After the State Church. A Reflection on the Relation between Theology and Religious Studies in Contemporary Sweden

Clemens Cavallin


 When the Church of Sweden ceased to be a state church in the year 2000, the parameters for a change in the relation between academic theology and religious studies (religionsvetenskap) at the state universities in Sweden was in place. My article, which is intended as a contribution to the sometimes unnecessarily agonistic discussion following the sharp critique levelled by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) in 2008, focuses on two basic oppositions underlying the present discourse, namely the tension between the expectation of economic utility and the ideal of a free search for knowledge; and that between, on the one hand, confessional neutrality and, on the other hand, the education of priests and pastors.  As a conclusion, I suggest a way forward in three points: 1. The education of priests for the Church of Sweden must change as a result of the abandonment of the state church system. 2. At the same time, the state system should nurture a more positive attitude toward theological reflections developed at nongovernmental university colleges. 3. Thirdly, the interrelationship between secular religious studies at state universities and the tradition specific theologies developed at private university colleges could be essential for the balancing of the demand of economic utility and the principle of academic freedom as it concerns religious studies.


State church, religious studies, theology, economic utility, academic autonomy, Sweden.

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