Stephen Lakkis

Theological Resources for Nation Building and the Enhancement of Social and Individual Life in Taiwan

Adjunct Associate Professor of Systematic Theology; Director, Center for Public Theology
Tainan Theological College and Seminary
Tainan, Taiwan

Capstone Conference Talk

Friday (8/4) 5:50-6:10PM

Connection and Disconnection: Challenges facing nation-building and social development in Taiwan

How do human beings seek to enhance life in the aftermath of atrocious violence? What kind of practices do they develop to learn again what it means to be human in the face of utmost experiences of dehumanization? What are the aspirations, values, and core beliefs that help or hinder victims, bystanders, and perpetrators in coming to terms with traumatic violence in a life-giving way? During my Enhancing Life Project, I engaged these questions by exploring various projects that attend to the aftermath of violence in South Africa, Germany, Israel, and Italy. In my presentation, I will present some of my findings.


Academic Biography

Prof. Stephen Lakkis is a Lebanese-Australian, but has been glad to call Taipei home since 2007. He holds a doctorate in Theology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, as well as undergraduate degrees in psychology and theology. He specializes in political, public, and interdisciplinary theology, and is a research partner in several global projects on theology and politics, anthropology, and economy.

He is currently adjunct Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the historic Tainan Theological College (one of Asia’s oldest theological schools), and has been invited to head the School of Social Education for the newly planned Asia-Europe Academy (a collaborative venture with Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs). He is director of the Center for Public Theology Taiwan, heading the “Directorate for Human Rights and Public Policy,” and has been sought as a consultant on issues ranging from Taiwan’s use of the death penalty to protecting sex-workers’ rights.

A regular guest lecturer at the National Taiwan University School of Law, Dr. Lakkis was awarded the 2009 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship by the bipartisan Taiwan Foundation for Democracy for his work on the role of the churches in promoting democratization and human rights during Taiwan’s martial law era. He was also the recipient of a World Council of Churches Research Scholarship, as well as other awards in theology and philosophy.

His books include a co-edited German volume on ecumenism—Ökumene der Zukunft (Frankfurt, 2008)—and A New Hope: Wolfhart Pannenberg and the Natural Sciences on Time (London, 2014).

Project Executive Summary

In 1987, Taiwan emerged from 38 years under martial law into a rapidly modernizing world, prompting Taiwan’s social leaders to look for ideological resources to drive the island’s political, economic, and social redevelopment. Given Christianity’s historical role in the development of western culture, can resources from the Christian traditions be appropriately applied toward Taiwanese nation-building while still respecting Taiwan’s social context and preserving Taiwan’s unique cultural heritage?

This project begins by arguing that a theological anthropology and the concept of the kingdom of God represent central Christian resources that, in tandem, deal respectively with the enhancement of individual and communal dimensions of life. It will argue that in the Taiwanese social framework, programs for the enhancement of life must work against abstractions of the independent human individual, instead recognizing the individual’s location within social and political structures that also need reconstruction. This theoretical investigation will include collaborative discussion with local (particularly neo-Confucian) traditions.

The project then examines how those theological resources may be made available for use in the project of Taiwanese nation-building and the enhancement of social and individual life by applying them to four concrete test cases: human rights development, and medical genetic intervention (individual life); political corruption, and environmental policy (communal life).

By bringing to light the resources of a theological anthropology and political/public theology, and by promoting a concrete, collaborative dialogue with Taiwanese traditions, this project aims to contribute additional conceptual resources for the enhancement of individual and national life in Taiwan.