In the twentieth century, the field of religious studies underwent a profound and striking transformation. Such terms as “comparative approach,” “ecumenical studies,” and “interreligious dialogue” have become commonplace in scholarly research, discussion, and literature on the subject. The twenty-first century has added another innovating concept to these rapidly changing viewpoints – trans-religious experience and theology.
Ecumenism aims at reconciling differences among various branches or denominations of the Christian religion, and interreligious dialogue extends this confessional attitude to other religious traditions. Trans-religious theology, more specifically, directs its focus to the analysis and comparison of the ideas about Ultimate Reality in various religious systems of the world. The founder of the trans-religious theological project is a former professor and chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Jerry L. Martin. As Dr. Martin notes, trans-religious theology “grows out of philosophizing about the aim of theology.” He explains further:
Often theology is defined as the articulation of the beliefs about the divine reality within one’s tradition. In light of the widespread experience of finding spiritual insight in other traditions as well, that definition seems inappropriately limited. Surely, the aim of theology should be to learn all we can about ultimate reality, regardless of the source of the insights. Even comparative theology, when it is regarded as finally confessional, limited to asking what light other traditions throw on my own, stops short. What is needed is a Theology Without Walls, without confessional boundaries, without blinders, as it were. That does not mean that we do not stand somewhere, but that our sense of our goal is not limited to where we stand at the outset.