• unlimited access with print and download
    $ 37 00
  • read full document, no print or download, expires after 72 hours
    $ 4 99
More info
Unlimited access including download and printing, plus availability for reading and annotating in your in your Udini library.
  • Access to this article in your Udini library for 72 hours from purchase.
  • The article will not be available for download or print.
  • Upgrade to the full version of this document at a reduced price.
  • Your trial access payment is credited when purchasing the full version.
Buy
Continue searching

Take the epistemology of interreligious dialogue seriously: Belief, religious diversity, and interreligious dialogue as a virtuous doxastic practice

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Mara Brecht
Abstract:
The reality of religious diversity has long presented a problem for Christian theology. Historically, theologians construe this problem as soteriological and eschatological in nature: what is the relationship between religious others and Christian doctrine of salvation? More recently, theologians address religious diversity as a soteriological and epistemological problem: what is the status of the beliefs of religious others and what does this mean for salvation? This dissertation works to push the theological conversation on religious diversity even more squarely into epistemological territory. Specifically, what are the ways in which religious beliefs are shaped by the encounter with religious others? Drawing on the experiences documented by research on a women's interreligious dialogue group, I posit that the experience of engaging with religious others through interreligious dialogue leads to strengthened religious belief. This contradicts the claims of epistemologists of religious disagreement, which see interreligious dialogue as an occasion for discovering epistemic disagreement--disagreements that should lead to weakened or defeated religious belief Given these contradicting notions of the significance of religious diversity for religious belief, I propose to construct a religious epistemological model that is adequate to the experiences of those who actually engage in interreligious dialogue. Contemporary, alternative epistemologies and Aristotelian virtue theories provide resources for constructing such a model, which I call the virtuous doxastic practice epistemological model. This model posits that beliefs are formed by being the outcome of exercise of intellectual virtue, which are learned in the context of community, involve checks for reliability, and are productive toward the end of communal, epistemic flourishing. On this theory, religious beliefs attain the highest level of justification by being presented to the scrutiny of religious others and maintained in the context of interreligious dialogue. That is, when a person shares her religious beliefs, convictions, and attitudes with those who believe differently than her, she comes to hold to these beliefs, convictions, and attitudes in renewed way. For this reason, the dissertation concludes with a proposal for the Roman Catholic Church to view interreligious dialogue as a constitutive component of Christian faith formation, rather than an activity that is potentially problematic or even ancillary to other Christian practices.

CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v INTRODUCTION 1 Chapter ONE THEOLOGICAL "PROBLEMS" OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY: SHIFTING FROM SOTERIOLOGY TO EPISTEMOLOGY 11 Old Wine, Old Wineskins 14 Exclusivism 14 Inclusivism 17 Pluralism 20 Common Tenets of the Classic Approaches 23 New Wine, Old Wineskins 25 Paul Griffiths and the Uneasiness Conditions 26 Harold Netland and Logical Criteria for Evaluation 33 Gavin D'Costa and Reading Diversity Theologically 42 Contributions and Limitations 49 New Wine, New Wineskins 52 Lessons from Philosophy of Religion 56 TWO HISTORICAL EPISTEMOLOGICAL DEBATES AND CONTEMPORARY EPISTEMOLOGIES OF RELIGIOUS DISAGREEMENT 60 Tracing the History of Religious Epistemology 63 Ethics of Belief Debates 63 The "Theology and Falsification" Debate 75 Contemporary Discussions 90 Epistemologies of Religious Disagreement 91 Assessing the Contemporary Approaches 96 THREE "EVOKING THE LUMINOUS" IN DIALOGUE: A CASE STUDY OF A WOMEN'S INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE GROUP 101 An Interreligious Dialogue Group from Greater Philadelphia... 103 Origins and History 103 The Features of the Interreligious Dialogue Group 108 Rejecting the T- and S- Principles 135 FOUR ALTERNATIVE CONTEMPORARY EPISTEMOLOGICAL MODELS 140 Contemporary A Posteriori Epistemologies 140 Alvin Plantinga and Properly Formed Basic Beliefs 142 William Alston and Doxastic Practice 160 n

Linda Zagzebski and Pure Virtue Epistemology 171 Toward a Virtuous Doxastic Practices Model for Religious Belief. 194 Post-Zagzebski Assessment of Alston 195 Reassessing Zagzebski in Light of Alston 197 Venturing a Theory 200 FIVE VIRTUES AND VIRTUOUS AGENTS: RESOURCES FROM THE ARISTOTELIAN TRADITION OF VIRTUE THEORY 203 The Agents of Virtuous Doxastic Practices 206 Virtues and Virtuous Agents 207 Exclusivity and the Risk of Elitism 208 Resources in Virtue Theory for Constructing Virtuous Agents...211 Human Nature and the Virtues 212 Occupying a Broken World 215 Satisfaction and Virtue 219 The Social Motivation and Orientation of Virtue 223 Virtue and Social Flourishing 229 SIX THE VIRTUES IN PRACTICE AND PRIMA FA CIE JUSTIFICATION 234 The Practices of the Virtuous Doxastic Practice Model 235 A Theory of Practice 236 Individual Agency and Membership in Community 237 The Virtues of the Virtuous Doxastic Practice Model 241 Aristotle's Golden Mean and Spheres of Application....241 Method of Approach 241 The Four Cardinal Epistemic Virtues 248 The "Meta-Level" Epistemic Virtues 262 Sufficiency of the List of Virtues 265 Virtuous Doxastic Practices and Prima Facie Justification 266 SEVEN ULTIMA FACIE JUSTIFICATION AND PARTICIPATION THROUGH PRACTICE 269 Objections to Virtuous Doxastic Practice Model as a Virtue Epistemology 271 Virtue Epistemology as Irrelevant 272 The Credit View, Luck, and Explanatory Salience 273 Virtue Epistemology and the Problem of Relativism 283 Dialogue as "Live" Comparison and the Justificatory Standard of Participative Practice 286 Scholarly Comparative Theory and Interreligious Dialogue 288 Interreligious Disputes and the Role of Normative Assessments 296 Participative Practice as Justificatory Standard 299 i n

EIGHT TRANSFORMATION THROUGH RETURNING HOME: INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE, THE VIRTUE OF STEADFASTNESS, AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH 317 The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Dialogue and Proclamation 320 The Function of Interreligious Dialogue 322 The Theological Grounds for The Role of Interreligious Dialogue 324 Interreligious Dialogue in the Lives of Catholics 326 The Fruits of Interreligious Dialogue 327 Transformative Integration 329 Appreciation and Integration 331 Reshaping Religious Beliefs and Traditions 334 Interpretative Theory, Second Naivete, and Interreligious Dialogue 341 The Movement of Interpretation 342 Interreligious Dialogue and Second Naivete 344 Comparison and Virtue 346 Returning Home 348 A Concluding Reflection 349 BIBLIOGRAPHY 352 IV

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS In the course of researching and writing this dissertation, I unintentionally stumbled into virtue theory. Reading literature in virtue ethics and virtue epistemology shaped the insights of my dissertation in a fundamental way. Perhaps the most significant outcome of this reading, however, was my realization that writing a dissertation is itself a task of acquiring and exercising scholarly virtues. The way one learns virtues, Aristotle tells us, is by being taught by other persons of virtue and, especially, masters of virtue. Terrence Tilley has been nothing short of a phronimos, in both scholarly and practical matters. I am enormously grateful for his encouragement, attention, and effort on this dissertation and, most importantly, for his instruction in teaching me how to be a scholar and person of virtue. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Jeannine Hill Fletcher for her presence behind this project—even before it took shape as a dissertation topic. It was because of her initiative to begin a project on women's voices in interreligious dialogue and because she requested my help on this research that I began at all. Jeannine's insistence that theologies of religious pluralism ought to begin "on the ground" and particularly from the experiences of women profoundly shaped both the method of this dissertation and my way of theological thinking in general. Maureen O'Connell has also been an invaluable guide both in the development of this dissertation and my own scholarly virtuous development, not to mention a loyal running partner. I am grateful for her perceptive reading, her challenging questions about the practical implications of theorizing, and her unwavering and warm support. I have become a more virtuous scholar, friend, and person for having worked with Jeannine and Maureen. v

Other members of the Fordham theology department deserve my acknowledgement as well. Although she did not serve on my committee, Elizabeth Johnson inspired in me the resolve to work every day on my dissertation and affirmed for me—and continues to affirm—the importance of women in theology. Through the efforts of Joyce O'Leary and Anne-Marie Sweeney, I always had my "i's dotted" and "t's crossed" and was able to remain connected to the theology department even while geographically remote. I am especially thankful for the support of Reg Kim. He gave me immeasurable technical advice, extended much needed assistance in handling practical matters, and provided me with the most reputable courier services at Rose Hill. Even more than that, Reg was my conversation partner and the very best kind of friend throughout the entire process. I want to extend my most sincere thanks to the members of the Philadelphia women's interreligious dialogue group for welcoming me into their homes and dialogue community. Their willingness to take time to talk with me individually, their openness in inviting me into the communal conversation, and their interest in my ideas were generous and heartening. It was because of them that I was able to gain traction in places where my wheels had long been turning, and I am indebted to them for sharing their reflections and thoughts with me. Finally, I want to thank my friends and my family, my mom and dad, and my husband Ben. In various ways, my friends called me out of the solitude of dissertation writing and, for that reason, enabled me to return to it with a renewed purpose. I am thankful to my fifty (and counting) family members—my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and nieces and nephews; their jokes about my "book report" kept me vi

honest and reminded me to laugh—especially at myself. To my mother Mary Jo and my father Tim, I am grateful for receiving me home for months at a time, for letting my books stack up on the dining room table, and most importantly, for their steadfast love. My husband Ben witnessed the day-to-day grittiness of dissertation writing and endured much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I can hardly begin to list of all of the ways in which he supported me. Of all these ways, I am most grateful to Ben for the shining pride he takes in both me and this project. \ vn

Introduction Religious diversity is a lived reality and an epistemological problem. I believe myself to be a thoughtful, honest, and sincere person. I also believe that the family who raised me is full of thoughtful, honest, and sincere people. Each night at dinner we bowed our heads, folded our hands, and prayed a blessing over our food. Every Sunday, we worshipped, prayed, and celebrated together. These are the ways of professing our beliefs. There are innumerable other thoughtful, honest, and sincere persons in the world. They have been raised in families full of thoughtful, honest, and sincere persons just like I have. They say different words of blessing over their evening meals, gather together to worship, pray, and celebrate, and profess their beliefs in different ways. The fact that there are multiple thoughtful, honest, and sincere people who engage in rather different religious practices and hold rather different sets of beliefs raises an important epistemological problem. If people think their beliefs are true and there are multiple, conflicting beliefs, then what does this mean for the justification of their beliefs? Can we continue to hold to our beliefs as true while having full awareness that others also hold to their different beliefs as true? Religious diversity reveals one key case of epistemic disagreement. Theologians explore religious diversity with Christological, pneumatological, soteriological, and theological-anthropological questions in view. As a discipline, theology has tended to ignore the epistemological questions raised by religious diversity. That fact, combined with the existentially and epistemically troubling situation described above, is the impetus for this dissertation. The broad goal of my project is to approach religious diversity as a theologian who foregrounds epistemological questions. 1

2 More specifically, my dissertation examines what happens to religious belief as a result of the encounter with the religious other. That is, given one's awareness of other thoughtful, honest, and sincere people and their different religious beliefs, what happens to one's religious beliefs? In what ways are one's beliefs challenged, defeated, or reshaped? Epistemologists examining religious belief in the context of diversity see the encounter with the religious other as a situation that should lead believers to doubt their beliefs. However, these epistemological theories are formulated at abstract levels that do not attend carefully enough to the routine experiences of interreligious encounter in practice—experiences that suggest believers come to be strengthened in their beliefs rather than to doubt them. Interreligious dialogue is the paradigmatic context for the encounter with the religious diversity. That is, participants in interreligious dialogue meet religious others and confront head on different religious beliefs in that context. For this reason, I discuss the epistemological significance of religious diversity at large through the frame of interreligious dialogue. The first two chapters of the dissertation include literature reviews of theologies of religious diversity and religious epistemologies, respectively, so as to situate my discussion within these areas of scholarly inquiry. My exploration of the epistemological significance of interreligious dialogue works both from the "top down" and from the "bottom up." The "top down" component of my discussion reviews theological and epistemological scholarship on religious diversity to uncover theoretical perspectives on what happens to religious belief given the encounter with religious others. The "bottom up" component of my discussion is based on a research project to interview participants of a women's interreligious dialogue

3 group. Over the course of two years, I interviewed and talked with members of an interreligious dialogue group in greater Philadelphia about their thoughts on interreligious dialogue. I recorded and transcribed these conversations and cite them throughout the dissertation. (On mutual agreement, I cite my transcriptions of these interviews, but keep the identities of the participants anonymous.) The "top down" and "bottom up" explorations yield competing sets of claims. Theoreticians, and particularly epistemologists, convey the sense that awareness of religious diversity should weaken religious belief. Participants in dialogue, on the other hand, make the case that awareness of religious diversity strengthens their religious beliefs. Because my scholarship is critically informed by feminist theory, I find the evidence of the "bottom up" set of claims compelling. A guiding principle of feminist theory is to take the real, gritty experiences of people into account when developing abstract theories. Without close attention to the practices and beliefs of ordinary religious people, any discussion about how religious beliefs are formed and held in an interreligious setting would be uninformed by evidence. Given the competing claims of the "top down" and "bottom up" approaches, my conviction is that the "top down" theories have erased the voices of everyday religious believers that would otherwise shed light onto how we can think about religious belief theoretically. My principle methodological question is: what can the women's experiences in an interreligious dialogue community tell me, as a theorist, about the shaping of religious beliefs in an interreligious context? The non-theoretical insights which percolate up from conversations with the women from Philadelphia are both the

4 primary resource for the epistemological model I develop and the evidence that warrants or fails to warrant theoretical epistemological models (including my own). Project Overview The dissertation begins by describing the "lay of the land" of Christian theological approaches to religious diversity. Using the traditional tripartite categories of exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist, I first introduce the leading voices and major themes within each of these approaches. The driving question for these traditional approaches, I argue, is soteriological and eschatological in nature: in the end, to whom is salvation extended? I next turn to a set of theologians who have begun to inquire into the significance of religious diversity from a somewhat different angle. Paul Griffiths, Harold Netland, and Gavin D'Costa intersect the concern for soteriology with epistemological questions. They see religious diversity as presenting an epistemic quandary for Christian theology and pay attention to the epistemological status of diverse religious beliefs. Believers assume the religious beliefs they hold are true, even though they may not be able to find justification or warrant for their beliefs. When diverse religious believers make diverse claims, a problem for their beliefs as claims to truth arises. By approaching religious diversity from this perspective, Griffiths, Netland, and D' Costa re- inscribe the boundaries of the Christian theological debate on religious pluralism. While they raise important epistemological questions about religious diversity, they do not posit epistemological solutions. At the conclusion of the chapter, I propose to examine religious diversity as an epistemological issue that begins "on the ground"—from the position of religious believers—and works toward constructing an epistemological model that makes sense of religious belief in the context of diversity.

5 In the next chapter, I explore two critical debates in the history of epistemology as well as discussions about religious diversity in contemporary epistemology. Reviewing the historical debates, between W.K. Clifford and William James in the second half of the nineteenth century and among Anthony Flew, R.M. Hare, and Basil Mitchell in the mid- twentieth century, allows me to introduce and explain key epistemological concepts. These concepts concern the conditions for belief formation, the criteria for belief justification, and the extent to which believers grasp the grounds for their beliefs. These concepts are also foundational for future developments in epistemology. Contemporary epistemologists Robert McKim and Richard Feldman view religious diversity as an instance of epistemic disagreement. Given epistemic conflict generated by religious diversity, these contemporary epistemologists argue that believers must either suspend or hold their religious beliefs tentatively. I invoke the concepts drawn out of the historical debates to characterize the nature of McKim and Feldman's respective proposals. I refute their proposals on the grounds that they mistakenly abstract religious belief from religious practice and do not attend to actual accounts of what happens to a person's belief given her awareness of diversity. The theoretical "lessons" of chapter two are that an adequate epistemological model must conceptually hold belief and practice together and must take seriously actual accounts of religious belief in the situation of diversity as evidence for constructing epistemological models. Accounts of what happens to religious belief in the context of interreligious dialogue occupy the majority of chapter three. I first briefly describe the origins and history of the Philadelphia women's interreligious dialogue group with which I conducted this research. I then move to share the women's comments on their

6 experiences of the interreligious dialogue group and their reflections on the role it has played in their religious lives. In recounting these comments and reflections, I use resources from feminist epistemology to build my own theoretical ideas around their words so as to point out the epistemological significance of interreligious dialogue. The most epistemologically salient ideas suggested by their experiences are that, through listening to the stories of each other, the women learn new ways of conceiving religious beliefs; that there is a deep interplay between beliefs and practices; and that interreligious dialogue creates a unique epistemic community that complements—rather than stands in competition with—the home religious communities of the participants. The voices of the women from Philadelphia provide the substance for my challenge to the assumptions of McKim and Feldman and compel me to find alternative resources in contemporary epistemology for exploring the epistemological significance of interreligious dialogue. The fourth chapter describes and analyzes alternative contemporary epistemological models through the work of Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, and Linda Zagzebski. Plantinga and Alston develop religious epistemologies and offer some reflections on the question of religious diversity. Zagzebski constructs a general epistemological theory and, although she does not comment on religious diversity, she briefly discusses religious beliefs. As a whole, their theories incorporate a broader range of factors for belief formation and justification, including the processes and methods involved in cognition, than do the theories of McKim or Feldman, which focus primarily on evidential standards for belief. In the end, Plantinga's theory promotes a circular, autonomous theory of belief formation and standard for justification that cannot hold up

7 in the context of diversity. Alston identifies criteria for reliable practices by which beliefs are formed and justified and Zagzebski anchors her understanding of belief formation and justification in the intellectual character of agents. Taken together, Alston and Zagzebski's projects supply resources for constructing an epistemological theory that is adequate to the situation of religious diversity and that I construct in this dissertation. I call this theory the virtuous doxastic practice epistemological model. The goal of the fifth and sixth chapters is to add texture and depth to the framework for the Alstonion-Zagzebskian hybrid, virtuous doxastic practice epistemological model, which holds that people form and justify beliefs through the exercise of intellectual virtues that are socially instilled and regulated, suggested at the conclusion of chapter four. Questions of how people develop their intellectual character and how people learn the practices by which they form beliefs guide these two chapters. In chapter five, I focus on theoretical resources from the Aristotelian tradition of virtue theory for making sense of intellectual virtue. I posit that intellectual virtues are the excellences of human persons that provide us with orientation for good epistemic functioning in the world. Exercising epistemic virtues leads both to good or justified beliefs as well as to the flourishing of our epistemic communities. We acquire virtues in the context of communities and through habituation. Chapter six focuses on this aspect of the virtuous doxastic practices model. I combine Alasdair Maclntyre's theory of practice with the Alstonian notion of doxastic practice to explain the interdependence between agent and community in virtuous development and the exercise of virtue, and, thereby, belief formation and justification. In this chapter, I also identify four cardinal epistemic virtues (steadfastness, judiciousness, prudence, and

8 creativity) and two "meta-level" epistemic virtues (integrity and wisdom) and use the literature of American Jewish author Chaim Potok to provide examples of these virtues in (fictive) practice. By the conclusion of this pair of chapters, I apply the virtuous doxastic practice model to religious beliefs to demonstrate how religious beliefs are formed and justified within religious traditions. If beliefs are formed and justified by being the outcome of virtuous doxastic practices, which are learned in the context of specific religious communities (the position argued for in chapters five and six), it may look as though the VDP theory promotes relativism. Chapter seven shifts to consider the way religious beliefs are formed and justified across religious traditions, so as to rebut the charge of relativism. The position I take in this chapter is that believers may gain a higher level of justification for their beliefs precisely in the situation of interreligious dialogue, rather than in spite of it. Philosophical-ethical comparative theorists Lee Yearley and comparative theologian Francis X. Clooney along with philosopher Jurgen Habermas and theologian James Wm. McClendon provide resources for developing an account of how interreligious dialogue can be understood as the setting where both diverse religious beliefs and diverse virtuous doxastic practices are productively compared and where the practice of participating in dialogical encounter forms a contextual standard of epistemological justification. The final chapter of this dissertation reflects on the implications of my epistemological argument—that religious beliefs are not only practically strengthened but also are justifiably strengthened in the situation of interreligious dialogue—for my own religious tradition, the Roman Catholic Church. I examine the way interreligious dialogue is construed in the Church according to a central document from the Pontifical

9 Council for Interrehgious Dialogue (Dialogue and Proclamation). The Church sees it as possibly transformative for Christians who engage in it. I propose to expand and enhance the role of interrehgious dialogue in the life of the Church. Interrehgious dialogue not only offers the opportunity for a level of epistemological justification for religious beliefs not available from within a single religious tradition, it is also the very way that religious believers are beckoned to rediscover their home traditions. I explain my view of the transformative nature of dialogue by being in conversation both with Perry Schmidt-Leukel's vision for transformation through integration and with the interpretative theory of Paul Ricoeur. Through interrehgious dialogue, Christians reform their religious beliefs, convictions, and attitudes and come to hold to the Christian tradition in a new way. The contributions of this dissertation are intended to be both theoretical and practical in nature and are addressed to both to theological and philosophical (especially religious epistemological) audiences. I call for recognizing the significance of the theological shift from soteriological to epistemological issues and, therefore, draw attention to the need to integrate religious epistemology more systematically into theological discourse on diversity. I establish the inadequacies of various epistemological positions regarding religious belief in the context of religious diversity and constructively build a new approach to religious epistemology that accepts the insights and overcomes the oversights of previous epistemological work. The distinctive proposal of the virtuous doxastic practices model is intended to be useful both to individual believers and religious traditions, and particularly the Roman Catholic tradition, for understanding how religious beliefs are formed and maintained in the context of religious diversity. I

10 demonstrate how my approach not only fits with but also helps to resolve a potential problem in interreligious dialogue as advocated by the Roman Catholic Church. There is also no evidence of any major projects or books that explore the epistemological significance of religious diversity through the frame of interreligious dialogue. This dissertation makes a unique contribution by offering a distinctive proposal, useful for both individual believers and religious traditions, for understanding how religious belief formation and justification in our religiously diverse world. While theological discourse, up to this point, might realize the depth of the encounter with the religious other (this can be seen through theologian's attention to religious diversity), it has been unable to integrate the encounter with diversity into its epistemological framework. With a well-formulated epistemological theory in place, academic theological discourse on the significance of religious diversity can move forward beyond some of the impasses it currently faces. Theological discourse in the context of the Church can embrace interreligious dialogue as an important accompaniment to Christian formation and reconsider the role dialogue can play in the life of the Church. And, finally, those who find themselves—through dialogue—with a deep appreciation for the beliefs of religious others and, at the same time, a renewed strength in their own beliefs may be vindicated in this experience. v

Chapter 1 Theological "Problems" of Religious Diversity: Shifting from Soteriology to Epistemology The story of Christians facing religious diversity as a challenging issue for Christian faith has been recounted many times in many different ways. For some, Paul Knitter points out, the story of Christians wrestling with diversity shares its starting point with the Christian story itself. The New Testament gives witness to this, for example, in the Gospel of Luke: "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are saved."1 Gavin D'Costa posits a much later beginning to the story, arguing that religious plurality can only be properly understood as a Christian theological issue since the invention of "religion" by Cambridge Platonists in the sixteenth century. Prior to the sixteenth century, religions did not exist as we now think of them. D'Costa argues that the concept of "religion" became reified with the rise of the Western nation-state and thus can only be considered in light of this historical evolution.2 Jacques Dupuis tells another version of the story by beginning, most significantly, with St. Cyprian's third century dictum extra ecclesia nulla salus or "outside of the Church there is no salvation."3 Cyprian's pithy statement initiated a legacy of Christians 1. Paul Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Obris), 3. 2. Gavin D'Costa, Christianity and the World Religions: Disputed Questions in Theology of Religions (Maiden, MA: Blackwell, 2009), 57-8. 3. Jacques Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997), 87-8. See also Francis Sullivan, Salvation Outside the Church? Tracing the History of the Catholic Response (New York: Paulist, 1992). V y 11

12 dealing with diversity by adhering to a blanket assessment for all non-Christian salvation—it was a non-possibility.4 Phillip Quinn claims that although Christians have never been ignorant of religious diversity, it holds a special place in Christian theological thinking today given pluralistic democracies and an increase in sophisticated scholarship on multiple religious traditions.5 What is significant for this dissertation is not where this narrative begins or how it unfolds, but rather what questions underlie the ways theologians construct the storyline. What specific problems do they identify with religious pluralism? What answer or solution do they offer to that problem? In short, how do Christian theologians account for the fact of religious diversity? This chapter engages three major points of discussion which are organized into three corresponding sections. The first two sections trace the scope of the theological discussion on religious diversity and the third section sets up the constructive work I endeavor to do in the rest of this dissertation. In the first section, I introduce the tripartite paradigm (exclusivist, inclusivist, pluralist) that is classically used to describe types of Christian theological responses to religious diversity. I provide a general sketch of each category and briefly summarize the theories of a few key theologians representing the exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist positions. These three ways of addressing diversity are "top down" in approach. That is to say, they begin with theological questions—and, 4. Although Cyprian's statement initiated a particular legacy of exclusionary practices, Cyprian did not create his dictum for these purposes. As Francis Sullivan demonstrates in Salvation Outside the Church?, addressing religious diversity was not the real target of Cyprian's aim. Rather, Cyprian's statement was intended as a rhetorical device to sway Christians who left the church to return to it. 5. Philip Quinn, "Towards Thinner Theologies: Hick and Alston on Religious Diversity," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 38, nos. 1-3 (1995): 145.

13 most significantly, questions about salvation—and analyze religious diversity from there. I will demonstrate that, as a result of this top down approach and of a focus centered on the question of the final salvific efficacy (or lack thereof) of religions other than Christianity, theologians operating within the three classic categories both limit the force of their theological claims and distort the issue of religious diversity. Second, I discuss the work of Paul Griffiths, Harold Netland, and Gavin D'Costa on religious diversity. These theologians are informed by principles from studies in philosophy of religion; they employ a "middle down" approach by placing greater emphasis on religious belief and practice.6 As a result, Griffiths, Netland, and D'Costa shift the emphasis of the discussion and widen the possibilities for theological engagement with diverse religious traditions, particularly with their focus on religious believers' ways of knowing truth and religious beliefs as expressive of truth. While these efforts are exciting and often fruitful, there are a few important ways in which they falter. In general, although Griffiths, Netland, and D'Costa note key epistemological problems generated by religious diversity, they fail to develop adequate epistemological accounts that respond to these problems. Finally, in the third section, I weave together positions offered by philosophically- or epistemologically-minded theologians to complement the positive achievements of 6. While definitely less "top down" than the classic approaches, these approaches still do not warrant the label "bottom up" (a term characteristically applied to liberation theology, for example, which takes as its methodological starting point the suffering of the communities in which it is grounded) of in that they do not pull from actual "on the ground" accounts of religious belief and practice. However, because these approaches at least begin from hypothetical, generalized accounts of belief and practice, rather than abstract theological or philosophical questions, I assign them the distinctive label of "middle down."

Full document contains 381 pages
Abstract: The reality of religious diversity has long presented a problem for Christian theology. Historically, theologians construe this problem as soteriological and eschatological in nature: what is the relationship between religious others and Christian doctrine of salvation? More recently, theologians address religious diversity as a soteriological and epistemological problem: what is the status of the beliefs of religious others and what does this mean for salvation? This dissertation works to push the theological conversation on religious diversity even more squarely into epistemological territory. Specifically, what are the ways in which religious beliefs are shaped by the encounter with religious others? Drawing on the experiences documented by research on a women's interreligious dialogue group, I posit that the experience of engaging with religious others through interreligious dialogue leads to strengthened religious belief. This contradicts the claims of epistemologists of religious disagreement, which see interreligious dialogue as an occasion for discovering epistemic disagreement--disagreements that should lead to weakened or defeated religious belief Given these contradicting notions of the significance of religious diversity for religious belief, I propose to construct a religious epistemological model that is adequate to the experiences of those who actually engage in interreligious dialogue. Contemporary, alternative epistemologies and Aristotelian virtue theories provide resources for constructing such a model, which I call the virtuous doxastic practice epistemological model. This model posits that beliefs are formed by being the outcome of exercise of intellectual virtue, which are learned in the context of community, involve checks for reliability, and are productive toward the end of communal, epistemic flourishing. On this theory, religious beliefs attain the highest level of justification by being presented to the scrutiny of religious others and maintained in the context of interreligious dialogue. That is, when a person shares her religious beliefs, convictions, and attitudes with those who believe differently than her, she comes to hold to these beliefs, convictions, and attitudes in renewed way. For this reason, the dissertation concludes with a proposal for the Roman Catholic Church to view interreligious dialogue as a constitutive component of Christian faith formation, rather than an activity that is potentially problematic or even ancillary to other Christian practices.