Thomas Instituut te Utrecht (Tilburg University)

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Aquinas research as a valuable contribution to the current open ecumenical dialogue

Interview with Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen
What are you doing at this moment? Are you currently doing any research on Aquinas?

Since 1.4.2000 I am an Emeritus Professor of Church History on the Faculty of Protestant Theology at Bonn University. In spite of my retirement, however, I shall replace myself for another year. My research mainly concentrates on the reformation against the background of medieval theology. During the last summer term I lectured on the subject of "Church and Theology during the Middle Ages". This course contains a chapter on Thomas and relevant connections concerning research on Aquinas.

What courses are you teaching this semester?

Next term I shall lecture on "History of Dogma during the Reformation Period". This course will deal indirectly with medieval theology and, as part of this, also with Thomas.

In which way were you introduced to the thought of Thomas and whom do you consider to be your teacher in Aquinas?

My dissertation Nos extra nos. Luthers Theologie zwischen Mystik und Scholastik(Beträge zur historischen Theologie 46, 1972) dealt among other things with the context of Thomas' theology of grace, whereas the thesis for my habilitation Reformatorische Vernunftkritik und neuzeitliches Denken (Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 59, 1980) contains thoughts about the connection between person, work and reason in Thomas. As my teachers I would mention G. Ebeling and H.A. Oberman.

What is the most important thing you learned from Aquinas?

To reflect strictly on theological questions and answers within a theological discourse.

What works of Aquinas are you most familiar with?

I'm most familiar with the Summa Theologiae.

What is the importance of Aquinas-research for our times?

First of all to work within a strictly historical method on what Thomas has said in the 13th century and in which way he took up the challenge of the new reception of Aristotle, which took place by that time. Secondly by clarifying whether Aquinas's work could be used as a paradigm for the present exchange of ideas between theology and the human sciences. In a more narrow sense I expect the Aquinas-research to make a valuable contribution to the current open ecumenical dialogue concerning the crucial questions about the doctrines of grace and justification respectively.

What are your expectations of the Thomas Instituut?

Until now I don't know the scholarly intentions of the Thomas Instituut in Utrecht, but I would expect them, among other things, to deal with the questions mentioned above.

What do you think of the Internet in general and especially of the Thomas Instituut website?

The Internet is a useful tool to acquire information for the benefit of scientific research. The home page of the Thomas Instituut is a success.

Can you give the titles of some of your publications so that readers may get to know more about your work?

  • Nos extra nos. Luthers Theologie zwischen Mystik und Scholastik (BHTh 46, 1972)
  • Reformatorische Vernunftkritik und neuzeitliches Denken (BHTh 59, 1980)

  • Reformatorisches Profil. Studien zum Weg Martin Luthers und der Reformation, Göttingen 1995 (Aufsatzsammlung)
  • Reformation und Gegenreformation, Göttingen 1999
  • Akten der deutschen Reichsreligionsgespräche im 16. Jahrhundert. Erster Band: Das Hagenauer Religionsgespräch (1540). K. Ganzer und K.H. zur Mühlen (Hrsg.), Göttingen 2000

  • Cristina Pumplun