputed distinction between the visible and the invisible church. On the other hand, the possibilities offered by Barth's original application of the idea of "representation" in church theory should not be overlooked. Sub-project 8 will be based primarily on Luther, Schleiermacher, Bonhoeffer, and Barth. (Professor, Dr. Kirsten Busch Nielsen). Til toppen

(9) Relationality and Vicarious Representation

The last sub-project connects to the investigation in sub-project 8 of religious community as visible-invisible, and combines it with reflections upon man as inner-outer. Together with subproject 8 it completes the historical journey through the centuries from the 16th to the 21st century Europe.

Sub-project 9 thoroughly investigates the development of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's (1906-1945) ecclesiological writings 1927-1945. Bonhoeffer refers to the reformatory distinction between the visible and the invisible church, but also claims their interdependence. In the context of the German church struggle, this terminology in Bonhoeffer was superseded by a more tangible understanding of the church. But the problem remains in Bonhoeffer's ecclesiology and only presents itself with new sharpness in his "non-religious interpretation of Christianity" with its strong criticism of religion and church. Besides central works by Bonhoeffer the project will draw on writings of Luther and Barth. (PhD student, MA in Theology Karina Kande, University of Copenhagen.) Til toppen