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Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry$
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Hugh Nicholson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199772865

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199772865.001.0001

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From Apologetics to Comparison

From Apologetics to Comparison

Toward a Dialectical Model of Comparative Theolog

(p.79) 3. From Apologetics to Comparison
Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry

Hugh Nicholson

Oxford University Press

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

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