• Interfaith dialogue and the significance of difference: Considering Legenhausen’s non-reductive pluralism as a basis for Muslim-Christian dialogue

      Pfaff, Anneke (University of Chester, 2014-09)
      This research focuses on theories of interreligious dialogue and Muslim-Christian dialogue specifically. The aim is to examine whether Legenhausen’s non-reductive religious pluralism, rooted in Shi’a theology, is a successful solution to the problem of difference involved in Hick’s (reductive) hypothesis. Such a study is important because it investigates what types of theories of interreligious relations are “difference-respecting” in the sense that they are capable of recognizing the significance of religious and cultural differences as invaluable resources for interfaith dialogue. The research approach adopted is a critical analysis of the relevant literature, undertaken from a philosophical/phenomenological perspective. The findings are that Legenhausen’s position does not solve the problem of difference to a satisfying degree because a) it is based on inclusivist thinking and thus faces the charge of spiritual superiority and b) by excusing differences between Muslim and Christian beliefs by reference to the concept of qasir (incapability), it does not take otherness seriously, which makes it even more reductive than classical pluralisms. The main conclusion is that a truly egalitarian account of religions, sensitive to issues of difference, needs to bridge the gulf between objective observer perspectives (adopted by pluralists) and insider views on interfaith issues (promoted by religiously specific approaches like Legenhausen’s). As an alternative theory it is therefore recommended to combine the best of both approaches into a (religiously non-specific) model of witnessing, based on minimal ethical pluralism.