This essay compares a Christian text, the account of the anointing of Jesus by the unnamed woman at Bethany in Mark’s Gospel, with a Buddhist text, the Bodhicaryāvatāra by Śāntideva. More precisely, the essay argues that reading Mark’s Gospel with a hermeneutic attentive to bodhisattva practice, as construed by Śāntideva in the Bodhicaryāvatāra, will allow Christians to see more of the paradox of Easter faith as Mark constructs it with his Gospel’s narrative. Specifically, this Buddhist reading of Mark allows us to connect the anointing at Bethany with Peter’s ambiguous recognition of Jesus as the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi and Mark’s view of the relation between the Davidic Messiah and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.
Many theologians, not unlike historians and qur’anic scholars, assume that the Qur’an has a supersessionist attitude towards Judaism and Christianity. It seems, however, that this supersessionist framework is not derived from the Qur’an but is presupposed by the scholars. In this chapter, I try to challenge this presupposition through a preliminary investigation of the concept of the covenant, and the figure of Abraham in the Qur’an. If my observations are correct, it will be difficult for an Islamic theology that claims to be based on the Qur’an, to maintain a supersessionist framework in understanding earlier Abrahamic traditions. This will have important consequences for the definition, limits, and possibilities of Islamic comparative theology.
Comparative theology is a growing field within Christian theology and there are analogues to it in other theological traditions as well. As such, it is indebted to multiple sources and belongs to none exclusively. But in its currently form it is notably and richly rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition which, despite its limitations, has always balanced being-Catholic with a wider catholicity, ever finding a home for the faith in new languages and cultures. Catholic engagement with other religions proceeds with confidence in rationality, in adherence to the principle of the presence of God in all things, and by way of a sacramental imagination and skill in intuitive rapprochement, even when engaging traditions which, at first glance, are very different from the Catholic. This grounded catholicity serves as roots for comparative theology, not just at the beginnings of Catholic interreligious encounters, but as a key dimension of its current interreligious engagements. The great innovators of the missionary era after 1500 CE are famed for their energetic engagement with cultures across the world, an engagement that manifested Catholic adaptive practices operative since the beginnings of Christianity. In the twentieth century and particularly after Vatican II, Catholic engagement with other religions has been marked even more vigorously by a disposition toward inclusion, the affirmation of whatever is good and holy in other traditions, attention to the particular and, despite prudent doctrinal hesitations, a willingness to experiment and discover incrementally the meeting points among traditions. Such dispositions, old and now new, form a particular and distinctive lineage for today’s comparative theology.
This chapter explores pilgrimage as both a guiding model for the work of comparative theology itself as well as a subject of comparative study. While comparative theology has traditionally studied texts exclusively, pilgrimage as a subject of comparative theology opened up the methodological options for comparative theology organically, as I became a scholar and practitioner of pilgrimage myself in conversation with other pilgrims. Ethnographic sources, as well as written sources, thus inform the case studies of pilgrimage discussed in this chapter. I argue that expanding the methodological options beyond ancient texts often written by men of dominant cultures, can help create theology with “legs,” a theology informed by many voices journeying together.
This chapter demonstrates the resonances between the disciplines of comparative theology and interreligious studies at the nexus of the study of religion and confessional, critical theology. It focuses on comparative theology qua instance of interreligious studies. Critical insights from interreligious studies are then constructively applied to comparative theology. Interreligious studies will be presented as a discipline that does explicitly what the study of religion has performed implicitly: study the relational dynamic not only among religious traditions, but also among cultural and social discourses. Comparative theology will then be presented as a discipline that recognizes and explicitly reproduces the relational dynamic in the development of theological discourses. Learning from critical interreligious studies and this relational dynamic, the chapter argues that comparative theology should not only embrace this relational dynamic, but transgress its historically totalizing and hegemonic project. This subversion should not be for its own sake, but for the sake of constructing a liberating praxis that unmasks restrictive ideologies and prescribes action in solidarity with the multiply oppressed. Learning from interreligious studies, comparative theology should add to its interreligious venture an intersectional praxis that gives unequivocal preference to those marginalized and made vulnerable by what Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza terms kyriarchy and feminist and critical race theorists Kimberlé Crenshaw and Patricia Hill Collins term intersectionality and the matrix of domination.
Sacred scribing is a devotional act – a discipline of ambassadorship for the text. Regarding the Christian icon-writing tradition characteristic of (but not limited to) the Orthodox branch, an almost identical claim can be made. Sacred calligraphy and sacred iconography alike are both informed by and have the capacity to convey theology. This chapter offers some thoughts on the interrelation between these media and its implications for comparative theology. In doing so, it follows James Wm. McClendon Jr. in defining theology in a manner that meshes well with notions of narrative theology and with comparative theology as defined by Francis X. Clooney. While the calligraphic and iconographic traditions of several religions are engaged, most attention is given to Islamic calligraphy in functional comparison to Christian iconography. This essay also considers the provision of a compelling construction zone for comparative theology through a calligraphy exhibition that involved production, not simply of works representative of each scribe’s religious tradition, but also interreligious works created collaboratively. Suggestions for further comparative theological exploration of calligraphy and iconography are provided.
The nomenclature of comparative theology has a checkered history and continues to cause some confusion as different comparative theologians use the term to apply to various approaches to the field. This article seeks to distinguish these various approaches based on their starting points, goals, and intended audience. While comparative theology is grounded in the comparative study of religion, using many of its methodological principles and safeguards, its ultimate goal is not merely a deeper understanding of religion or particular religious phenomena, but the pursuit of theological truth. Based on how this truth is discerned, and for what purpose, it distinguishes confessional, post-colonial, metaconfessional and interreligious approaches, attentive to the fact that these approaches at times intersect.
During the past three decades, Taiwan has experienced a thriving political and scientific development and transformed herself radically into a modern democratic state open to the world. Yet, Taiwan is far from being a secular state. Taiwan is typical of a developing society imbued with multiple religions – a religious backbone portraying the unique cultural character of Taiwanese society today. Among the diverse religious activities, the ancestral rite or the rite of offering sacrifices to ancestors (ji zu, 祭祖) best describes the common socio-religio activity in Taiwan. For the Taiwanese people, offering sacrifices to ancestors through ritual expression is culturally indicative because it articulates one of the highest moral values in Taiwan, filial piety (xiao, 孝). As such, the rite is the bedrock of socio-religio practice in Taiwan, underlining the religious and cultural sentiments of the Taiwanese people. The protestant Christians in Taiwan, however, generally refuse to observe the rite while believing that the rite is religiously syncretic by nature. This raises a question of theological judgment, questioning this Christian judgment if it is religiously and culturally adequate. To address this question, this paper first identifies the Chinese Rites Controversy as the historical consciousness of the ritual engagement inherent in the society of Taiwan today. Second, this paper argues that the idea of ritual is a theological category proper for interreligious dialogue in a comparative context to examine the nature of ancestral rite in its Confucian context on the one hand and to portray its religious connotations concerned with Protestant Christian theology on the other. Finally, this paper concludes with an argument that comparative theology is relatively adequate in Taiwan as a Christian contextual theology interpreted and reconstructed with theological concerns over the ritual questions inherent in the society of Taiwan. I hope that this paper properly addresses the ritual issue from a multiple-religious contextual perspective, which in turn paves a way to pursue a relatively adequate Christian theology in Taiwan.