Comparative Theology



The discipline of comparative theology is a response to growing religious pluralism in the world today. Using Christianity as a basis for comparison, this course helps you explore the major differences within Christianity’s own diverse traditions and those of other religions.

Theological comparisons are also made between the world’s other major religions to see how related beliefs and practices compare to each other. The course provides a broad theological awareness and understanding of different theologies and requires no personal faith or beliefs.

It also focuses on the theological particularities of the world’s religious traditions, and the learning across religious boundaries in a way that discloses commonalities of faith, belief and even practice.

You will learn about theological doctrines and practices of diverse religions and study those beliefs and practices alongside each other, with the intention of gaining in-depth knowledge of their similarities and differences. You will make your own comparisons through a model taught in class; engage with primary sources; and listen to authoritative speakers within each tradition.

Please note: This six-week course is an introduction only and it will not be possible to take an in-depth look into any specific theology.

Pre-course activity:
Online links will be sent in advance of the first session and short readings will be provided in class, or via email, between sessions.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone involved with or interested in inter-religious dialogue.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • engage in reasoned dialogue about theology
  • understand the varied theological positions that support major world religions
  • compare the theology of one religion or religious tradition with that of another
  • identify the diverse historical and cultural factors that shape theology, and explain how theology has shaped those factors.

Course outline:
Each session covers two one-hour topics and features lecture presentations, comparative analyses, discussion and audio-videos.

Week 1: Introduction to comparative theology

  • Part 1: Understanding comparative theology. History and important figures. Introduction to the historical approach to understanding divisions and distinctions in religion (historical currents, philosophical positions, theistic bearings regarding ‘god talk’). Comparative theology versus (1) comparative religion, (2) theology of religion and (3) interreligious dialogue (differences and similarities).
  • Part 2: The three major categorisations of religion. How to make theological comparisons (inter and intra religions) within these categorisations and distinguish between religions (primary texts, doctrinal sources, rituals). Comparing and sharing religious symbols. Comparing and sharing divine attributes and worship practices. Addressing the issue of ‘the many’ and ‘the one’.

Week 2: The nexus of faith traditions within Christianity (comparisons intra-Christianity)

  • Part 1: Christianity in the West. Comparisons between the Roman (Western) Catholic tradition and Protestant Reformed traditions.
  • Part 2: Christianity in the East. Comparisons between the Eastern Catholic traditions and orthodox traditions. The Jesus Christ–God issue. Trinitarian comparative theology. Nontrinitarianism.

Week 3: Introduction to Islam

  • Part 1: Comparisons between Christianity and Islam: major beliefs and practices in comparison. The God of Abraham from the Muslim perspective. Similarities between the Bible and Quran, and differences between church and mosque (concept and architecture) in relation to worship, ritual and belief.
  • Part 2: Comparisons intra-Islam. The Sunni and Shi’a distinction. Origin and historical developments of division. Major differences and similarities in theology and in jurisprudence.

Week 4: Introduction to Judaism

  • Part 1: Christianity and Judaism. The God of Abraham from the Jewish perspective. Jewish roots of Christianity and Christian flowering of Judaism. Variation in sources of religious doctrine. Interreligious comparisons based on historical and cultural beliefs and practices.
  • Part 2: Judaism and Islam. Interreligious comparisons based on beliefs and practices. Similarities between Torah and Quran. Similarities between Masjid al-Haram and the Jewish temple.

Week 5: Christianity and the Dharmic tradition

  • Part 1: Dharma and the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh experiences. Revelation versus evolution in Christianity and Hinduism (differences and similarities).
  • Part 2: Dharma and the divinity. Dharma in Christianity. Creation distinctions between Christianity and Hinduism: the ‘ex nihilo’ debate.

Week 6: Christianity and the Daoic tradition

  • Part 1: Daoism’s religious, philosophical and ritual tradition. Major similarities and differences compared with Christianity.
  • Part 2: Course summary and concluding thoughts. The ‘why’ of theological difference and the future of theology in a globalised world.

A short break is held halfway through each session, and you are welcome to bring refreshments if you wish.

Christopher Longhurst is a theologian trained in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. He has taught comparative religions and advanced comparative religions at undergraduate and post-graduate levels. He advances an academic approach to theology.

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.