Monday, March 21, 2011

The Possibility of Being a Christian Pluralist (PART 7)

V) Conclusion: Comparative Theology

Having now outlined a view of comparative religion, theology of religions, and interreligious dialogue that I believe can function together as a coherent, positive approach to the current challenges of religious pluralism, I conclude with a brief reflection on the new field of comparative theology. The basic idea of comparative theology is already present in Cornille’s fourth condition of empathy for interreligious dialogue. As a comparative theologian herself, Cornille is well aware of the need for religious persons to go beyond surface-level discussions about religion and intentionally engage the religious other from within their own tradition. If one were to agree with her approach to dialogue, they would be forced into comparative theological work – even if it never reaches the depths of professionals like Cornille, Francis Clooney, and Keith Ward. Comparative theology is certainly academic in its orientation since it requires extended engagement with sacred texts and communities, but it also seems to be necessary for all religious persons today on some level.

As a college student, I dipped into comparative theology by spending extended periods of time immersed in two Buddhist communities, a Jewish community, and a Sufi group. Without ceasing to be a Christian, I committed myself to their religion for a period of time, co-inhabiting two traditions. I eventually returned to my own tradition and attempted to discern how my faith was illuminated by these encounters. I found this experience to be quite challenging, but also theologically rewarding. As Clooney explains, “Comparative theology is not primarily about which religion is the true one, but about learning across religious boarders in a way that discloses the truth of my faith, in the light of their faith.”

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