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Title: The Christian theology of religions reconsidered : Alan Race's theology of religions, Hans Frei's theological typology and 20th century ecumenical movements on Christian engagement with other faiths
Author: Collins, Dane Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 7426 501X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The contemporary debate concerning the Christian theology of religions has been profoundly shaped by Alan Race’s three-fold typology of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. Although the insufficiency of this typology’s descriptive and critical capacity has become increasingly acknowledged within the field, widespread agreement about its replacement remains elusive. This thesis argues that a replacement can be found in Hans Frei’s five-fold typology of Christian theology, which differentiates between a range of approaches to theology, from theology as philosophical discourse (Type 1) to theology as quarantined, Christian self-description (Type 5). It is suggested that the more basic question posed by Frei’s typology of how Christian theology is understood in relation to philosophy and other external discourses, provides a better means of accounting for the different positions in the Christian theology of religions within 20th century ecumenical movements. It is shown how Frei’s typology emerges from his emphasis on both the limitations and the significance of external discourses for Christian theology, an emphasis which results from his construal of the mystery of Christ’s universal presence as a function of the particular incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth. Chapter one considers the philosophical foundations upon which Race’s typology is constructed, with particular emphasis on Troeltsch’s historicism, Hick’s epistemology of religious experience and WC Smith’s phenomenological hermeneutic, concluding that they determine the typology’s apologetic approach. It is shown how these commitments lead Race’s typology to differentiate between types of Christian theology primarily in relation to the philosophical viability, as Race understands it, of their Christology. Chapter two focuses first on the theology of Hans Frei and his analysis of the relationship between Christology and historicism, epistemology, and hermeneutics. It is suggested that Frei’s focus on the ordering of the relationship between Christian theology and external discourses, while undermining Race’s approach, affirms the possibility of a theologically valuable relationship between Christian theology and external discourses. Moreover, unlike Race, Frei’s emphasis on the significance of external discourses for Christian theology is derived in light of, and not in spite of, a faith in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Chapter three looks at Frei’s fivefold typology as a better means of accounting for the differences Race posits between exclusivists, inclusivists and pluralists. It is argued that in following Frei’s typological logic and the historical, epistemological and hermeneutical considerations characteristic of a Christian theology between types three and four, an approach to the theology of religions emerges which addresses the question of the universality of divine revelation – the central concern of Race’s typology – while also showing the inadequacy of Race’s typology and its prioritisation of philosophy. This will be shown by applying Frei’s typology to 20th century ecumenical movements and the positions on the theological significance of non-Christian religions that have emerged therein. Though Frei did not directly take up the issue of the Christian theology of religions, chapter three will demonstrate how his typology of Christian theology is of particular importance for this discussion. For his typology highlights the central question driving the theology of religions – how the ‘internal’ discourse of Christian self-description in reference to the gospels’ history-like witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ relates to the historically contingent, public world outside the church. The conclusion will point toward a constructive proposal for a theology of evangelism and interfaith dialogue in pluralist societies of the 21st century, drawing on the ecumenical discussion viewed in relation to the theological and typological insights of Hans Frei.
Supervisor: Ford, David F. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: theology ; christianity ; christian theology ; theology of religions ; religion ; interfaith ; hans frei ; alan race ; ecumenical movement ; ecumenism ; world council of churches ; international missionary council ; mission ; evangelism ; interfaith dialogue ; pluralism ; comparative theology ; epistemology ; phenomenology ; karl barth ; wilfred cantwell smith ; john hick ; ernst troeltsch ; historicism ; enlightenment ; idealism ; exclusivism ; inclusivism ; particularity ; universalism