Call for Papers

The Use and Abuse of History for Theology

September 29 – 30, 2017

The fifth annual Duke Graduate Conference in Theology invites submissions on the interaction of historical study and Christian theology. We are also delighted to announce that the plenary address will be offered by Professor David Bentley Hart, currently a Director’s Fellow with the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies.

A number of scholars in theology have recently written histories which they hope will offer new directions in contemporary theological debates. At the same time a number of contemporary theologians and ethicists carry out historical study as one of their central modes of engagement with contemporary issues. This conference invites particular historical/theological projects that exemplify various ways of understanding history and ways of relating history and theology (as well as projects which problematize the binary). We also invite explicit methodological reflections on the practice of history and theology and ways of relating the two. We hope for a robust conversation between those whose focus is primarily historical and those who work in contemporary theology and ethics with an eye towards historical matters.

We welcome creative submissions which explore various configurations of the relationship of history and theology. The following questions identify some, though not all, of the possible questions the conference envisions:

  • What does the practice of history consist in? What is the object of study?
  • What are the factors (e.g. social location) which govern the narrative arc of different histories?
  • What is the relation of the view of history taken by a particular theologian (historical or contemporary) and other aspects of that person’s theology?
  • How does a concern (or lack of concern) for history transform the practice of theology?
  • What might different modes of history mean for the theological task?
  • What is the potential political and theological power of alternative histories?
  • How does the study of the Bible fit into the practice of history and theology?
  • How does theological interpretation of scripture relate with historical-critical study of the biblical texts?
  • How can the study of historical theology help mobilize the church to act on key questions of justice?
  • How do/should scholars think about the intersection of history and theology working out of lived experiences including, but not limited to those that are non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgender, non-male, and differently-abled? (We invite scholars to describe their social locations in their abstract.)

In the spirit of past Duke Graduate Conferences in Theology, we seek to bring together graduate students in historical theology, theology, ethics, biblical studies, liturgical studies, and other related fields to foster friendships and exchange ideas with each other and with leading scholars. We particularly welcome submissions from members of historically marginalized communities.

Please submit paper proposals of no more than 300 words by Saturday, May 20. Proposals should be emailed to in the form of a Word document attachment. Please include your name, institution, and degree program in the e-mail. Notifications of acceptance will be distributed by June 15, and final papers will be due on Friday, September 15. Presenters will have 15 minutes to present their papers in faculty-moderated panels. For more information, please visit the conference website at