Saturday 24 March 2012

Holy Trinity or Asma' Husna'? The Prospects of Comparative Theology

Francis X. Clooney
Klaus von Stosch is a German pioneer of Comparative Theology (CT), associated with the Centre for Comparative Theology and Cultural Studies (ZeKK) at the University of Paderborn. This approach to the study of religion, is not yet very well established in Germany.  Comparative theology was first introduced by the renowned theologian and Indologist Francis X. Clooney.

In close cooperation with Muslim theologians, von Stosch focuses primarily on the Christian-Islamic nexus. In the fall of 2011, he delivered guest lectures in Christian theology to Shiite students in the Iranian city of Qom. Early this year, he was a guest at the Benedictine Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, together with the Islamic religious educationalist Mouhanad Khorchide from the German city of Münster (see also the blog post of 26 November 2011). This month, the Paderborn centre, in cooperation with the Centre for Islamic Theology in Münster and the Mercator Foundation, will convene a week-long workshop discussing eschatalogical concepts in Islam and Christianity, including perceptions of violence in the Bible and Koran.

German comparative theologian Klaus von Stosch (r.) with
Mohammad Taghi Ansaripour of the University of Religions in Qom (Iran).

Von Stosch has just released Comparative Theology as a Guide to the World of Religions. Essay on Comparative Theology (in German).The purpose of CT is not just to introduce yet another subject in the existing disciplinary curriculum, but rather to define a new universal task for all theological disciplines. 'Only then can Christian theology undergo a complete reorientation', he says. 'It is an approach that emanates from the self, but tries to integrate the view of the self held by others into one's own theology'. Through a methodical and meticulous comparison of individual subjects, it intends to detect inter-religious affinities. To cite one example:

CT takes a more open view of the spiritual world of others. As a Muslim female employee in Stosch's department carried out research into liberation-theology traditions in Christianity and Islam, she encountered something that could represent an Islamic analogy to the Christian Trinity concept: the 99 names of God as mentioned in the Koran and in Islamic tradition. These names are often set out as contrasts, for example "the First" and "the Last", "the Manifest" and "the Hidden". Stosch views this as a "functional equivalent in Islam, a way for Muslims to perceive diversity in unity." But, he emphasises: "That doesn't mean there has to be an argument over who is right.
Comparative Theology aims to establish shared outlooks like these – without making any attempt to reduce them to some common denominator. The aim is to developed 'concrete understanding above and beyond religious boundaries'. 

ZeKK also provides the opportunity for Catholic and Protestant trainee teachers, philosophy students and soon, prospective Muslim religious education teachers to attend seminars in comparative theology. Muslim and Christian theologians serve as lecturers. As part of this approach, "team teaching" by tutors of various religions is the method of choice, because it promotes and conveys an authentic, dialogic religious interaction. In one post-graduate colloquium, Christians, philosophers, and local and Iranian Shiite Muslims discussed the philosophy of Nietzsche. In addition the Centre is also a involved in the nationwide Graduate College for Isamic theology, an initiative that trains academic staff for the newly envisaged Islamic theological institutes in German (see blog post of 26 November 2011).
To read the entire article, click here.


Affan said...
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Affan said...

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