Chapter 3 The Development of Comparative Theology in the Twentieth Century

In: A Companion to Comparative Theology
Hugh Nicholson
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This article traces the developments in theology and the comparative study of religion in the twentieth century that led up to the establishment of the discipline of Comparative Theology in the 1980’s and 1990’s. A decisive moment in this history was the ascendancy of the Neo-orthodox movement in theology early in the twentieth century. By asserting a disjunction between revelation and history, Neo-orthodoxy shattered the synthesis of the comparative science of religion and Christian universalism in the “comparative theology” of the previous century. The gulf separating the two discourses forming the context of the new Comparative Theology – namely, the a priori discourse of the theology of religions and the non-theological study of religion – reflects the continuing influence of the Neo-orthodox movement. The article argues that the mid-century discourse of the Phenomenology of Religion represents a precursor to the new Comparative Theology inasmuch as it also sought to bridge the gap between the apriorism of dogmatic theology, on the one side, and the etic, non-theological study of religion, on the other.

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