From Apologetics to Comparison

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

From Apologetics to Comparison

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This chapter presents a model of Christian comparative theology which is informed by recent works in political theory that question the classical liberal project of “de-politicization” while yet preserving the ideal of pluralism by challenging essentialized constructions of self and other. Taking as its point of departure Kathryn Tanner's theory of Christian identity as internally constituted by its relations with other cultural forms, the proposed model acknowledges the essential role of apologetics in the formation of religious identity while at the same time using comparison to check its tendencies towards intolerance and arrogance. Concerning the first, apologetic moment in this model, this chapter argues that oppositional contrast is the primary means through which religious doctrine forges and sustains a sense of distinctive identity. Concerning the second, comparative moment, it argues that interreligious comparison, understood in terms of the metaphorical process, can be used effectively to circumvent the formation of essentialized contrasts between religious communities.

Keywords: Kathryn Tanner; pluralism; religious identity; apologetics; comparative theology

Chapter.  11698 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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