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Comparative Theology: Deep Learning Across Religious Borders

ISBN: 978-1-4051-7973-7
200 pages
March 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
Comparative Theology: Deep Learning Across Religious Borders (1405179732) cover image
Drawing upon the author’s three decades of work in comparative theology, this is a pertinent and comprehensive introduction to the field, which offers a clear guide to the reader, enabling them to engage in comparative study.

  • The author has three decades of experience of work in the field of comparative theology and is ideally placed to write this book
  • Today’s increasing religious diversity makes this a pertinent and timely publication
  • Unique in the depth of its introduction and explanation of the discipline of ‘comparative theology’
  • Provides examples of how comparative theology works in the new global context of human religiosity
  • Draws on examples specific to Hindu-Christian studies to show how it is possible to understand more deeply the wider diversity around us.
  • Clearly guides the reader, enabling them to engage in comparative study

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Preface and Acknowledgments xi

Part I Starting Points 1

1 Religious Diversity and Comparative Theology 3

Diversity around Us 4

Diversity within Us 6

Comparative Theology as a Response to Twenty-first-Century Religious Diversity 8

Distinguishing Comparative Theology from Related Disciplines 9

Comparative Theology and the Academic Study of Religions 12

Comparative Theology and Interreligious Dialogue 13

Comparative Theology and the Theology of Religions 14

Comparative Theology Autobiographically Grounded 16

On the Limits of This Book 19

Looking Ahead 22

2 In Generations Past: Some Ancestors to Today's Comparative Theology 24

Comparative Theology and the Long History

of Christian Interreligious Reflection 24

Western Jesuit Scholars in India 27

Comparative Theology as a Discipline (1699– ) 30

A Moderate Criticism of Missionary Scholarship and the Older Comparative Theology 35

At the End of the Era 37

3 Comparative Theology Today 41

David Tracy 42

Keith Ward 43

Robert C. Neville 45

A Note on Raimon Panikkar 47

James Fredericks 49

New Directions 50

From Theory (Back) to Practice 52

Part II Doing Theology Comparatively 55

4 From Theory to Practice 57

The Practice of (Comparative) Religious Reading 57

Intelligent Reading 59

Commentary as a Religious Practice 60

Interreligious Commentary 63

Leaving Room for Other Readers and Their Readings 66

Necessarily Elite Choices 67

5 Getting Particular: A Christian Studies Hinduism 69

The Importance of Focus 69

(Self)Identifying This Particular Comparative Theologian 70

Making a Map, Marking the Field: Hinduism in Brief 70

Getting Particular: Mimamsa, Vedanta, and Srivaisnavism 74

Appreciating Similarities 75

Theistic Hinduism as a Useful and Comfortable Focus 77

Theology as a Hindu Discipline 78

Comparative Theology in Hinduism and Other Traditions 80

My Comparative Theology, Indebted to Hindu Theologies 83

6 "Learning to See": Comparative Practice and the Widening of Theological Vision 87

Plenary Address at the Catholic Theology Society of America, 2003 88

Near a Goddess 88

Devi's Beauty, Devi's Pleasure 90

Rediscovering Mary 93

Mary and Her Son Jesus, through Muslim Eyes 96

Sojourner Truth's Liberating God 99

All in Christ, but Still All 103

Vocation 105

After "Learning to See" 106

Part III The Fruits of Comparison 109

7 Theology After Comparison 111

Comparative Theology and the Larger Work of Theology 111

The Multiple Responsibilities of the Comparative Theologian 113

Some Theological Presuppositions Implicit in Comparative Theology 114

Comparative Theological Learning, in Particular 117

The Imago Dei and Our Destiny in Bliss 118

What "Narayana" Might Mean for the Christian 121

Encountering Goddesses 123

Comparative Theology and the Intensification of Devotion 125

Theology on a Smaller Scale 127

8 "God for Us" 128

"God for Us": An Essay 128

A Verse, a Clue 129

What Hindus Thought about the Verse 130

Living the Verse 132

The Verse and Its Wider Context 133

An Aside on How to See God and on How God Wills to Be Seen 135

Noticing One's First Citizenship: Reflection on Ignatian Insight and My Home Citizenship 139

What Ignatius Had to Say 140

Some Contemporary Views of the Intensification and Emptying of the Imagination in the Spiritual Exercises 143

Multiple Religious Belonging, Human but Also Divine 146

"God for Us" as Comparative Theology 151

9 Comparative Writer, Comparative Reader 154

The Comparative Theologian Transformed 155

The Comparative Theologian as Marginal Person 157

The Comparative Theologian's New Community 160

Tasks and Opportunities for the Reader 162

Beyond This Book 164

Notes 166

Select Bibliography 172

Index 177

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Francis X. Clooney, S.J., is Parkman Professor of Divinity at Harvard University. His primary areas of scholarship are theological commentarial writings in the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions of Hindu India, and the developing field of comparative theology. He was the first president of the International Society for Hindu-Christian Studies, and, from 1998 to 2004, was coordinator for interreligious dialogue for the Jesuits of the United States. Professor Clooney is the author of numerous articles and books, including Hindu God, Christian God (2001), Divine Mother, Blessed Mother (2005), Jesuit Postmodern: Scholarship, Vocation, and Identity in the 21st Century (2006), Beyond Compare: St. Francis and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (2008), and The Truth, the Way, the Life: Christian Commentary on the Three Holy Mantras of the Srivaisnava Hindus (2008).
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  • A multi-faceted introduction to the theory, history, methodology and practice of comparative theology – the in-depth study of different religious traditions and the relationships between them – enabling the reader to engage in genuinely comparative study
  • Draws on the author’s three decades of experience in the field of comparative theology, making him ideally placed to write this book
  • Demonstrates that comparative theology can be initiated from within any religious tradition and even from a personally defined faith-perspective
  • Discusses the history of the field and the distinctive features of its current practice; differentiating comparative theology from subjects including comparative religion and the history of religions
  • Includes examples of comparative theology in practice, and debates the long-term effects of this on the religions involved and on the study of religions more broadly
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"This marvelous book should stand as an invitation to many. I very much hope that it is taken up.”  (Harvard
Theological Review
, 1 April 2012)

“In this context, Comparative Theology is a timely publication.”  (Teaching Theology, 2012)

"It's a fascinating book, all the same. I warmly recommend it ." (Theology, 1 March 2011)

"Comparative Theology will be of interest to people looking for a method for interfaith dialogue that affirms the value of one's theological commitments and could serve well as a textbook for courses exploring interfaith theological discourse." (Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 1 January 2011)

"But as this volume suggests, our interreligious milieu provides a new impetus not just for learning about our neighbors' faiths but learning from them. Francis X. Clooney, S.J., is a most trustworthy guide." (The National Catholic Weekly, September 2010)

"Clooney's book thus provides an extremely needful, as well as accessible, contribution to the furthering of this developing discipline, and as such it is a very valuable piece of scholarship." (American Theological Inquiry, July 2010)

“It succeeds in a magisterial way: the book provides the first history of the discipline, exposits the approaches of its major players, discusses issues of methodology, sets directions for the development of the discipline, and carefully notes its strengths and limitations … This book will be the standard introduction for comparative theologians. And it is a persuasive answer to anyone who thinks that comparison muddies confessional truth.”
–Robert Cummings Neville, Boston University

"This will be a definitive text which introduces and exemplifies the discipline of comparative theology, as an important part of theology and the study of religions. It's an original and scholarly book, and deserves to be widely read."
–Keith Ward, University of Oxford

"Francis Clooney has distilled in this book decades of his massive and painstaking scholarship on Christian and Hindu theologies. Lucidly written and highly accessible, Comparative Theology teaches us how to read sacred texts … so that we can see both similarities and differences between our religious tradition and others. Clooney invites us to join him in developing, each in our own fields of specialization, this emerging theological discipline, of which he richly deserves to be called ‘the Father’. Comparative Theology is destined to be a classic in its field."
Peter C. Phan, Georgetown Universit

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