Today it was my turn to introduce the wild wild world of religious studies to the STM thesis methodology class. The background image of a maze and black was purposeful because maybe to theological students this way of studying religion is a dark and strange universe. Hopefully, they did get some light after my gentle introductory overview of the field of study. Much is possible through exploring a range of different approaches and relevant methods. Malaysia has a fertile climate to cultivate the field of religion and society in particular.
I left the students some quotable quotes I got from Get Set for Religious Studies:
There is no universal consensus as to what is the exact nature of either Christian Theology or Religious Studies.~ Frank Whaling, 1986: 127
Theology is ‘faith seeking understanding’. ~ Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033–1109 ce)
Theology at its broadest is thinking about questions raised by and about the religions. ~ David Ford (1999)
Wisdom is perhaps the most comprehensive and least controver-sial term for what theology is about. Wisdom may embrace describing, understanding, explaining, knowing and deciding, not only regarding matters of empirical fact but also regarding values, norms, beliefs and the shaping of lives, communities and institutions. ~ David Ford (2005)
The intellectual reflection within a religious tradition. ~ David Tracy (1988)
If you don’t know the difference between theology and religious studies, then you’re a theologian.~ Brian Bocking (1994)
First, it is plural, dealing with the many religions and secular worldviews of the globe.
Second, it is open-ended in the sense that it includes consideration of belief-systems and symbols lying beyond the frontiers of trad-itional religions.
Third, it treats worldviews both historically and systematically, and attempts to enter, through structured empathy, into the view-point of the believers.
Fourth, it makes thematic comparisons which help to illuminate the separate traditions.
Fifth, it is polymethodic: it uses many methods drawn from various disciplines – history, art history, philology, archeology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and so on.
Sixth, it aims to show the power of religious ideas and practices and their interactions with other aspects of human existence.
Seventh, it can set the scene not only for an educated under-standing of the world and its various belief-systems, but also for a personal quest for religious truth.
A central part is played in all this by the process of structured empathy. It is the way we cross our own horizons into the world of other people. ~ Ninian Smart (1995)
The contemporary geo-political situation has changed so pro-foundly that the study of religions at all levels can only be carried out successfully if undertaken in a global perspective, given the need for more information, explanation and understanding at all levels of society. ~ Ursula King (1990), Turning Points in Religious Studies, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark