BASIC CONCEPT OF STUDIES
The curriculum of the Faculty of Theology “Matija Vlačić Ilirik” is divided into five areas of theology:
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- History of the Church
- Systematic Theology
- Practical Theology
The study of theology also involves a number of individual subjects, which are important for theological education and edification. This includes first and foremost the three classical languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, which are a prerequisite for the study of biblical (Old and New Testament) and historical subjects (History of the Church and Theology), as well as for the study of Systematic Theology itself. Furthermore, these individual subjects include the study of foreign languages (primarily English, where possible also German), without which it is not possible to practice theology. The Methodology of Scientific Writing is also a prerequisite for the study of theology, as well as for scientific research in general. Since theology to a large extent involves cooperation with other sciences, social as well as natural, study of theology also involves a number of interdisciplinary subjects. When possible, this approach is practiced in cooperation with other universities, which excludes every possibility of self-isolation and ideologizing.
The aim of the Old Testament study is to train students in reading the Old Testament texts in their Hebrew original and in interpreting them independently, by using the available modern scientific methods and specialized literature, so that they can grasp their meaning for theology, Church and everyday religious life. Therefore, starting from the early years of study, students are intensively taught biblical Hebrew, which is an absolute necessity for a quality research of the Old Testament texts.
Special attention is paid to the questions of origin of certain Old Testament records, as well as forming of the Old Testament cannon. Students are acquainted with the methods of exegesis and hermeneutics, which they then apply to the exegesis of Old Testament texts. Students are also acquainted with basic terms and topics of biblical Old Testament theology.
Since parts of the Hebrew Bible have originated from the cultural heritage of ancient Israel, the study of Israeli history (history of ancient Jewish literature, religion and institutions of ancient Judaism) is also included in this area of study. Since in order to understand the history of Israel it is necessary to know its cultural and religious surroundings, this area of study also includes the study of interrelationships between ancient history of Israel and the religious, social and political history of ancient Orient. Special importance is given to relevant Egyptian, Ugarit, Akkadian, Aramaic and Greek literary sources (translated into one of the world’s major languages), as well as archeological and iconographic findings.
The aim of the New Testament study is to train students in reading the New Testament texts in their Greek original and in interpreting them independently, by using the available modern scientific methods and specialized literature, so that they can grasp their meaning for theology, Church and everyday religious life. Therefore, starting from the early years of study, students are intensively taught biblical Greek, which is an absolute necessity for a quality research of the New Testament texts.
Special attention is paid to the questions of origin of certain New Testament records, as well as forming of the New Testament cannon. Students are acquainted with the methods of exegesis and hermeneutics, which they then apply to the exegesis of New Testament texts. Students are also acquainted with basic terms and topics of biblical New Testament theology.
Since New Testament texts have originated from within the surroundings of ancient Christianity, considerable attention is devoted to the history of ancient Christianity. Also, since ancient Christianity was marked by the cultural and religious conditions of its time, the study of New Testament involves the study of religious, social and political history of the Hellenic period and especially of late Judaism. It is considered especially important to introduce students with the relevant Hellenic-Roman and late Jewish literary sources (translated into one of the world’s major languages).
History of the Church and Theology
The aim of this area of study is to introduce students with the main developments during two thousand years of church and Christian history. Therefore, students are introduced with the basic sources of the church history (literary, archeological and monumental), with the general methods of historiography, and are thus encouraged to independently evaluate and criticize the main developments in church and Christian history, as well as their importance for church life and Christian life today.
The study of New Testament tries to encompass various aspects of the church life: history of theology and history of ideas, history of denominations, history of forms of worship and mentality, history of church institutions and the role of the Christian Church in society, as well as history of the church art and architecture. For better efficiency, the New Testament study is divided into the following historical periods (following such a division in historiography), Church in the Antique, Church in the Middle Ages, Reformation, Church in the Modern Age. Recent church history is also included. Besides this chronological division there is also a thematic division of the church history into general church history, history of theology (dogmas), history of Christian art and building, territorial (national) church history, history of particular denominations…
The aim of this area of study is to train students to critically evaluate the extent to which the Church proclamation and entire tradition of the Church (churches) are faithful to the message of the Holy Scripture. Also, students are taught to critically evaluate the relevance of the Church teaching to the modern-day man and the world. Special attention is therefore paid to the following fields of study: primarily, the students are introduced with the contents of the Christian faith, i.e. the students are taught to systematically present, argument and critically evaluate the contents of the Christian/church teaching. Since living according to Christian principles constitutes an important dimension of the Christian faith, students also gain an insight into basic problems and questions related to christianly motivated acting. Within the field of Systematic Theology students are also equipped to interact with philosophy, culture, science and other religions, since Christian faith and Christian praxis cannot exist and fulfill their tasks without interacting with different views and insights of the modern world.
Furthermore, Systematic theology introduces students with the complex issues of Christian missions, i.e. evangelizations, in the past as well as today. This primarily concerns the issues such as interconfessional, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, colonialism, neocolonialism, proselytism…
Finally, the aim of this area of study is to introduce students with various Christian churches and traditions, with the wealth and diversity of Christian forms of life and worship, with the history and with the results of the ecumenical dialogue-all with the purpose of fostering an attitude of respect towards the Christian identity in various cultural and historical contexts.
In order to appropriately deal with this broad spectrum of topics, the study of Systematic theology is divided into a large number of disciplines, such as: dogmatics, ethics, philosophy, religious science (history of religions and the philosophy of religions), missiology, ecumenical theology.
The aim of this area of study is to show the extent in which the Christian faith appropriately deals with the problems of the modern man in his concrete surroundings, and the extent in which Christian teaching is efficiently expressed in the everyday life of Christian churches, and in the church public activities. At the same time, the students are trained in theory and methodology required to efficiently deal with future tasks in practical church activities. Therefore, special attention is paid to the following areas of practical church activities.
Students are intensively trained in preaching, as proclamation of the Word with regards to preaching has a specifically high value in Reformation theology and praxis. Students are also introduced with the basic principles of homiletics, with the biblical models of preaching practices (throughout the church history and up to the present day), and are encouraged to integrate gained knowledge in their own preaching concept. Students are also introduced with the role of liturgy in church life. The notion of worship in its theological and anthropological dimension is explained, together with the various forms of Christian mass practice throughout history. Students are encouraged to critically evaluate various liturgical models and make their own contribution to liturgical challenges of the modern Church.
Students are also introduced with catechesis, i.e. the basis of general and religious pedagogics, metodics and didactics, as well as various catechetical concepts. Students are encouraged to integrate gained knowledge in their own catechetical praxis.
Special attention is paid to the education of spiritual counselors. Basic tasks of Christian counseling praxis within the social community, but also within a broader social surrounding, are introduced, together with forms of spiritual guidance throughout the church history. Students are encouraged and trained to integrate gained knowledge into praxis with the purpose of developing their own identity as responsible spiritual counselors.
Students also learn about the social involvement of the Church, as well as about the history of its social activities until the present day (the issues of religious freedom, discrimination, peace, war, family, justice vs. injustice, poverty, solidarity…). Special attention is paid to the understanding of these issues when churches with the Reformation heritage are concerned. Students are encouraged to critically consider the social involvement of the Church in history and in the present and to contribute to the evolvement of a socially competent Church.
Special attention within this area of study is also given to training students in parochial duties. Students learn the basic issues concerning pastoral care for the community: the role of the priest/pastor, community leadership, church models, church structures, pastoral planning, cooperation and shared responsibility, communities of the future…Students are encouraged to integrate gained knowledge into practical activities, in order to contribute to building the Church of the future, whether as future priests/pastors, or in other aspects of theological and practical involvement in the church activities.
In order to complete these tasks successfully, the study of Practical Theology is divided into the following disciplines: homiletics, liturgy, catechesis, spiritual counseling, social teaching of the Church and pastoral care for the community. Other important topics for modern church life can also be dealt with, such as: the relationship of the Church and the state, Church and public media, Christian publications, etc.