Journal Article

The Return of Comparative Theology

Reid B. Locklin and Hugh Nicholson

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 78, issue 2, pages 477-514
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
The Return of Comparative Theology

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In this essay, we examine the emerging discipline of comparative theology as a valuable window into the problematic of the return of religion and theology after “religion.” The first section discusses recent historical critiques of comparative religion, focusing particularly on its emergence from a late nineteenth-century discourse that was also called “comparative theology.” This critique focuses attention on the unacknowledged normative commitments implicit in the category of “religion” as an object of scientific study. The second section presents the new comparative theology as one of several constructive responses to the dilemma, with this critical difference: whereas the recognition of normative commitment remains a methodological problem for most scholars in religious studies, it belongs to the very nature of the comparative theological project. Insofar as it encourages wider accountability and authentic vulnerability in its comparative practice, we argue, the new comparative theology represents both a way past the legacy of liberal universalism and a useful model for comparative enquiry in theology and religious studies alike.

Journal Article.  12531 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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