restricted access A Distinct Methodological Framework
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1 A Distinct Methodological Framework Introduction This chapter will present the methodological foundation of this book. The aim of this book is to demonstrate how engaging in a dialogical relationship with a contrary ideology can be beneficial to theology. It will argue that such a dialogue has become a theological necessity in twenty-first-century academia, by exploring the emphasis on pluralism in contemporary theology. The Oxford biologist and prominent religious antagonist Richard Dawkins will thus be taken as the embodiment of a contrary ideology. Dawkins’ worldview exemplifies a particular school of thought on evolutionary science, which he presents as materialist and atheistic. Dawkins also represents the view that theology is an intellectually weak discipline, failing to engage in an honest philosophical analysis of its own themes. By entering into a dialogue with Dawkins, we can contribute to combating this public perception which undermines theological endeavours. We can show how theology is prepared to directly take on its most vehement critics, thereby demonstrating how theology can be a self-critiquing discipline. The questioning of the legitimacy of theology by figures such as Dawkins cannot be ignored. Therefore, this work will show how a dialogical approach to theology and those of Dawkins’ ‘anti-theology’ persuasion may be played out. In doing so, it will advocate a framework for future theological projects to consider a wider range of intellectual sources, as opposed to focusing on perspectives more obviously amenable to a theological position. It will show that acknowledging the merits and weaknesses of an alternative worldview, even one that is overtly atheistic and anti-religious, may offer a new dimension to theological debate. Therefore, the interest of this work lies not with Dawkins per se, but with how theology is approached in a pluralistic world. To clarify, by ‘pluralism’, I mean simply a plurality or variety of worldviews in constant dialogue with one another sharing but not necessarily adopting each other’s beliefs (though this may occur). We will consider what influence a dialogue 5 with a hostile worldview may have for a religious philosophy, and we have taken Dawkins as an example to illustrate such a dialogue. In order to embark on this theological venture, a firm foundation of the motives, method, and limitations of the study must be presented. This will be the task of this chapter. Motives and Presuppositions The setting of the modern intellectual marketplace in which this book is situated brings with it particular considerations pertaining to how one does theology. The technological advances in information sharing have led to the realization that there is an ever-pressing need for an open, dialogical theology. This section will focus on the recognition of this point in contemporary theology. It will place emphasis on the need for theological dialogue with diverse ideologies, and then show how Dawkins will be taken as a representative of such an ideology. The focus will then shift to the emphasis placed on interdisciplinary dialogue in modern theology, and subsequently elaborate on why Dawkins is a suitable candidate for an interdisciplinary dialogue. DAWKINS AS AN IDEOLOGICAL ‘OTHER’ The post-globalization academic realm can be characterized by the significant dissolution of barriers between academic disciplines and spiritual traditions. The technological advancements over the last several decades have allowed an unprecedented flow of information among the world’s diverse population. The Latin American theologian Leonardo Boff considers the implications of this realization, as he suggests that a diverse intercultural dialogue can now take place: The process of globalization signifies more than just an economicfinancial -media phenomenon . . . it is the time when all the tribes can meet each other and exchange knowledge, values, and ethical and spiritual traditions and usher in a dialogue among the most diverse cultures and religions.1 In the passage quoted here, Boff is referring to the emergence of a postglobalization scenario in which theology and religion are exposed to other disciplines and value systems. Similarly, in 1983, a symposium was held to address the development of a new theological paradigm that sought to meet the requirements of this scenario.2 At this symposium, the prominent Swiss theologian Hans Küng3 6 | Reading Richard Dawkins stressed that theology should strive to develop a pluralistic model, transforming from particularist to universal thinking: “Our goal is a plural theology, open to learn and ready to discuss; one which—rooted in the Christian tradition—can provide an answer to the challenges of our time”.4 This approach potentially represents a decisive shift away from the outlook of...