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

By Joseph Molleur | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Troeltsch and Schleiermacher

The aim of Part One of this study is twofold, the first being to raise and respond to the preliminary question, “What do we need to understand, in order to understand Troeltsch's comparative methodology?” The second aim is to justify and set up the Christian-Srivaisnava test case that was referred to in the Introduction.

There are three major answers to the question, “What do we need to understand, in order to understand Troeltsch's comparative methodology?” To begin with, we need to understand the relation between the theological work of Troeltsch and the theological work of Schleiermacher, to whom Troeltsch was greatly indebted. As will be seen in this opening chapter, Troeltsch repeatedly and freely acknowledged his debt to Schleiermacher, even when he felt obliged to part company with him.

Second, we need to understand the very real development that took place in Troeltsch's attitude toward religions other than Christianity. In his earlier work, although he stopped short of referring to Christianity as the “absolute religion, ” Troeltsch never thele ss was conv inced of Christianity's “supreme validity.” Toward the end of his life, however, his view concerning the place of Christianity among the world's religions was considerably more relativistic. 1 The significance of this shift in Troeltsch's attitude toward other religions for his systematic enterprise will be examined in Chapter 2.

And third, we need to understand Troeltsch's idea of history, particularly his idea of the history of religions. His shift to a relativistic conviction about religions had more to do with a reaction against certain aspects of Hegel's influential philosophy of history, than with his own detailed research on other religions. Further, Troeltsch's dogmatic theology was self- consciously a “dogmatics of the history-of-religions school.” In Chapter 3, we will therefore seek to attain a precise understanding of what Troeltsch

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