As Iron Sharpens Iron: Comparative Theology Today
Father Francis Clooney contends that when we practice Comparative Theology, "If we choose to remain in our original tradition, remaining is now a real choice made in light of real alternatives." Even so, such variables must be balanced with vulnerability inherent to subjecting personal beliefs to scrutiny and mutually seeing ourselves as others see us. As W.B. Yeats poeticized:
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;'
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
If the fear or awe or reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10), then comparing notes and collaborating with past and present God-fearers from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9, 14:6) is a productive subsequent step whereby Comparative Theology gathers the spiritual "wealth of nations" (Isaiah 66:12). If all truth is God's truth and has its source in the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:17), we must be free to explore it. St. Augustine said, "Every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he finds truth, it is his Lord's." Process theologian John Cobb concurs, "Hebrews were not (always) faithless to Yahweh when they adopted and adapted from Egyptians and Persians," nor are Christians necessarily faithless if they adopt or adapt wisdom from science or "Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and primal peoples."
Lack of faith expresses itself in fear of being affected by the wisdom of other communities. If we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have no reason to fear that truth from any source will undercut our faith. Indeed, we have every reason to believe that all truth, wisdom and reality cohere in him . . . faith in Jesus Christ encourages and even requires us to assimilate into our tradition what others have learned . . . It is incumbent upon us as Christians to transform ourselves by being open to this wisdom and goodness and learning all we can from it. It is also incumbent upon Christians to share the saving wisdom that we have derived from our own tradition. Listening to others and witnessing to them are not in conflict; in fact, as we are transformed by what we learn from others, our witnessing may become far more convincing to them.
Gerald R. McDermott, author of Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? and God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? demonstrates to Christian Evangelicals and others:
The religions are good for theology. God uses the religions to teach the church deeper insight into the meaning of Christ . . . We saw this even in the Bible . . . It may be that some of today's religions portray aspects of the Divine mystery that the Bible does not equally emphasize: for example, the Qur'an's sense of the divine majesty and transcendence . . . Hindu traditions . . . remind Christians of God's immanence when deistic tendencies have obscured it. Theravadin Buddhists may be able to show . . . dimensions of the fallen ego that will shed greater light on what Paul meant by "the old man." Philosophical Daoists may have insights into nonaction that can help Christians better understand "waiting on God." Confucius's portrayal of virtue may open new understandings of radical discipleship . . . I am not saying these . . . (are not taught) in the Bible . . . But many of us . . . see them less clearly than we could . . . God used Aristotle to shed light for Thomas Aquinas on certain aspects of Christ and life with him . . . Peter learned from Cornelius's religious experience and heard God's word through him.