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Special Issue "European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology"

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A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Philosophical and Theological Studies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2012)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Francis X. Clooney, S.J.

Harvard Divinity School, 45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: classical hinduism in the sanskrit and tamil traditions; comparative christian-hindu theology; christian missionary encounters with asia religions
Guest Editor
Dr. John Berthrong

School of Theology, Boston University, One Silber Way, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 617-448-8573
Fax: +1 617 353 3061
Interests: interfaith dialogue, multiple religious participation, Chinese and East Asian religion and philosophy, comparative theology and philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Comparative theology is a field with a lineage as long as the earliest efforts by believers to engage, understand, learn from and critique other religions. In the 1980s and 1990s, scholars revived the field as timely in light of today’s religious diversity. They have given it some new characteristics, tried new methods, and argued for fresh implications, and thus in a real sense reinvented the discipline, affording new energy to the study of religions in practice and in the particular, without undue a priori attention to theoretical presuppositions and issues of method. Now younger theologians in different traditions have further interrogated its presumptions and practices and brought it into conversation with post-colonialism, gender studies, ethnographic research, and a (re)turn to theologies of religious pluralism. This thematic issue focuses on the European context to see how this new field has been received, understood, and critiqued among scholars writing in Europe.

Helpful recent secondary sources include Francis X Clooney’s Comparative Theology (2010), and his edited volume, with contributions from younger scholars, The New Comparative Theology (2010).

Prof. Dr. Francis X. Clooney
Dr. John Berthrong
Guest Editors



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Keywords

  • comparative
  • theology
  • religious reading
  • practice
  • particularit

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Editors’ Introduction to “European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology”
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1195-1197; doi:10.3390/rel3041195
Received: 19 November 2012 / Accepted: 14 December 2012 / Published: 18 December 2012
PDF Full-text (28 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This thematic issue of Religions, “European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology,” asks how comparative theology—an old discipline that has been infused with new energy in recent decades and merited new attention—has been received, understood, and critiqued among theologians and scholars of
[...] Read more.
This thematic issue of Religions, “European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology,” asks how comparative theology—an old discipline that has been infused with new energy in recent decades and merited new attention—has been received, understood, and critiqued among theologians and scholars of religions in Europe today. How does comparative theology look in light of current understandings of theology, the study of religions, and comparative studies, and the politics of learning in the churches today? [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Other

Open AccessArticle A Contribution to Comparative Theology: Probing the Depth of Islamic Thought
Religions 2013, 4(1), 67-76; doi:10.3390/rel4010067
Received: 5 December 2012 / Revised: 25 January 2013 / Accepted: 28 January 2013 / Published: 31 January 2013
PDF Full-text (180 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Muslim theologians, as much as ordinary Muslims, will immediately agree with the characterization of God as all compassionate. However, it remains rather opaque how God’s compassion can be fully explained in terms of comparative theology. How can Muslims relate to God’s compassion? What
[...] Read more.
Muslim theologians, as much as ordinary Muslims, will immediately agree with the characterization of God as all compassionate. However, it remains rather opaque how God’s compassion can be fully explained in terms of comparative theology. How can Muslims relate to God’s compassion? What role does God’s compassion precisely play in the Quranic revelation and the daily practice of Muslims? Full article
Open AccessArticle Reasons for and Contexts of Deep Theological Engagement with Other Religious Traditions in Europe: Toward a Comparative Theology
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1180-1194; doi:10.3390/rel3041180
Received: 6 November 2012 / Revised: 13 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 December 2012 / Published: 18 December 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (88 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The different contexts of America and Europe have a significant impact on the development of comparative theology, especially in the German-speaking countries. The latter have found other solutions to the problem of religious pluralism that are not really conducive to comparative theology. Hence,
[...] Read more.
The different contexts of America and Europe have a significant impact on the development of comparative theology, especially in the German-speaking countries. The latter have found other solutions to the problem of religious pluralism that are not really conducive to comparative theology. Hence, the double responsibility of Catholic theology in particular toward the university and toward the Church is a part of the discourse policy of theology, which affects the theology of religions and comparative theology. On the one hand, theology is under the protection of the state, and on the other hand theology is threatened by the risk of unreliability due to ecclesiastical paternalism. But the theology of religions and comparative theology do not evade into science of religion or neo-orthodoxy, rather, they take a risk in a theological engagement with other religions, bringing one’s own faith into a deep encounter with other religions and their faiths while delving into points of detail. After giving short descriptions of these tasks, this article shows some examples of practice in comparative theology and gives a prospect into potential further developments of comparative theology in theories of difference and spaces. Full article
Open AccessArticle On Vulnerability: Probing the Ethical Dimensions of Comparative Theology
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1144-1161; doi:10.3390/rel3041144
Received: 3 November 2012 / Revised: 4 December 2012 / Accepted: 11 December 2012 / Published: 12 December 2012
PDF Full-text (89 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Though the notion of vulnerability regularly pops up in Clooney’s reflections on comparative theology, he does not develop a systematic account of it. What precisely vulnerability is and how it influences interreligious dialog do not receive enough theoretical grounding. In this article I
[...] Read more.
Though the notion of vulnerability regularly pops up in Clooney’s reflections on comparative theology, he does not develop a systematic account of it. What precisely vulnerability is and how it influences interreligious dialog do not receive enough theoretical grounding. In this article I will probe the complexity of this notion and how it plays out in comparative theology. This will not only enable us to grasp the true originality of Clooney’s project, it will also allow us to uncover its deeper ethical dynamics. For, as I will seek to show, at its core, comparative theology is moved by an ethical concern to enable a just relation between the one’s own tradition and the foreign one. It is my intention to unfold the deep moral dynamics of this particular interreligious approach and to conceptualize the ethical conditions for interreligious learning as present in comparative theology. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Old and New Comparative Theologies: Discourses on Religion, the Theology of Religions, Orientalism and the Boundaries of Traditions
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1120-1137; doi:10.3390/rel3041120
Received: 10 November 2012 / Revised: 1 December 2012 / Accepted: 3 December 2012 / Published: 4 December 2012
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (114 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper disputes that a strong contrast can be drawn between the Old Comparative Theology and the New Comparative Theology, looking particularly at the arguments of Hugh Nicholson as well as drawing on Francis Clooney. It disputes a simplistic and monolithic dismissal of
[...] Read more.
This paper disputes that a strong contrast can be drawn between the Old Comparative Theology and the New Comparative Theology, looking particularly at the arguments of Hugh Nicholson as well as drawing on Francis Clooney. It disputes a simplistic and monolithic dismissal of the Old Comparative Theology as guilty of ‘Orientalism’, and seeks to show that in figures like Rowland Williams, as well as F. D. Maurice that the discipline was important in breaking down boundaries between traditions. Building on this, an argument is made that the New Comparative Theology should be seen as part of a lineage of progression and understanding that links it with the Old Comparative Theology and the Theology of Religions, and that any attempt to see these as different, or contrasting, discourses is based upon a distorted or partial historical understanding. In this the work of Tomoko Masuzawa is also assessed, and issues surrounding the terms ‘religion’ and ‘world religion’ are discussed. It is also suggested that the weight of history may be a factor as to why the New Comparative Theology came to prominence in the USA rather than in Europe, or at least the UK. Full article
Open AccessArticle A European (German) View on Comparative Theology: Dialogue with My Own Past
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1085-1093; doi:10.3390/rel3041085
Received: 1 September 2012 / Revised: 5 November 2012 / Accepted: 12 November 2012 / Published: 14 November 2012
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Abstract
For the last couple of years, particularly after the publication of the (German) book “Comparative Theology” by Bernhold Reinhardt and Klaus von Stosch, there was a significant attentiveness of this subject amongst German scholars. For many, it was the long anticipated antithesis/alternative to
[...] Read more.
For the last couple of years, particularly after the publication of the (German) book “Comparative Theology” by Bernhold Reinhardt and Klaus von Stosch, there was a significant attentiveness of this subject amongst German scholars. For many, it was the long anticipated antithesis/alternative to the pluralist theology of religions, even if it had not been devised explicitly to serve as such an alternative. For others, it has been an appropriate way to express their desire for a substantial interreligious dialogue in a theologically responsible way. This paper tries to review some of the major German contributions (being read alongside international ones) and reactions to Comparative Theology and to search for the motive behind its sudden popularity in some circles. It will also try to reconstruct the possibilities for Comparative Theology within the wider setting of the process and development of religious traditions as they grow and change in never-ending interaction and communication within the history of religions, ideas and society. Full article
Open AccessArticle Tradition with a New Identity: Thomist Engagement with Non-Christian Thought as a Model for the New Comparative Theology in Europe
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1054-1074; doi:10.3390/rel3041054
Received: 26 September 2012 / Revised: 13 October 2012 / Accepted: 16 October 2012 / Published: 6 November 2012
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Abstract
British theologians have criticised contemporary comparative theology for privileging learning from other religions to the exclusion of challenge and transformation in the Christian encounter with the thought of other religions. Moreover, a wider concern in Britain about contemporary expressions of theology in the
[...] Read more.
British theologians have criticised contemporary comparative theology for privileging learning from other religions to the exclusion of challenge and transformation in the Christian encounter with the thought of other religions. Moreover, a wider concern in Britain about contemporary expressions of theology in the academy, including comparative theology, is about their accountability to the ecclesial communities to which theologians belong. This paper aims to retrieve the Thomist engagement with non-Christian thought as a model for contemporary comparative theology that also addresses these concerns. The paper outlines Aquinas’ understanding of Christian theology’s engagement with non-Christian thought as being one of transformation, using the Biblical image of water changing into wine to illustrate what is involved. The paper points to historical examples of Thomist encounters with Indian thought and suggests some new applications. Using the Thomist model for contemporary comparative theology is a case of tradition coming to have a new identity, one that balances learning with challenge and transformation, one that bridges the divide between the academic and the ecclesial exercise of theology. Full article
Open AccessArticle Challenging Truths: Reflections on the Theological Dimension of Comparative Theology
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1041-1053; doi:10.3390/rel3041041
Received: 27 September 2012 / Revised: 27 October 2012 / Accepted: 29 October 2012 / Published: 1 November 2012
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Abstract
Given that comparative theology is aimed at learning from the insights of other religious traditions, the comparative theologian’s confessional perspective must be engaged and subject to possible transformation through the discovery of truth in those traditions. Despite Francis Clooney’s and James Fredericks’ attempts
[...] Read more.
Given that comparative theology is aimed at learning from the insights of other religious traditions, the comparative theologian’s confessional perspective must be engaged and subject to possible transformation through the discovery of truth in those traditions. Despite Francis Clooney’s and James Fredericks’ attempts to distance comparative theology from the theology of religions, its truth-seeking dimension makes participation in the theology of religions unavoidable. Crucial to integrating what is learned, moreover, is a willingness to allow presuppositions about the other to be challenged and to make revisions if necessary. Keith Ward exhibits this willingness but, on this basis, distinguishes comparative theology from confessional theology, thus obscuring the legitimacy of revision from a committed religious standpoint. Where comparative theologians are willing and able to integrate all that is learned through their study of other traditions, comparative theology can be conceived of as both a confessional enterprise and a contribution to what Wilfred Cantwell Smith called ‘World Theology’—that is, the ongoing attempt to give intellectual expression to the faith of us all. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Idea of a Highest Divine Principle — Founding Reason and Spirituality. A Necessary Concept of a Comparative Philosophy?
Religions 2012, 3(4), 1025-1040; doi:10.3390/rel3041025
Received: 2 September 2012 / Revised: 26 October 2012 / Accepted: 29 October 2012 / Published: 30 October 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (430 KB) | Correction | Supplementary Files
Abstract
By reference to the Platonic, Aristotelian, and Neo-Platonic philosophical traditions (and then to German Idealism, including Husserl and Heidegger), I will indicate the way in which the concept of reason—on the one side—depends on the horizon of spirituality (by searching for the ultimate
[...] Read more.
By reference to the Platonic, Aristotelian, and Neo-Platonic philosophical traditions (and then to German Idealism, including Husserl and Heidegger), I will indicate the way in which the concept of reason—on the one side—depends on the horizon of spirituality (by searching for the ultimate ground within us and the striving for the highest good); and inversely—how far the idea of the divine or our spiritual self may be deepened, understood and transmitted by reference to reason and rationality. But whereas philosophical analysis aims at the universal dimensions of spirituality or the divine (as in Plato's idea of the 'highest good', the Aristotelian 'Absolute substance', the 'Oneness of the One' (Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists) or the Hegelian 'Absolute spirit'),—Comparative Theology may preserve the dimension of spirituality or divinity in its individuality and specifity. Comparative Theology mediates between the universality of the philosophical discourse and the uniqueness of our individual experience (symbolized by a sacred person—such as Jesus, Brahman, Buddha or Mohammed) by reflecting and analyzing our religious experiences and practices. Religion may lose its specificity by comparative conceptual analysis within the field of philosophy, but Comparative Theology may enhance the vital dimensions of the very same spiritual experience by placing them in a comparative perspective. Full article
Open AccessArticle Comparative Theology as Liberal and Confessional Theology
Religions 2012, 3(4), 983-992; doi:10.3390/rel3040983
Received: 14 September 2012 / Revised: 10 October 2012 / Accepted: 15 October 2012 / Published: 22 October 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (172 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
For most European scholars, the scope of Comparative Theology is not very clear. They see big differences between the notion of Comparative Theology among its protagonists, e.g., between Keith Ward or Robert Neville and Francis Clooney or James Fredericks. That is why I
[...] Read more.
For most European scholars, the scope of Comparative Theology is not very clear. They see big differences between the notion of Comparative Theology among its protagonists, e.g., between Keith Ward or Robert Neville and Francis Clooney or James Fredericks. That is why I will try to define a certain understanding of Comparative Theology which can be defended in accordance with strong European theological traditions. I want to show that Comparative Theology can be understood as one of the best fruits of liberal theology and of a Wittgensteinian interpretation of transcendental philosophy—and that it opens new perspectives for confessional theology. The current development of Islamic theology in Germany is especially challenging for Comparative Theology and the best opportunity to develop it into a project undertaken by scholars of different religions and different intellectual traditions. I will argue that Comparative Theology is not a new discipline within the old disciplines of theology, but that it can give new perspectives to all theological disciplines and thoroughly change their character. Full article
Open AccessArticle Comparative Theology and Religious Studies in a Non-religious Environment
Religions 2012, 3(4), 973-982; doi:10.3390/rel3040973
Received: 22 August 2012 / Revised: 9 October 2012 / Accepted: 12 October 2012 / Published: 17 October 2012
PDF Full-text (227 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The intellectual landscape of Europe bears the marks of a long history of cultural perceptions of, and scientific approaches to, religions. The sciences of religions had to establish their autonomy from churches and theologies. However, the cultural context and the institutional set-up of
[...] Read more.
The intellectual landscape of Europe bears the marks of a long history of cultural perceptions of, and scientific approaches to, religions. The sciences of religions had to establish their autonomy from churches and theologies. However, the cultural context and the institutional set-up of ‘laïcité’ did not foster the development of comparative religion, much less comparative theology. However, this situation may have an advantage: it should discourage the exercise of comparative theology as a sectarian endeavour apart from broader anthropological perspectives and concerns. Comparative theology should not become the last refuge for religious nostalgia. In Europe, interreligious relationships (and hence comparative theologies) should not be isolated from simple or more sophisticated forms of indifference, agnosticism, or atheism. The active presence of a non-religious environment as well as the growing interest in Buddhism, are challenges to comparative theology: its contents, its approach, its intended audience. Full article
Open AccessArticle Comparative Theology: Between Theology and Religious Studies
Religions 2012, 3(4), 964-972; doi:10.3390/rel3040964
Received: 26 July 2012 / Revised: 10 October 2012 / Accepted: 12 October 2012 / Published: 15 October 2012
PDF Full-text (177 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In the German-speaking academy there is a widespread rivalry between theology and religious studies. “Comparative Theology” provokes suspicions from both sides. This contribution first takes a look at the history of the rivalry, refers then to the criticism from both sides against “Comparative
[...] Read more.
In the German-speaking academy there is a widespread rivalry between theology and religious studies. “Comparative Theology” provokes suspicions from both sides. This contribution first takes a look at the history of the rivalry, refers then to the criticism from both sides against “Comparative Theology” and suggests a way of positioning it between the two stools. It pleads for distinguishing between the levels of (analytical) method and (constructive) interpretation as far as possible. The comparative approach should be understood and used as a method of comparative analysis in accordance with the standards of religious studies, while theological reflection should constitute the hermeneutical frame of motivation and interpretation. Full article

Other

Jump to: Editorial, Research

Open AccessCorrection Bickmann, Claudia. “The Idea of a Highest Divine Principle—Founding Reason and Spirituality. A Necessary Concept of a Comparative Philosophy?” Religions 3 (2012): 1025–40
Religions 2014, 5(1), 21; doi:10.3390/rel5010021
Received: 7 January 2014 / Accepted: 16 January 2014 / Published: 16 January 2014
PDF Full-text (140 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The author wishes to add the following correction to her paper published in Religions [1]: Reference [28] on pages 1035 and 1040 should be [27] and the citation to [27] on p. 1035 should be removed. The author apologizes for any inconvenience. [...]
[...] Read more.
The author wishes to add the following correction to her paper published in Religions [1]: Reference [28] on pages 1035 and 1040 should be [27] and the citation to [27] on p. 1035 should be removed. The author apologizes for any inconvenience. [...] Full article

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