The times seem to have passed when one could give without JL hesitation a positive answer to the question concerning the meaning of theology for church and society. The traditionally privileged status of theology in European culture had become problematical. In Eastern Europe this has occurred in a direct and frontal ideologically intensified way. However, in Western Europe it has been rather indirect and concealed, but of perhaps even greater consequence in light of the discrepancy between the still existing privileges of ecclesiastical institutions and the in reality largely secularised cultural climate. For many contemporaries theology has become a curious, if not dubious, matter. One is somewhat justified in speaking of the ‘end ofthe protected season for theologians’.
But is this ‘end of the protected season’ simply to be identified with the ‘end of theology’? Some tend to this conclusion—even among theologians. I would reject this conclusion, however, and not as the result of a dogmatic prejudice, but out of the personally felt and ecumenically reflected experience of an Eastern European theologian. The hour when the church and its theology lost some of their privileges has proved in no way to be the end, but rather the beginning of a new, certainly narrow, but more credible path, which in the long run might be perhaps even more efficient in view of our role in church and society. We should not overlook this experience—it is valid, mutatis mutandis, also for other situations. The end of the ‘protected season’ need not be only troublesome, but can at the same time be an opportunity: an opportunity for a new credibility.