The Scandal of Particularity: A Historical Survey of the Christian Theology of Religion

Sherrington, John Brian (1990). The Scandal of Particularity: A Historical Survey of the Christian Theology of Religion. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The purpose of this study is to trace the history of Christian thinking about other faiths.

It begins with the Old Testament, in which the dominant theological motif is found to be that of Covenant, which puts Israel in a particular relationship with God, and leaves others outside. This attitude is carried over into the New Testament and on into the early Christian tradition. The exceptions to this are Justin Martyr and the Apologists, who emphasized that the divine light shines for all and in all.

This positive strand in Christian theology then disappeared underground for about a thousand years. The reasons for this lie in the biblical material and in the fact that Christian theologians did not have to think much about other faiths.

In the nineteenth century all that changed because missionaries came up against the reality of other faiths and had to say something about them. It was in the nineteenth century, therefore, that the search for a positive Christian theology of religion began in earnest.

In our time the need to find a solution to this theological problem has become even more urgent as men and women of all faiths meet each other and face many of the same problems in coming to terms with the process of secularisation.

In the last twenty five years, therefore, positive theologies of religion have come from the Roman Catholic tradition, from the Liberal Protestant wing of the Church, and from the World Council of Churches.

Despite that, three things are still needed for a satisfactory theology of other faiths. They are, a recovery of the Philosophy of Religion, a revised Doctrine of Revelation and a re-examination of the concept of 'religion' in Christian thinking.

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