Centre for Naturalism and Christian Semantics

The Centre runs from 2008 to 2013. It is funded by the University of Copenhagen
after competition within the university and on the basis of external evaluation by international experts. The Centre is run by

  • Prof. Troels Engberg-Pedersen
    (Principal Investigator, Dept of Biblical Studies)

  • Prof. Niels Henrik Gregersen
    (Co-Principal Investigator, Dept of Systematic Theology)


Click here for an overview of the eleven staff members and their projects


The Centre will address the issue of naturalism in relation to Christian thought with a triple focus that seeks to 

  • extend the frontline of the modern understanding of the relationship between naturalism as a comprehensive philosophical and scientific framework of understanding and theism,
  • reconceptualize the relationship between Graeco-Roman philosophy and early Christianity by reconsidering the relationship in the first two centuries CE between (mater­ialistic and naturalistic) Stoicism and (immaterialistic) Platonism and their respective influences on contemporary Judaism and Christianity,
  • reconfigure the modern thinking about Christianity in relation to Christianity's roots in the light of the two other themes, focusing on semantics rather than on abstract ontologies.

While the first theme is at the forefront of current discussion and the second theme has not yet been adequately addressed, the most obvious novelty of the project lies in its third focus of combining the perspectives adopted under the two former themes. In this regard, the aim is not an "apologetic" one of trying to find room in the contemporary world for Christianity by rewriting history. Rather, the project aims to break down traditional oppositions (between natur­alism and religion, philosophy and Christianity and the like) in order to get at the heart of the real differences wherever they are to
be found.

Read the extended Project Description. (pdf)

The project will engage a group of younger scholars to work on various topics in the field:

  • 1 PhD student to work on varieties of religious naturalism in order to explore constructive theological proposals (theistic or non-theistic)
  • 1 PostDoc to work on philosophical issues concerning evolutionary and cognitive theories of religion
  • 1 PostDoc to work on contemporary varieties of naturalism and the mind-brain-problem
  • 1 PostDoc to work on body phenomenology and the question of the bodiliness of God
  • 1 PhD student to work on Platonism and Stoicism in 2nd century ‘Gnosticism'
  • 3 PostDocs to work on the philosophical ontology, ethics and theology of select early Chris­tian thinkers (e.g. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen),
  • 1 PostDoc to work on the role of metaphysics and philosophical theology in the cri­tique of religion in the first two centuries CE.

Niels Henrik Gregersen aims to publish an edited volume, Matter and Information from Physics to Metaphysics (with Paul Davies) (2010), a monograph on The Idea of Deep Incarnation (2012), and Essays on Theology and the Sci­ences of Complexity (2013).

Troels Engberg-Pedersen aims to publish a monograph on The Gospel of John - Stoic or Platonist? (2012) and a monograph on Stoicism in Philosophical Theology of the First Two Centuries CE (2013).