During the first half of the twentieth century much of the philosophical community—as well as wider intellectual community—had strong doubts about human capacities to attain any understanding of God’s nature, attributes, or of God's relationship to the natural world. In this period, serious doubt reigned about the possibility of any form of fruitful interaction between philosophy and theology.
Philosophers typically thought that traditional theism was no longer tenable. It was not longer possible to think rationally about or believe in God as a personal yet transcendent Being who acts in human history. In addition, neo-scholastic philosophy as practiced for centuries especially in Catholic institutions ended in virtual isolation from the dominant philosophical trends in the Western world (a very helpful discussion of these developments can be found in the article “Wer hat Angst vor analytischer Philosophie? Zu einem immer noch getrübten Verhältnis“ by Prof. DDr. Winfried Löffler, Stimmen der Zeit 225, 2007, 375-388).
Since the 1970s, however, philosophical interest in religious topics continues to grow and a remarkable revival in the philosophy of religion has been taken place, especially among philosophers in the so-called “analytic tradition”. Nowadays, philosophy of religions is probably as vivid as it has not been for centuries.
Unfortunately there have been taken only some small steps to integrate the work of analytic philosophers and academic theologians. Such steps would be significant, however, for the following reasons: First, the vast field of analytic philosophy of religion, despite its straightforwardly theological character, has not seriously engaged with or impacted academic work of many theologians. In addition, analytic philosophers of religion typically acquire at least passing acquaintance with well known historical theologians, but it is relatively uncommon for them to have any real facility with contemporary theological literature and methods.
The Analytic Theolgy-Project is a multi-faceted four-year research program which will launch a variety of activities to remedy these shortcomings in trans-disciplinary exchange. It aims at advancing the style of analytic philosophy as a fruitful means of theological inquiry and at fostering creative interdisciplinary research and understanding between philosophers and theologians. This approach to theological research tentatively is labelled "analytic theology” (for a detailed discussion about what the term “analytic theology” could mean, see Michael C. Rea’s introduction to Analytic Theology. New essays in the philosophy of theology, OUP 2009).
In addition to supporting direct engagement between researchers in these fields, the project also aims to provide cross-disciplinary research training, opportunities for younger scholars to develop research trajectories, and mechanisms for disseminating the fruits of analytic theology to a broader, non-academic, audience.