Religio-theo-dialogical Approach


Rev. Dr. Selvam Robertson
Religio-theo-dialogical Approach
Introduction
The hyphenated title of the paper implicitly suggest that the gap between different disciplines, particularly religion and theology can be filled in or at least reduced to minimum if researches can be pursued keeping in mind the necessity of dialogical existence. The multidisciplinary setting of our seminar, without ignoring our own disciplines, obviously calls for researches leading to this end. I am also compelled to think that the realms of spirited research are still very vast and inspiring. As a student of religion, I have started this exercise beginning from the openness created by science of religion. Sufficient amount of concentration is dedicated to the possibilities of explaining the interconnectedness between religion and theology with specific focus to inspire or provoke serious research. Final discussion revolves around dialogical approach.

I  Historical Overview
Reformation brought in space for critical biblical and theological considerations. Enlightenment of the 18th century, with its stress on reason and tolerance, led to an initial openness toward other religious traditions than the Western one’.  Romanticism (feeling and nature) in the beginning of the19th century raised questions about the origin and the psychological nature of religion. It led to an openness to the dimension of religious experience and to the reality of experience in general. There was a sense for deeper meanings than the rational ones and nostalgia toward times in which human existence would have had access to its sources in a deeper and more immediate way.
            With a fascination for the past, there emerged openness to the idea of a common history of humankind, including its religions. There was also openness towards the plurality of cultures and religions. While some considered plurality as a problem, many others as enrichment. These led to understand the role of religion in the political, social, and economic life of society.
 Added to this were the technological, social and political transformations of the 19th century Europe that led in the first place, to ‘intense spiritual searches’ about the nature and destiny of the universe and the human race. There was in some quarters a feeling that Oriental religions had something to say about the nature and destiny of man’[sic]. Thus ‘scholarly activity developed to study the distinctive features and facts of foreign cultures and religions’.[1]
There were ‘private initiatives’ in this direction. Besides, ‘amateur or volunteer researchers’ worked on materials from foreign or ancient religions.  They did not engage in research but read religious texts in translation and followed up what travelers and literary men[sic], missionaries and preachers, explorers and scholar had to tell about religions other than Christianity’. There was a ‘longing for the sake of truth and to correct or unmask current wrong opinions and prejudices’.[2]
            The ‘idealists’, among the scholars, ‘had a fundamentally positive appreciation of religion and they held certain ideas about its historical development and its crucial role in society and culture’. There were other scholars who were suspicious of religion as a phenomenon and denied the claims to truth. They were keen to discover the “real” factors operative behind religious behavior and representations such as impersonal social, political or psychological forces, or the willful manipulation of religions by self-interested political and religious factions and their leaders’.       The third group of scholars avoided constructs and did not want to say more than what the results of empirical factual research allowed them to say. In the humanities they kept to strict philology, textual research and history, in the social sciences to sociological and anthropological description. Instead of spiritualizing or demonizing religion, they restricted themselves to working on verifiable facts and checking hypotheses.[3]
Besides ‘it was the discovery and decipherment of ancient texts that opened a field of research on as yet largely unknown religions’. Thus the founding fathers of the scientific study of religions, concentrated on Mythology and folklore (lower mythology) with the support of philology, and comparative and historical methods. Unlike others the founding fathers, ‘boldly rook religion as their focus of research’.[4] Later the study took support from many other disciplines.      
The methods/approaches that followed “more rigorous empirical forms of description’ with ‘objectivity perhaps as an ‘explicit aim’ were called hard approaches. They ‘did not accept ‘integral science of religion’.[5] This includes behavioral sciences 
– sociology, anthropology, psychology. Philosophy, because of its analytical nature, falls in this category. However there is a great deal of convergence and interdependence among these sciences. The social structuring, cultural forms and mental processes became significant factors in deciphering the hidden dynamics of religious life.[6] Of course, most of these methods were influenced by the idea of evolution.
 Approaches that looked for a systematic ‘science of religion’ and gave a more significant role to the ‘subjectivity of the participants’[7] fall under soft method- . Phenomenological, comparative and dialogical.

II   Consensus for Various Approaches
A ‘general consensus’, among the scholars of religions was that religious phenomena are diverse and wide-ranging that ‘no single approach is competent to deal exhaustively with everything that constitutes religion without recourse at all to other disciplines or to other forms of approach’.  Similarly, religious phenomena ‘typically manifest in conjunction with and as part of the historical and human cultural process, in socially institutionalized contexts, or along with psychologically identifiable mental states and patterns of human behavior. This makes it inevitable and only proper that the dynamics of religion should be investigated from the perspective of the disciplines appropriate to these dimensions of human existence.[8]

III   Outcomes
For the first time ‘religion’ was considered as a subject of empirical inquiry and ‘a human reality’ that can be investigated. What was held so far as ‘irrational’ was now opened to rational research. It shows human’s very capacity to objectify her/his involvements, social and psychological as well as religious’. This objectifying process may start with the category of ‘the others’. Further, no intelligent person could study other people, their culture and religion, without establishing at the same time a ‘distance’ also to himself, his past, his surroundings, and his involvements up to now.[9]
            Against the ‘supernatural origin or essence of religion an appeal was made to reason and experience as sole criteria of truth’. Religious phenomena were ‘seen as natural expressions of human, of which an inventory and further examination would be possible’. The historical and literary critical study of the Bible, the relationship between the Bible and its environment, the historical reality of the sacred history, all amounted to a radical reinterpretation of traditional religion, with ‘historical truth’ as a new criterion’.
Right across different disciplines / methods some attempted ‘explaining’, the verifiable relationships among religious phenomena. Others strived to ‘understanding’, aimed at the meaning of the phenomena studied. Yet others moved in the direction of ‘interpretation’, paving methodological space for philosophy and theological inspiration.[10]
Today there is need to develop techniques, methods, questions, and perspectives that are applicable to oral cultures and to the study of all religious cultures. Frank Whaling argues that ‘the position of theology is a pivotal one within any discussion of the study and teaching of religion’. He further claims that both religious studies and theology are complementary’[11]
            However, the Critics hold, ‘What has thrived is ‘the religious study of religion’; it means the scholar studies her or his own religion or a religion other than his or her own primarily for the purpose or purposes stipulated by the religion studied rather than the purpose or purposes stipulated by the academy.[12] Thus the study ‘abandons its own distinctiveness’. To put the matter in a different way, today “the academic study of religion, rather than arising as a field in its own right, has taken inspired and productive paths.”[13]

IV   Differences between Religion and Theology
Religious studies cover, in principle, all the religious traditions of the world. As being inherently multi-religious, it uses different approaches and methods. Again it places equal emphasis upon elements in religion, such as social practice, ritual, aesthetics, spirituality, myth, symbol, ethics and so on. It has no particular predilection for doctrines or concepts. The scope is generally wider, more comprehensive, and less focused than theology. But ‘the focus is more on the believer and his or her experience or faith rather than on any object of faith’.[14]
It is part of the task of religious studies to be aware of, and to understand, the separate theologies of the separate religions. The scholar of religion ‘will attempt to understand rather than to adopt the confessional stance of the particular tradition concerned’.  An important part of the work of religious studies is ‘the search for words and terms to conceptualize transcendence in a general rather than in a particular sense’. [15]
             ‘Theology is essentially a constructive activity, not a descriptive or expository one’. [16]  It is also an ‘intellectual activity’ with its focus on the concept of “God”.[17] Theology as a ‘human work’ is founded upon and interprets human historical events and experiences. It utilizes humanly created and shaped terms and concepts. Our theological work has to be understood, therefore, entirely in terms of what we can do on the basis of what is available to us.[18]
Theology as ‘faith-articulation’ is grounded and committed to a particular sacred tradition ‘with its rituals, symbols, myths, scriptures, spiritual discipline, community life and of course its doctrines. Thus ‘the primary task of any theology is the communication of meaning to those within the tradition’.[19]  In that sense, “Christian theology would no longer be the totality of theology but one genus among many others.”[20]
Frank Whaling writes “the notion of theology in other religious traditions has also tended to emphasize the conceptual element in religion as being more central than matters to do with practice, spirituality or behavior.”[21] Therefore, Wilfred Cantwell Smith appeals that ‘our conceptualizing, and understanding of each other’s concepts, be anchored in history, even for history-transcending and self-transcending concepts such as ‘God’. For, the understanding that we seek (theology) ‘is not simply of the history of religion, but of that to which the history of religion has at its best been a response’.[22]
Theology ‘was not the prerogative of a particular community, it was part of a general education’.[23] In fact, “other cultures have developed in different ways, and the traditions of intellectual reflection have likewise moved down quite different paths.”[24] We cannot stop with these differences. We need to move forward with honestly acknowledging the differences and searching for ways of integrating both.

V  Relationship between Theology and Religious Studies
Although the boundaries and interests of theology and religious studies are separate, ‘the two enterprises intertwine’.[25] Their interrelations, even though complex, do need to be reconsidered.[26] This will fill the gap between the ‘oppositional binaries of "religion"- "dogmatic" versus "comparative," "normative" versus "descriptive," and of course "theological" versus "scientific".[27]
Gordon D. Kaufman notes that ‘theologians should pay close attention to the critical study of religion’. It should be of importance and aid to the theologian’ and this ‘may have profound effects on the way she does theology as well as on her theological conclusions’.[28]
Theology should welcome the contribution of religious studies as necessary to its own self-understanding and to the effectiveness of its self-communication. Theology cannot function reflectively and contextually in an isolated state of independence from other religious traditions and ignorant of the findings of religious studies. In the words of Eric J. Lott “theology, then, is dependent upon religious studies for greater understanding of other traditions, understanding of the manifold dimensions of their life.”[29]
            If a theologian of a tradition seeks to respond appropriately to other faiths, she needs to acquire at least a sufficiently authentic understanding of those traditions to ensure genuine reflective interaction between the visionary centre of the one and the visionary centre of others as expressed in their varied phenomena.[30]
            There has been a deliberate modifying of the theological task from within a theological tradition, but ‘there has in general not been the same attempt to correlate theology with the scientific or systematic study of other religious traditions. The caution is that there is a need to recognize ‘the extent to which there must also be convergence if each is to function in ways most appropriate to its own interest’.[31]

VI   Theological approach
Eric J. Lott writes “any kind of normative as against the purely descriptive approach intended by some sciences of religion is sometimes called a ‘theological’ approach.”[32] It is also perceived that theological approach may have to begin with the fact of the experience of the Transcendent.[33]
As there are ‘a number of theological differences within religious traditions’, the study of religion should show interest ‘in exploring the theologies of different religions in order to understand their core concepts, the different types of theology within each tradition, and the different theological view points within each tradition.[34]
If we are to understand a religious tradition, or a number of religions, then ‘the ways in which people of that tradition have expressed their understanding of the meaning of their religion is essential’.[35] Further ‘a scientific study of religion needs to give due prominence to the inclusive vision of the tradition’s meaning-articulators’. Then “clearly there are many different kinds of interaction possible between Theology and Religions.”[36]
Part of the theological approach to the study of religion is to make available to scholars a clear accurate account of the conceptual frameworks of different traditions, bearing in mind that the role and purpose of concepts and of theology differs from tradition to tradition.[37]
Now we shall explore, a few among the many, the ever available dynamic possibilities of expanding the horizons of research in relation to religion from other branches of study, specifically from theology and biblical studies.

1   Reality/Transcendence
In every religious tradition, there is a ‘Sacred Focus’ that provides the integrating centre to all other dimensions of religious life. Without this basic element there could not be a living religion.[38] It can be called as ‘transcendent Focus, to which all religious activity, ultimately, is oriented, whether seen as personal or impersonal. For example “it is amazing that within the same general tradition, Vedanta …there are different perceptions of the one Transcendent that are so strikingly different.”[39]
The other paradox is that the more objective we try to be in our assessment of reality the more subjective we become, for we try to be critical and in doing so we impose our criteria, out categories, on reality instead of simply and unquestioningly accepting reality as it is.[40] Therefore, there is always enormous scope for constantly attempting to explore newer and relevant understanding of the transcendent focus.

2   God
The other concept that has huge potential for continuing research from different discipline is God. Theology (theos-logos) is “words” or “speech” about God – “God-talk”. All the other terms of the theological vocabulary in one way or another qualify, explain or interpret what is meant by “God,” or indicate ways in which God is related to or involved in human experience and the human world.
‘The concept of God too ‘is shaped and affected by many considerations and must be qualified, defined and redefined in very careful and complex ways if it is to be properly constructed’. It is the most complex and difficult of all concepts, in some ways dependent on and conditioned by all others. God cannot be dealt with independently or in isolation from the rest of the theological vocabulary. It gains its meaning precisely through its connections with other terms and ultimately thus with the whole of human experience.
             Actual human speech about God, is rather talk about life and the world, about our deepest problems, about catastrophe and triumph, about human misery and human glory. It is the ‘ultimate point of orientation to which all else must be referred’.[41] As the concept of God is in a way idealization of the human, has made it possible for humanity to stretch and grow in new directions.[42]
The past makes manifest that God participates in human life, in its grandeur and its dismay. Yet He is available to us not in the past, but today. In order to know Him and His dealings with humankind, our knowledge of Him cannot be that history’s knowing, or even way of knowing, but must be our own.[43] This challenge throws open, never ending possibilities of research and relevant reconstruction, though critical.

3   God’s Revelation
The construct, ‘revelation of God’, has been created and developed in and through human processes of reflection on life and interpretation of experience. ‘Some persons at certain times and places found it useful and meaningful and perhaps even necessary to speak of “God’s revelation,” in order to make sense of the life and history which they were undergoing’. These terms and concepts were developed and employed within the human sphere and thus ‘we have them available now for our use’.
The question is about how and why such concepts were created and shaped in the first place, and how they can be sustained and reconstructed now’.[44] Revelation is presented in the experiences of certain persons.  The appeal to revelation itself ‘is in effect an appeal to certain experiences’. Ninian Smart forcefully says “if religious experience is our ground of faith, then let us not be so narrow as to consider only the experiences of our tradition.”[45] It is for the new researchers to make God’s revelation unique to each tradition and at the same time do not ignore other revelations, and their contributions to our enrichment.

4   Religious experience
The foundations of theological language are to be found in “religious experience’.  To understand theological language, then, we must locate and describe that particular domain of human experience. ‘There is no such thing as a raw pre-linguistic experience of “transcendence,”.  Each “experiences” is shaped, delimited and informed by the linguistic symbols which also name it. Without those symbols, these “experiences” would not be available to us at all’.[46] There was always Experience-reflection-communication. We interpret our experience. We clothe our intuitions in the vestments of one tradition, sometime quite unconsciously.[47] We may be ‘committed’, to our tradition, but we should be as understanding as possible regarding other faiths, and not make commitment an excuse for prejudice’.[48]
Given different linguistic traditions and histories, reflection on experience and life in other cultures, which have been shaped by other linguistic developments and traditions, use different categories and focuses on different emphases and values. And experience itself in those other culture, ‘is of a quite different sort, with different qualities, values, emphases, meanings’.
Gordon D. Kaufman is of the view that ‘the raw pre-conceptual and pre-linguistic ground of religious experience is simply not available to us for direct exploration, description or interpretation’,[49]  Religious studies have got the responsibility of continuously providing data to attempt relevant constructs that will make different department of studies more accommodative to new ways of understanding religious experience.

5   Culture- Tradition- Language
Kaufman argues ‘to suppose that theology is essentially a work of the church and that therefore the theologian can or must accept without question the “faith” of the church’ is simple-minded view’. Because, the church’s life is imbedded within the society and culture in which it is found. The entire vocabulary of the church consists of ordinary words from the everyday language of people. Their meaning is tied to the life of the culture as a whole and can be grasped only in connection with that broad cultural base and experience.[50]
In reality Religious tradition and language provide the actual foundations of theology. ‘All special and technical meanings are variations or developments of the ordinary language building upon it, refining it, transforming it’. It is not restricted either to the language and tradition of a particular community or to the peculiar experience of unusual individuals. Having studied myths, Max Muller said ‘that the names of the divinities basically are due to a ‘disease of language’ which substitutes numina for nomina, i.e. inflating ordinary names to religious powers or poetic to religious language.[51]
In this setting it is interesting to note that “theology has come to realize that it is not hermetically sealed and that it is itself rendered intelligible by the cultural narratives in which it is embedded. Religious studies, meanwhile, has come to realize that the ideal of the neutral observer is illusory and that the discipline is itself underpinned by certain presuppositions that are themselves more theological than was previously thought.”[52]
It is incumbent upon the science of religion to be always cautious about the complexity of the web of issues related to explaining the religious phenomena buried in uncritically accepted concepts. Closely distilled, not purely as it is not possible, research findings can lead towards more accommodative and dialogical consideration from different branches of study.

6   Faith to Belief
Harvey Cox distinguishes between faith and belief and writes ‘faith is about deep-seated confidence’ and belief on the other hand, is more like opinion. Beliefs are more propositional than existential. ‘We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live’. He goes on to argue that ‘Creeds are clusters of beliefs’. But the history of Christianity is not a history of creeds. It is the story of a people of faith who sometimes cobbled together creeds out of beliefs. It is also the history of equally faithful people who questioned, altered, and discarded those same creeds. In order to stress the need for faith he demarcates three different periods in the history of Christianity.
He calls the first period of Christianity as “Age[53] of Faith” which began with Jesus and his immediate disciples.  It was the time of ‘explosive growth and brutal persecution’, and sharing in the living Spirit of Christ with each other. Faith meant hope and assurance in the dawning of a new era of freedom, healing, and compassion that Jesus had demonstrated. To be a Christian meant to live in his Spirit, embrace his hope, and to follow him in the work that he had begun.
The second period is “Age of Belief.” Its seeds appeared within a few decades of the birth of Christianity when church leaders began formulating orientation programs for new recruits who had not known Jesus or his disciples personally. Emphasis on belief began to grow, replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about him.
In the third period, from the third century, ecclesial specialists distilled the various teaching manuals into lists of beliefs.  These varied widely from place to place and as the fourth century began there was still no single creed. A wide range of different theologies thrived. At the time of Emperor Constantine he and not the pope was the real head of the church.  An energetic movement of faith became a body of required beliefs. It was the beginning ‘for every succeeding Christian fundamentalism for centuries to come’. ‘Heresy became treason, and treason became heresy’.[54]
The task of all our research work is to ensure the priority of faith to the beliefs. In other words our calling for research is to initiate a gentle movement from belief to faith.

7   Faith a Universal Category
            Wilfred Cantwell Smith writes religious person everywhere, has had his or her relationship to God formed primarily by a participation in the on-going historical movement of one or another of the world’s religious communities. This relationship is called ‘faith’.[55]  To understand it better one may consider calling ‘faith in its Christian form’ rather than ‘Christian faith’.[56]
            Any person’s faith is what it is; in interaction with the particular religious context in which that person actually lives. The context during any given century is different from that during any other. It is same with the religious contexts. However, in the words of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, “it is an observable fact that what happens in the historical process of one religious tradition can be in significant part a function of what happens in the historical process of another.”[57]
For Smith ‘faith and transcendence are universal theological categories’.[58] According to Harvey Cox faith starts with awe/mystery. Faith is not the mystery but the response to it. And this response ‘comes in an infinite variety of forms’.[59] All religions and cultures are responses to the same fundamental mystery, but each perceive and respond in its own way. Cox writes “the various world religions constitute complex codifications of these responses, and they differ from each other in significant respects. This is what makes the study of comparative religion so absorbing. If all religions really were essentially the same, it would soon become unbearably boring.”[60]
Frank Whaling argues that, in the process of searching for global categories like “global theology of religion”, ‘particular theologies will not disappear’ because ‘theology is not solely concerned with doctrines but also with conceptual formulation of other matters, such as ethics’.[61] That is why Wilfred Cantwell Smith writes “the task of theology is to make rationally intelligible the meaning of human life in faith, and of the world in which that faith is lived.”[62]
            Faith, in all cultures, is a link between the mundane and the transcendent. Faith creates the interaction between these two poles of human existence. Therefore faith is a universal characteristic of humanity and the fundamental quality of the religious life.  Therefore, ‘this term ‘faith’ can supersede ‘religion’ as the focal category for religious study’.[63] Researching for such categories is essential where plurality is challenged by singularity of ideology/religion.

8   Age of the Spirit
Harvey Cox argues that, we are now in the “Age of the Spirit.” Many prefer “Spirit” as their preferred way of speaking of the divine. People who want to distance themselves from the institutional or doctrinal demarcations of conventional religion now refer to themselves as “spiritual” rather than “Religious”. [64]
Further, religions are becoming less regional, and less hierarchical.  Lay leadership and initiative flourish in all of them. In addition many are becoming less dogmatic and more practical. Religious people today are more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrines. They are also becoming less patriarchal.
            Countries where the clerical leadership clings to the older model, the churches are empty but where creeds and hierarchies have been set aside to make way of the Spirit, one senses life and energy.[65] He thus concludes that “all the signs suggest we are poised to enter a new Age of the Spirit and that the future will be a future of faith.”[66]
            His prophetic commitment provides ample directions to ever changing dynamics of research orientation, taking into account the signs of the time.

9   Unity of Humankind’s Religious History
Wilfred Cantwell Smith discusses ‘unity or coherence of humankind’s religious history’. For him ‘at one level, this unity is a matter of empirical observation and an historical fact’. ‘At another level, it is a matter of theological truth’. He argues further that these two realities exist and there is ‘link between them’.
As there is the unity of humankind and the unity of God there is ‘unity of humankind’s religious history’. This is not to say that there is unity among ‘the religions of the world’. In fact there is no unity even within one so-called ‘religion’.  The unity that is discussed is not of religion, which is varied, but of ‘religious history’. Truth has an historical dimension. Ultimate truth or God is actively involved in the historical arena. The history of religion is the history of men and women’s religious life, and especially of their faith. This is ‘intrinsically the locus of the mundane and the transcendent, unbifurcated’.[67]  Therefore there is no reason to be independent of other religions and theological categories. This is a valid ground to religious studies and theologies to move towards dialogical approach.

VII   Dialogical Approach
Today “diverse religious traditions, with their distinct views of reality, and their distinct life-values, have been increasingly brought into inter-penetrative social situations’.[68] In the words of Harvey Cox there is ‘the unanticipated resurgence of religion in both public and private life around the globe’, ‘fundamentalism is dying’ and there is ‘a profound change in the elemental nature of religiousness’.[69]
            Different religious communities have developed language peculiar to itself. The meaning of that language will not be immediately apparent to those who approach it from outside. ‘It has to be learnt’. Recognition of this characteristic of religious language is important to any assessment of the practical possibility of inter-religious dialogue.[70]
‘All our language about God is imagistic or symbolic. ‘God is absolute, not the assertions that we make about him. As per apophatic tradition, ‘our firmest affirmations constitute a denial that God shares our human limitations’. And ‘the continuation of that emphasis is vital to inter-religious dialogue’.[71]
History is always written by the winners, who also destroy any counterevidence. In terms of canon or heretical writings we need to bring the same degree of suspicion and expectation we bring to any other primal source. We must know where it came from and how others have struggled to interpret it.[72]
            If truth is the goal of religions and not the present possession of every religion, then what is called for is a strongly revisionist understanding of religious belief.[73] Truth that one seeks is to be found not in the history of religion but through it. Truth is a humane, not an objective, concept. It does not lie in propositions, but what these mean, have meant, to particular persons, and groups. ‘In so far as truth is apprehended by persons, it is apprehended within history; yet in so far as it is true, it transcends history’.[74]
            Theology too is a historical process and an intellectual activity. A Christian’s theology should be informed by hope and by love.[75] Such a theology should be ‘perspectival, parabolic and provisional’ in consonance with interpretation of experience within a tradition, the nature of religious language and the changing historical character of human existence.
            Perspectival because it necessarily embodies a particular cultural approach to the world. Any revelation finds its expression in the context and thought forms of some specific and contingent cultural tradition.  All theology is in that sense perspectival.  It is parabolic because of the special degree of indirectness with which any language refers to the divine or the transcendent. In this way the concept of ‘verbal inerrancy’ in relation to theology is false and impossible in principle. Provisional draws attention to the new knowledge about the world that is continually coming to light.[76]
             Dialogical approach ‘necessarily involves seeing the other religion as in some sense a revelation of God from which we need to learn.’[77] Christianity has drawn from other religious traditions so fruitfully. Christianity is a ‘prophetic religion’. It protests against its own currently established form, written into it. Jesus challenged the contemporary understanding of the Torah’s pronouncements. Christianity opened its doors freely to Gentiles as well as Jews.[78] Smith writes “the God whom Christ reveals is a God of mercy and love, who reaches out after all men and women everywhere in compassion and yearning; who delights in a sinner’s repentance, who delights to save.”[79] May this be our guiding light as our researches proceed from religion through theology and other disciplines to finally to dialogical.

Conclusion
Our context is overshadowed with forceful advocacy of a singular ideology. It demands prudent understanding and interpretation of other traditions and concepts. Dialogically orienting our researches can be one way of loving response to this context. This can help our continuous commitment to a sustainable capability enhancement to the multifariously deprived ones.


Religion and Dialogue


[1] Jacques Waardenburg, Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion(New York. Berlin: Walter de
Gruyter, 1999),vii.
[2] Jacques Waardenburg, viii.
[3] Jacques Waardenburg, viii-ix.
[4] Jacques Waardenburg, viii.
[5] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion(Berlin. New
York. Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter,1988), 155.
[6] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 161.
[7] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 155.
[8] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 155-156.
[9] Jacques Waardenburg, 3.
[10] Jacques Waardenburg, 76-77.
[11] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Peter
Connolly(London: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999),227.
[12] Sam Gill, “Settled Issues and Neglected Questions in the Study of Religion,” Oxford Journals ( Winter
1994): 966,  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1465226, (4 April 2018). 
[13] Sam Gill, 967.
[14] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 230.
[15] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 255.
[16] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 41.
[17] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 7.
[18] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 3.
[19] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 11.
[20] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 228.
[21] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 230.
[22] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology (London: Macmillan, 1989),186.
[23] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 227.
[24] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 7.
[25] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 236.
[26] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 220.
[27] Reid B. Locklin and Hugh Nicholson, “The Return of Comparative Theology,” Oxford Journals 78/2
( June 2010): 502,  http://www.jstor.org/stable/40666528,  (4 April 2018).
[28] Joshua Braley, “A Critique of Gordon Kaufman’s Theological Method, with Special Reference to His
Theory of Religion,” The University of Chicago Press Journal 88/1 ( January 2008): 30-33,
 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/522275, (4 April 2018).
[29] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 233.
[30] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion 231.
[31] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 5-6.
[32] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 6.
[33] Paramananda Divarkar, “Towards an Objective Study of Religion: A Theological Approach,” in
Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Harbans Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999),61.
[34] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 243.
[35] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 10.
[36] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 14.
[37] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 237.
[38] Paramananda Divarkar, “Towards an Objective Study of Religion: A Theological Approach,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, edited by Harbans Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999),60.
[39] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion(Berlin. New York. Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter,1988), 42.
[40] Paramananda Divarkar, 60.
[41] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 9-13.
[42] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 53.
[43] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,194.
[44] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 2.
[45] Ninian Smart, World Religions: A Dialogue (Baltimore. Maryland: Penguin Books, 1960), 14.
[46] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 4-5.
[47] Ninian Smart, World Religions: A Dialogue, 14.
[48] Ninian Smart, World Religions: A Dialogue, 16.
[49] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 7-8.
[50] Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method, 3.
[51] Jacques Waardenburg, 13.
[52]Gavin Hyman, “The Study of Religion and the Return of Theology,” Oxford Journals 72/1 (March, 2004):
215, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40005883 (4 April 2018). 
[53] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (New York. Harper One, 2009), 4.
[54] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 3-6.
[55] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,170.
[56] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,114.
[57] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,37-38.
[58] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,128.
[59] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 35.
[60] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 38.
[61] Frank Whaling, “Theological Approaches,” in Approaches to the Study of Religion, 262-268.
[62] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,128.
[63] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 193.
[64] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 8-10.
[65] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 196.
[66] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 224.
[67] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,3.
[68] Eric J. Lott, Vision, Tradition, Interpretation: Theology, Religion and the Study of Religion, 229.
[69] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 1-2.
[70] Maurice Wiles, Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue (London: SCM Press, 1992), 34-37.
[71] Maurice Wiles, Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue, 33-35.
[72] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith, 170.
[73] Maurice Wiles, Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue, 43.
[74] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,190.
[75] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,123.
[76] Maurice Wiles, Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue, 64-65.
[77] Maurice Wiles, Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue, 4.
[78] Maurice Wiles, Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue, 17-18.
[79] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology,171.

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