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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.

In: A Companion to Comparative Theology
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Characteristic of the recent cognitive approach to religion (CSR) is the thesis that religious discourse and practice are rooted in an inveterate human propensity to explain events in terms of agent causality. This thesis readily lends itself to the critical understanding of religious belief as “our intuitive psychology run amok.” This effective restriction of the scientific critique of agent causality to notions of supernatural agency appears arbitrary, however, in light of evidence from cognitive and social psychology that our sense of human agency, including our own, is interpretive in nature. In this paper I argue that a cognitive approach to religion that extends the critique of agent causality to the folk psychological experience of conscious will is able to shed light on several characteristically religious phenomena, such as spirit possession, ritual action, and spontaneous action in Zen Buddhism.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion