Learning from religious others: the problems and prospects of interreligious hermeneutics

Lambkin, Magdalen (2014) Learning from religious others: the problems and prospects of interreligious hermeneutics. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3091105


In our interconnected, multi-religious world, how should religious people engage with religious others? What and how can theologians learn from religious others, from their traditions and their scriptures? Amongst those who engage in theological reasoning about these issues, two distinct approaches have been identified. The established discipline of theology of religions considers it necessary to examine the sources of one’s own tradition to come to some broad assessment about the value of religious diversity – usually identified through some version of the classic typology of inclusivism, exclusivism and pluralism (Alan Race). Others have criticised theology of religions, seeing it as prescriptive, biased towards pluralism, distorting of religious difference, and as making definitive judgments as to the presence of truth and possibility of salvation through other religions (e.g. Francis Clooney, George Lindbeck and Michael Barnes). These critics, working within the emerging field of interreligious hermeneutics, prefer direct engagement with other traditions in their particularities, learning from the religious other, yet often without reflecting on internal sources or arguing theologically for the possibility of finding truth in other religions.

This thesis seeks to make a contribution to this discourse about method in the theological engagement to the religious other. It argues that the work of theology of religions is necessary to support theological learning from the religious other, particularly given that the scriptures of major religions (notably the New Testament, Qur’an and Pali Canon) are generally perceived to discourage this kind of activity. It also responds to criticisms, and works to make theology of religions more attuned to the insights of interreligious hermeneutics, so that it can be seen as capable of attending to the complexity and uncertainty that is inevitable in any realistic attempt to relate religious traditions to one another.

Chapters 1 and 2 survey the development of theology of religions and of the alternative approaches found in the emerging field of interreligious hermeneutics. These are examined and as a result an adapted typology is presented which may be related fruitfully to interreligious hermeneutics. Chapters 3 and 4 explore interreligious hermeneutics further through two of its most prominent practices, scriptural reasoning and comparative theology, as carried out by some of its most notable practitioners. The extent to which these practices can be regarded as theologically ‘truth-seeking’ is analysed, and the usefulness of the adapted typology in reviewing the findings of these practices is assessed. Chapter 5 offers a detailed example of the kind of approach to the religious other present in a particular religious scripture, by focusing on the Buddha’s approach to the Brahmins as recorded in the Pali canon. This is done in order to demonstrate that the ‘plain sense’ of scriptures often does not support the approach to religious others advocated by scholars of interreligious hermeneutics. Finally, Chapter 6 outlines ‘soft pluralism’ as a particular approach within theology of religions which can support interreligious hermeneutics of the deepest, most adventurous ‘truth-seeking’ kind, without succumbing to the problems associated with pluralism in its classic (hard) form. This position can be supported by the work of a growing number of scholars (including Catherine Cornille, Rose Drew and Marianne Moyaert) who, far from seeking to eschew or downplay deep differences between traditions, believe that it is precisely at these points of tension or impasse, where traditions are offering insights that cannot be simply reconciled to one another, that we stand to learn the most from the religious other.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: theology of religions, interreligious hermeneutics
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BQ Buddhism
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Clague, Ms. Julie
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Magdalen Lambkin
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5732
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2014 13:16
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2014 08:38
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/5732

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