Ramanuja and Schleiermacher: Toward a Constructive Comparative Theology

Ramanuja and Schleiermacher: Toward a Constructive Comparative Theology


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Can the comparison of two theologians vastly separated in space and time help contemporary theologians to think better? This book argues that it can. Specifically, this book argues that the novel and burgeoning discipline of comparative theology is a powerful method for gaining critical insight into our inherited worldviews. More important, it argues that the critical insights gained through comparison can produce constructive theology or, in other words, revised and renewed worldviews. New comparisons produce new questions, and new questions produce new answers. In order to demonstrate the power of this process, the book compares two preeminent theologians, Sri Ramanuja of the Hindu tradition and Friedrich Schleiermacher of the Christian tradition. Each argues that God sustains the universe at every moment of its existence, but they work out the divine sustenance in very different ways. By comparing their description of God's continual preservation of the universe, this book asks original, unfamiliar questions of each. Then, it speculatively suggests possible answers to those questions, inviting Ramanuja and Schleiermacher to respond to the challenges raised. This method demonstrates the incisive power of comparative theology to generate critical tension, as well as the creative power of comparative theology to resolve that very tension.


"This is a fine example of comparative theology in action. If readers want to know how the discipline works when it works well, they can turn to Ramanuja and Schleiermacher."
-Francis X. Clooney
Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School

"Across time and cultures, great figures within a single religious tradition become part of an ongoing scholarly interaction and argument. Only recently has this intimacy of conversation been extended across religious boundaries themselves. Sydnor offers us a theological dialogue between two giants, the Vaisnavite thinker Ramanuja and the Protestant theologian Schleiermacher. Sensitive to the distinctive settings of each, he is able to draw them into a fruitful collaboration around the questions of human and cosmic dependence on the divine. This is a constructive comparative theology that focuses the reader on the substance of these writers rather than the mechanics of interreligious study. Sydnor's book will be of interest both to those who value the depth of research behind the comparison and to those who are simply looking for theological light on the experience of absolute dependence."
--S. Mark Heim
Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology
Andover Newton Theological School

"In this acutely reasoned, stirring, and accessible analysis a blossoming philosopher-theologian-pastor-educator, Jon Paul Sydnor, brings forth accurate, in-depth readings of primary works by Schleiermacher and Ramanuja. Using up-to-date procedures, his comparison of these two highly discerning, seminal thinkers enables a still wider conversation between Christians and Hindus today. Here newly honed questions, observations, and insights vie with each other for attention. Overall, Sydnor's work calls forth a pondering over meanings and prospects that only this emergent field of comparative theology can offer. Within this new movement, it will bear the reputation of a pioneering work."
--Terrence N. Tice
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
University of Michigan

Author Biography:
Jon Paul Sydnor has studied at the University of Virginia, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Boston College. He currently teaches world religions at Emmanuel College in Boston.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608993086
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 07/18/2012
Series: Princeton Theological Monographs , #159
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jon Paul Sydnor has studied at the University of Virginia, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Boston College. He currently teaches world religions at Emmanuel College in Boston.

Table of Contents

Foreword Francis X. Clooney, SJ ix

Acknowledgments xi

1 Ramanuja and Schleiermacher 1

2 "Absolute Dependence" 30

3 That Upon Which We Are Dependent 83

4 That Which Is Dependent: Cosmology 139

5 That Which Is Dependent: Anthropology 157

6 Toward a Constructive Comparative Theology 197

Bibliography 219

Index 225

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