Divergent Traditions, Converging Faiths: Troeltsch, Comparative Theology, and the Conversation with Hinduism

Divergent Traditions, Converging Faiths: Troeltsch, Comparative Theology, and the Conversation with Hinduism

Divergent Traditions, Converging Faiths: Troeltsch, Comparative Theology, and the Conversation with Hinduism

Divergent Traditions, Converging Faiths: Troeltsch, Comparative Theology, and the Conversation with Hinduism

Synopsis

Joseph Molleur is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Theology at Boston College.

Excerpt

How exactly did Troeltsch transform the six concepts contained in the definition of Christianity's essence into contemporary-religious propositions, based on a history-of-religions approach? How did he expand his systematic outline into a systematic theology? Before responding to those questions by embarking on a detailed study of Troeltsch's presentation of the contemporary-religious concepts of Christian faith, it may be useful to highlight two things that Troeltsch believes apply to all six of those concepts. First, he views each of the concepts as a synecdoche, “so that each implies the whole of the Christian faith. Each concept includes within itself the whole of this faith: the religious and ethical idea of redemption and personality. Only the exemplification changes” with the individual treatment of each succeeding concept (gl, §11.1). and second, Troeltsch emphasizes that his approach to all of these concepts will be a descriptive one. “[We] describe the Christian disposition and the religious concepts or beliefs contained in it” (gl, §11.2). Consciously following the example of Schleiermacher, he thus intends to undertake a descriptive “theology of consciousness” as opposed to the more traditional deductive “theology of facts” (gl, p. 115). An important consequence of this decision is the recognition that “the dogmatic concept of God analyzes our thoughts about God, not God himself” (gl, §11.2). With these considerations in mind, our attention now turns to the heart of Troeltsch's theological system.

Christian Concept of God

The sections of the Glaubenslehre which Troeltsch dedicates to the exposition of the Christian concept of God (§§11—14) are among the lengthi-

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