Lecture tag: Theology

Bishop Appasamy and Comparative Theology in India

A.J. Appasamy (1891-1975) was a Harvard, Oxford and Marburg trained Tamil Christian theologian who served as an Anglican priest and seminary professor in India before Independence, and post-Independence, as the first Bishop of Coimbatore in the Church of South India. Working from the premise that doctrines and theological systems are largely cultural and linguistic negotiations, and therefore provisional rather than permanent constructs, Appasamy’s earliest interest was in recasting Christianity as a living bhakti (‘devotional’) tradition in the Subcontinent. As his comparative practice matures there is a noticeable shift in his thinking away from larger generalized groupings of ‘religions,’ such as ‘Christianity’ and ‘Hinduism,’ and increasingly towards particular interaction with specific thinkers, texts and traditions. Concurrent to this he began to develop a methodology by which to do so that employs the Vedantic epistemological categories known as pramanas (‘evidences’). This paper will consider how Appasamy’s theological project and method might fruitfully be applied to the field of scholarship known today as ‘comparative theology,’ especially as it pertains to the Indian context. Building on Appasamy’s use of the pramanas, I will add my own proposal that comparative theologians from all traditions might draw further benefit from the clarity of the dialectical structure of the Vedantic commentarial tradition. Brian Dunn is currently pursuing his doctoral research in the field of comparative theology at the Theology Faculty, Oxford. His present focus is on the life and writings of a South Indian Christian theologian, Ayadurai Jesudason Appasamy, and his particular comparative interaction with Hindu philosophical and theological conceptions of divine embodiment.

God, Being and Beyond: Outlines of a Comparative Theology

While the differences between Sankara’s and Ramanuja’s systems as found in their respective commentaries on the Brahmasutras are relatively well-known, much commented on and highly influential in the living traditions, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to a comparative understanding of their Bhagavad Gita commentaries. Yet, in those works, they offer interpretations particular to the nature and structure of the Gita that do not map directly onto their other standard works. Using an interpretive vocabulary that engages with currents in postmodern Christian theology, I offer readings of each of their treatments of the relationship between the self-declared nature of the divine person, Krsna and his diverse mentions of the mysterious brahman. I suggest that strikingly original views of theology and its connections to metaphysics are found in these great commentaries – views that can contribute to the actual content (and not just the metatheory) of comparative theology.

Comparative Mysticism Seminar 1: Flowing Milk. A Lost Meditation, Tradition from the Silk Road

This lecture examines a Buddhist meditation tradition exemplified particularly by visualisation text from central Asia. This is a seminar in our series on Comparative Mystical Traditions.

Lance Cousins is an expert in Buddhism, particularly the Theravada tradition and Pali commentarial literature, and Buddhist meditation traditions. He taught for many years at the University of Manchester where, among other things, he taught a course in comparative mysticism.

Comparative Theology in Global Perspective

Professor Keith Ward has developed comparative theology and religion in many of his publications over the years. He is particularly interested in comparative theology, the dialogue between religions and the interplay between science and faith. Keith has had a renowned and rich academic career; he taught at Glasgow, St Andrews, London, he was Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was the F.D. Maurice Professor of Moral and Social Theology at the University of London, Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London, and Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford. He was also visiting professor at the Claremont Graduate University, he has delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, and was the Gresham Professor of Divinity at Gresham College. In this seminar Keith will share some of his thoughts on comparative theology and its future direction.

Radical Monotheism of the Qur’an and Equitheism of the Bhagavata Purana: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Allah and Krishna

This narrowly focused essay proposes to compare the Islamic god Allah as depicted in the Qur’an with the Hindu deity Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana. This paper concentrates on how these two respective texts define the two deities. More precisely, this essay focuses on such issues as transcendence and immanence, creative power and play, obedience and love, and the relationship between God and humans. These various themes are examined from the perspective of comparative theology, which can be defined as an articulation of truths and a realization of a more complete knowledge of God in so far as it is possible by means of theology conceived broadly as inter-religious, comparative, dialogical, and confessional. This paper proposes to use a hermeneutical dialogue, which is an interpretative approach that is intended to lead to better cross-cultural understanding. Such a dialogue is risky because it entails entering the margins between oneself and the other. When the interpreter brings together the representative texts of different traditions, she forms a triadic relationship and dialogue with the context of a marginal situation.

Professor Carl Olson teaches Religious Studies at Allegheny College where he offers courses on Hinduism, Buddhism, Religions of China, Zen Buddhism, and comparative phenomena, such as the self and death. Besides over a hundred and eighty reviews and essays in journals, books and encyclopedias, he has published over a dozen books on such topics as the goddess, Mircea Eliade, methodology, comparative philosophy, the Indian renouncer, and the Indian holy man Ramakrishna. His more recent books include the following: Zen and the Art of Postmodern Philosophy: Two Paths of Liberation from Representational Mode of Thinking (SUNY Press, 2000); Indian Philosophers and Postmodern Thinkers: Dialogues on the Margins of Culture (Oxford University Press, 2002); The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction (Rutgers University Press, 2005); Original Buddhist Sources: A Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2005); The Many Colors of Hinduism: A Thematic-Historical Introduction (Rutgers University Press, 2007); Hindu Primary Sources: A Sectarian Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2007); Celibacy and Religious Traditions (Oxford University Press, 2008), Historical Dictionary of Buddhism (Scarecrow Press, 2009), and Religious Studies: The Key Concepts (Routledge, forthcoming 2010). While at Allegheny College, Professor Olson has been appointed to the following honors and positions: Holder of the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair, 1991-1994; Holder of the Teacher-Scholar Chair in the Humanities, 2000-2003; Visiting Fellowship at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, 2002; and elected Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge 2002.

Hindu Theology: Session Seven – Theological Reasoning Across Traditions

The last session will focus on the nature of theological reasoning that we have been engaged with in the course and the nature of theological reading. The last session will raise questions about whether reasoning is universal, the nature of Hindu theological truth, and the place of Hindu theological reasoning within the western academy.

Reading: MacIntyre, W. Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy and Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 1990).