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Comparative Theological Learning as an Ordinary Part of Theological Education

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Abstract

This essay argues, as its title suggests, that learning that is both comparative and theological can be an ordinary – possible, beneficial, even necessary – part of theological education and, like other fields of study, may be incorporated in the curriculum in ways that meet practical curricular needs. Once the professor has undertaken the initial, minimal learning, teaching comparatively can become a natural and integral part of any seminary course. The study of the other is not exotic or in a class by itself; if we can study our own religious tradition today, we can study others as well. The thesis is argued in several parts: (1) interreligious diversity is integral to the context of contemporary faith; (2) comparative theology engages diversity in an intentionally theological way and needs to be distinguished from other disciplines; (3) a comparative theological approach aids in the process of ensuring that attention to diversity is integral to theological education; (4) teaching comparative theology is not different from teaching other forms of theology. None of this, I suggest, requires a liberal or pluralist theological starting point.

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