Western Sydney University & University of NSW

Theology Research from a 21st Century Cross-Religious Perspective — with a Focus on Indigenous Australia

Presentation Abstract

Traditionally there has been a tension between theology and Religionswissenschaft, ranging from clear-cut division and mutual suspicion to heightened antagonism and sheer opposition. Within the academia theology has been cautious of the so-called syncretic risk of religious studies, whereas religious studies have been sceptical of the allegedly ideology-free character of theology. Nevertheless, the second half of the 20th century witnessed a gradual loosening of this tension towards a more tolerant and programmatically dialogic model of interaction. The directionality of this shift in attitude – especially during the last two decades – has been a transaction in the ‘stock of knowledge’ and the research experiences that come with these disciplines. Furthermore, in light of the multi-cultural and multi-religious context of postmodernity this development has been regarded as lending itself to the promotion of a theological and more broadly religious culture that serves the spirit of a free humanity beyond ideology.    

In this paper I draw on the extant literature with regards to inter-religious dialogue, multi-religious public policy and cross-religious research, as well as on my personal research and teaching experience in the area of religious studies for nearly three decades. My argument is that the disciplinary distinctiveness of theology and religious studies should not only remain but should be even more pronounced, for it is only on this condition that the one can really contribute to the other genuine insights. Moreover, given the social sensitivities and priorities of our age, it is impossible to even pose and articulate theological perspectives on pressing issues without taking into account and integrating a cross-religious perspective, that is, a perspective that utilises religious commonalities without undermining irreducible religious differences. Theology in this respect is called to witness the Word of God by enfleshing it through and within the plethora of world hierophanics. Lastly, the Australian context and Indigenous Australian hierophanics are used in the paper as a pertinent case study.


Research & Research Training (D.4)