German heretic remains in a chair

January 1, 1999

Radical German theologian Gerd Ludemann, who sparked a controversy by renouncing Christianity, is to keep his professorial chair at the theology department at Gottingen University.

But the title of his post will be changed from professor of New Testament to professor of the history and literature of early Christianity, said university president Horst Kern.

The Confederation of Protestant Churches, which has a say in who is appointed to teach in Gottingen's theology department, wanted the state education ministry to remove him from his post. It claimed a theologian who has renounced his faith does not belong in the faculty, which is run on denominational lines and trains future ministers.

The decision came as a surprise after Professor Ludemann's faculty colleagues voted that he should be transferred to another university department. They claimed an academic who questions the basis of Protestant theology faculties does not belong in one.

Professor Ludemann has provoked Germany's Lutheran Church with a series of publications including The Virgin Birth? (1997), in which he argues that Jesus was born after Mary was raped. His latest book, The Great Deception (1998), argues that the resurrection was "a pious hoax" conjured up by Jesus' apostles to counter the despair of Good Friday.

The case triggered a fierce debate over academic freedom in Germany where many commentators claimed the church should not have a say in university appointments.

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