“New Paths for Interreligious Theology”

International scholars discuss Schmidt-Leukel’s theory on religious diversity

© Orbis Books

In “New Paths for Interreligious Theology”, published by Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York), eleven scholars from five countries, writing from different religious and disciplinary backgrounds, discuss the religious studies scholar and theologian Perry Schmidt-Leukel’s theory that religious diversity displays fractal structures. Schmidt-Leukel had first presented his theory in his 2015 Gifford Lectures (published in 2017 as “Religious Pluralism and Interreligious Theology”) and was subsequently invited to present his views at some of the leading academic institutions around the world, including the American Academy of Religion and the European Academy of Religion.

In his introduction to the book, co-editor Paul Knitter, Professor emeritus of the Union Theological Seminary and one of the main representatives of a pluralist theology of religions, calls Schmidt-Leukel’s theory “something really different, really pioneering” opening up “new paths for interreligious theology”. The Systematic Theologian Roger Haight has called the publication in a pre-publication review “a landmark book” because of the “complex and yet vital conversation” contained in it.

A Variety of Perspectives

The introduction is followed by a brief summary of the thesis, written by Schmidt-Leukel himself. His ideas are then first explored from different disciplinary perspectives: Philosophy of Religion (Kenneth Rose, Christopher Newport University), Comparative Theology (Francis X. Clooney, Harvard University), Feminist Studies (Jerusha Tanner-Rhodes, Union Theological Seminary), Interreligious Studies (Hans Gustafson, University of St. Thomas in Minnesota).

This is followed by six contributions from the perspective of different religious traditions: Chinese Religions (Ron Wang, Guizhou University, Guiyang, People’s Republic of China), Hinduism (Ayon Maharaj, Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute in West Bengal, India), Buddhism (John Makransky, Boston College), Judaism (Ephraim Meir, Bar-Ilan University, Israel), Christianity (Alan Race, Anglican Theologian and Chair of the World Congress of Faiths ), Islam (Maria Massi Dakake, George Mason University, Virginia). The contributors to this volume take different positions. While some fully agree with Schmidt-Leukel’s theory, others suggest some corrections and offer improvements. The volume concludes with a response by Schmidt-Leukel to the contributors. (exc/sca)

Reference: Paul Knitter, Alan Race (eds.): New Paths for Interreligious Theology: Perry Schmidt-Leukel's Fractal Interpretation of Religious Diversity, Maryknoll: Orbis Books 2019. ISBN 1626983380, 224 pages.