Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry

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Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry


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This book concerns the problem of the ineluctability of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ relations in theological discourse. It argues that liberal theologies — from the Christian fulfillment theology of the nineteenth century to the pluralist theology of the twentieth — have sought to transcend this “political” dimension of religion only to see it reappear in the more subtle, though arguably more insidious form of unacknowledged exclusion or hegemonism. This phenomenon of the ineluctability of the political in theological discourse is perhaps most clearly manifest in the current standoff between inclusivists and pluralists in the “theology of religions” debate; each of these parties has successfully exposed the unacknowledged exclusions of the other while generally being unable to refine their own positions to satisfy the criticism of their adversary. The book proposes a model of comparative or interreligious theology that seeks a way around this impasse. Instead of vainly attempting to negate the agonistic dimension of religious identity, this theological model focuses its critical attention on the tendency of religious identities, once formed, to disavow their relational nature and ossify into essentialized, ideological formations. This shift in critical focus reflects the thesis that religious intolerance, understood as the refusal to respect religious difference, stems less from the first “political” moment of exclusion in which religious identities are initially constructed, as from a subsequent moment of naturalization in which, as the political theorist William Connolly puts it, “relations of difference are converted into modes of otherness.”



Publication Date



Oxford University Press


New York, USA


Śaṅkarācārya, Hinduism, Mysticism, Religion, Religion--philosophy


Christianity | Hindu Studies | Religion

Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry