Comparative Theology Seminar

The Comparative Theology (CT) Ph.D. colloquia focus on historical and methodological questions relevant to Comparative Theology as a whole, as well as texts and themes specific to a particular religious tradition but with broader comparative implications. Faculty rotate in leading the seminar but participate actively every year.

All CT Ph.D. majors are required to participate in the seminar in each year of their program, unless the student is away from campus as part of his or her Ph.D. program. Second year Ph.D. CT majors register to receive pass-fail credit (3 credit hours total, received in spring semester). The course is required but non-credit for all other CT Ph.D. majors. Minors are also welcome to participate in this annual seminar.

Texts are provided to participants free of charge.

2015–2016 Schedule

The seminar meets on Fridays, 10–11:50 a.m. in the Philosophy Conference room, Stoke N228, except as noted:

September 11
October 2
October 16
November 13
December 4
January 29
February 12 (Stokes N203)
February 26
March 18
April 1
April 15

Example of Seminar Session: Friday, September, 2013

In 2013, the seminar was led by John Makransky and focused on Buddhism.

Readings:

  • John Makransky, “Buddhist Perspectives on Truth in Other Religions” (Theological Studies 2003), concisely introduces basic understandings of Buddhism and some representative Buddhist theologies of religions.
  • Two readings drawn from the book The New Comparative Theology, edited by Frank Clooney.
    • Jim Fredericks (just ten pages) introduces the concept of comparative theology (CT), whose purpose is to learn from a different religious tradition in enough depth and specificity to shine new light on some area(s) of one’s own tradition.
    • Kristin Kiblinger relates comparative theology instrinsically to theology of religions (TR), an understanding of other religious systems that explore their potential truth from within the framework of one’s own religious system. Kristin discusses this relation between CT and TR with examples from Buddhism-Christian studies.

Assignment:

Please study first the Makransky article as a basic introduction to Buddhist concepts and theologies of religions. Please prepare to share with the seminar one or more questions or issues that any part of this article raises for you, including questions seeking more clarity on any Buddhist topic. Then please read Fredericks, then Kiblinger, selecting at least one passage from each that raises a question or issue that you would like to discuss. Each student is expected to respond to these points.

Please hold these questions in mind for this class and throughout the year, and bring your initial, even tentative, first thoughts on them to our first class discussion:

  • What, in essence, is comparative theology in your own understanding or practice?
  • Why do comparative theology—what is the motivation for you?
  • What is needed to do it, in terms of knowledge of traditions, theoretical issues in making comparisons, attitudes or skills that we need to cultivate for inter-religious learning, or other things?
  • What considerations and potential pitfalls should be kept in mind in doing comparative theology (e.g. fraught historical relations between traditions, power differentials, hidden agendas, tendencies to construct “traditions” too homogeneously, etc.).