Public defence: Sven Thore Kloster

Sven Thore Kloster will defend his doctoral dissertation: "Towards an Agonistic Theology. A Political Reading of the Concepts of Tradition in the Christian Theologies of Gerhard Ebeling and Kathryn Tanner," for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at the Faculty of Theology.

Sven Thore Kloster. Photo.

Time and place of trial lecture

The trial lecture will take place February 13, 2020 at 10.15 - 11.00 at auditorium U40, Domus Theologica.

Adjudication committee

  • Professor David Fergusson, Professor of Divinity at New College, University of Edinburgh (first opponent).
  • Professor Cornelia Richter, the Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (second opponent).
  • Professor Werner Jeanrond, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. 

Leader of the disputation

Dean Aud Tønnessen.


Professor Marius Timmann Mjaaland, Faculty of Theology.

About the dissertation

The thesis gravitates around questions of what it means that theological interpretive work takes place in struggles with the past and the future. Christian theology and practices are in constant change. New interpretations and practices do not occur without friction and struggle. Changes are caused by human agents who fight for the legitimization of new interpretations.

The purpose of the study is to explore the assumption that tradition is a methodological category in theology, and against such a background to analyze the conditions for a concept of tradition that accommodates theological plurality and interpretive conflicts. The thesis provides an analysis of the contrasting conceptualizations of Christian tradition in the theologies of Gerhard Ebeling (hermeneutical/dialectical) and Kathryn Tanner (postmodern/cultural studies) and seeks to explore how these accounts – critically scrutinized with the help of Chantal Mouffe’s concepts of radical democracy and agonistic pluralism – can contribute to a theology that accommodates plurality and interpretive conflicts.

One key argument of the thesis is that assertions and weak hegemonic articulations are not a threat against plurality and openness but rather their precondition. Without a plurality of competing voices that attempt to articulate what it means to be a Christian community in a particular situation, and thus aim at (partially) fixing the identity of the community, theological formation stagnates.

With the help of Mouffe’s understanding of the relation between hegemony, plurality, and openness the thesis argues constructively that interpretive conflicts, understood as multiple articulations of rivaling interpretations, have the capacity to widen the interpretive leeway in theology, help in clarifying differences and distinctions, and be a driving force for participation, involvement, and inclusion in theological interpretive work.

The thesis also suggests that one way of stimulating and nurturing disagreement in contemporary theology is by actively re-articulating and bringing in theological interpretations, reasoning, and imaginaries from history’s archive and ascribing them authority, not necessarily in order to align with them, but in order to complicate and challenge contemporary interpretive hegemonies. A necessary condition in order for a conflict to be constructive and spur interpretive plurality, however, is that it is inscribed in a common symbolic space. What such a common symbolic space is, is nevertheless also subject to hegemonic struggles and differs from context to context.

Published Dec. 18, 2019 11:54 AM - Last modified Feb. 5, 2020 10:52 AM