THE CURRENT STATE OF BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP IN ESTONIA
AbstractEstonia is one of the most extreme nations in the Western world regarding a modest belonging to the churches and scepticism towards religious institutions. This article presents a short overview of the history of Estonian academic landscapes from the point of view of biblical studies and the University of Tartu as the historical nodal point of all Estonian academic life. The paper sketches six polarities that characterise the work of biblical scholars in Estonia. The first polarity marks national versus international, since biblical scholars struggle with the needs of the narrow national academic sphere and the broad international scholarship. The second polarity is the tension between scientific and popular spheres, of which both are needed to have a sustainable national academic environment, but academic publications are rare. The third problem is the polarity between the historical-critical and the religious, generally designated as a conflict between conservatives and liberals in Estonia. Particularly in the Lutheran church, several theologians and pastors publicly distinguish between “church theology” and “university theology,” and the label of liberalism keeps sticking. The fourth polarity concerns religious versus anticlerical and non-institutional religion. Biblical scholars are confronted with a very ambivalent attitude towards churches, demanding flexibility to understand the exact auditory. The fifth polarity marks the academic study versus new spirituality interpretations: how to approach people speaking the jargon of new spirituality, who might be religiously illiterate, individualistic, and sceptical towards institutionalised churches. Open theological discussion versus political-nationalist ideology is the sixth polarity. After gaining independence and becoming free from communist ideology, the lifetime of one generation has not been enough to cope with all the changes in the world view to emerge a free, tolerant and cohesive society. The situation welcomed the import of fundamentalist Christianity, far-right politics and the phenomenon of cultural war.
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