Mutual Constructive Engagement: A Macintyrean Approach to Theology of Religions— Christianity and Islam in Conversation

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In this dissertation I argue that Alasdair MacIntyre’s account of tradition-constituted rationality resolves several of the major problems that impede progress for pluralism in theology of religions. Pluralists are motivated by two primary concerns—accounting for the radical diversity of religious belief without negating their intrinsic truth or salvific efficacy, and providing motivation for interreligious dialogue. The first commitment, I contend, undermines the second, for if there is no difference between religious traditions in respect to truth, then there is little to be gained from constructive dialogue at an epistemological level. The first commitment is similarly undermined by the tendency of pluralists to appeal to some form of universal grounding for all religious belief. MacIntyre’s account resolves both of these problems. First, by arguing that all rationality is constituted by historically-situated traditions of enquiry, MacIntyre is better able to account for true diversity, arguing that every tradition forms from particular authoritative texts and voices in response to unique historical circumstances, not from universal grounds. Second, by arguing that every tradition is always capable of encountering epistemological crises that call into question the very possibility of knowledge, he not only resolves the problem of relativism, but also preserves true motivation for dialogue, since it is always possible, in the midst of such a crisis, for one tradition to learn from another.

My proposal, then, is that MacIntyre’s account can be applied to theology of religions, providing motivation for what I am calling mutual, constructive engagement. I test this proposal by bringing into conversation two religious traditions—Christianity and Islam. In particular, I argue that both traditions have encountered similar crises concerning the issue of divine action, which have called into question not only the possibility of special providence, but also special revelation. This problem has constituted an epistemic crisis of the first order since, without special revelation, little can be known or said about God. I contend that the opportunities for constructive engagement have occurred precisely at these points of crisis, where each tradition has stood to benefit from the other and its respective resolution to its crisis.

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PHD in Theology

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Murphy, Nancey

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Christianity and other religions, Islam, Religious pluralism, Theology of religions, Christian theology, Interfaith relations




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