Meet Professor Eric Saak, Chair in Ecclesiastical History

Meet Professor Eric Saak, Chair in Ecclesiastical History

I was appointed to a Chair in Ecclesiastical History at the University of Aberdeen in March 2020.  I came to Aberdeen from having been a Professor of History in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis (USA).  I had previously served as Head of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University (2010-2012).  I was a student of the late Heiko A. Oberman (PhD 1993, University of Arizona), and pursued my PhD research at the Universität Tübingen, where I was a Research Associate in the Abteilung für philosophische Grundfragen der Theologie of the Catholic Theological Faculty. I have also served as a visiting Professor of Church History at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum of the Pontifical University in Rome.  My undergraduate mentor at the University of Southern California was the late Ernest Koenker, who had been a student of Wilhelm Pauck at the University of Chicago; Pauck had been a student of Adolf von Harnack.  Thus I trace my academic lineage on one side back to Harnack, who was thus my academic great grandfather, with Oberman, on the other side, as my Doktorvater.

My research focuses on the Augustinian traditions in late medieval and early modern Europe, particularly within the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine.  As such, I am interested in late medieval and Reformation political theology and the various ways late medieval theological and religious traditions contributed to and were transformed by the onset of the Reformation.  My most recent book, Luther and the Reformation of the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2017) was awarded the 2018 Gerald Strauss Prize of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference for "the best book published in 2017 in the field of German Reformation".  Currently I am working on a two-volume study: Augustinian Theology in the Later Middle Ages, vol I: Defining Theology; vol. II: Theology in Practice. This will then be followed with Augustinianism in the Reformation, and a companion volume to my Luther book with the title, Luther and the Crisis of Authority in Early Modern Europe.

I am happy to supervise dissertations in the general areas of the theological and religious traditions in the later Middle Ages and Reformation. 

  • Political theology and ecclesiology, especially in the later Middle Ages and Reformation
  • The reception and influence of Augustine
  • Changing structures of authority
  • The relationship between systematic and pastoral theology
  • The Transformation of Theology as a Discipline in the Reformation
  • Authority, Certitude, and Conflicting Interpretations
  • The Passion of Christ in late medieval and Reformation Religion