The Modern Quest to Depoliticize Theology

Hugh Nicholson

in Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199772865
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897315 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

The Modern Quest to Depoliticize Theology

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This chapter presents the project of liberating a concept of religion from social antagonism as the defining problematic of modern theology since the Enlightenment. It identifies two basic strategies by which Christian theology in the modern period has sought to dissociate religion from the political. The first of these, liberal universalism, has for the most part dominated the avant-garde of modern Christian thought, from the natural theology of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, up through the universalist fulfillment theologies of the nineteenth century, to the experiential pluralism of the twentieth. The second strategy, theological communitarianism, comes to the fore in the postliberal theology of George Lindbeck and his followers. The chapter shows that the various efforts to “depoliticize” theology and religion generally have not succeeded in this aim.

Keywords: modern theology; depoliticization; liberal universalism; pluralism; theological communitarianism; postliberalism; George Lindbeck

Chapter.  13203 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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