Comparative Theology is a fast growing field in academia, and one that the OCHS is committed to developing.
In February we hosted the 'Icon and Murti' seminars with Drs Matthew Steenberg and Kenneth Valpey. These seminars examined the issue of representation of the divine in Christian Orthodoxy and Vaishnava Hinduism. Questions were raised about how a transcendent reality can be represented, the function of such representations, and the degree to which such mediations are thought to be required by tradition.
A leading thinker in Comparative Theology is former OCHS Academic Director (2001-4), Prof. Francis X. Clooney, SJ. Prof. Clooney, now Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard made a welcome return to Oxford in May, delivering two milestone lectures on the topic. The first was 'Comparative theology as intellectual and spiritual practice', an examination of where (or if) in the reading of sacred texts a line can be drawn between scholarly detachment and engaged participation. The second was the Distinguished Majewski lecture on 'A theology of Sri in fourteenth-century South India'. In this lecture, Prof. Clooney compared debates about the role of Sri in Srivaishnavism with debates over the identity of Jesus in early Christian theology and the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, as co-mediatrix of redemption.
Comparative Theology was also the theme of Nicholas Bamford's graduate seminar, 'Towards a comparative theology of the person', in which he discussed 'the idea of the person as a fruitful category for comparative theological inquiry', particularly with reference to Shaivite theology in dialogue with Orthodox Christianity.