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Abstract

In this article I will reflect on interreligious dialogue and the tensive relation between openness and identity from a theological perspective. First, I consider the so-called theology of religions and the threefold soteriological typology of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. Second, I address one of the main criticisms of this approach, namely that the soteriological approach amounts to a perversion of the virtue of openness. This critique is articulated especially within particularism, a model which sets out to move beyond the soteriological fixation of the classical theology of religions. Because this relatively new model has not yet been analyzed systematically in the relevant literature, I will analyze some of its main tenets. I focus especially on the way this model sets out to alter the terms of the discussion on the dialogical tension between openness and commitment by claiming that hermeneutical openness should precede soteriological appreciation. Third, I turn to comparative theology as a fertile expression of particularism. Comparative theology presents itself as a genuinely adequate way to understand and appreciate the otherness of the religious other without losing sight of one's own identity. Moreover, comparative theology gives a new twist to the discussion on the dialogical tension between openness and commitment. Whereas the classical theology of religions seems to be actuated by the conviction that it is both possible and necessary to come to a final and definite soteriological appreciation of the religions, comparative theology sees interreligious encounter first and foremost as an ongoing conversational process, which can yield preliminary results only. It is my contention that this marks the nature of real and authentic dialogue.