On the Vision of God: An historical and theological inquiry into the significance of Nicholas of Cusa's De visione Dei for Christian theology of religions and interreligious dialogue

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) was among the first Christian thinkers to advocate for dialogue as a means of achieving peace among the religions. Within months of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, with Europe mired in inter-religious suspicion and violence, Cusa wrote De pace fidei (On the peace of faith), a pioneering work in the cause known today as inter-religious dialogue, and De visione Dei (On the vision of God), a mystical treatise about how knowledge of God may be obtained via a dialogue of different perspectives.
De visione Dei is considered Cusa’s literary masterpiece. Yet, notwithstanding its founding exercise involving a dialogue of different perspectives around an icon of God, the text has only rarely been cited for its potential to resource theological engagement with religious diversity.
Therefore, this thesis will advocate for De visione Dei as a resource for Christian theology of religions and inter-religious dialogue. It will do so by, firstly, presenting four warrants to justify deploying De visione Dei within those fields of inter-religious engagement and, secondly, applying its ideas to a currently contentious issue for Christian theology of religions and in providing a theological rationale for inter-religious dialogue.
The four warrants that will be presented to justify utilizing De visione Dei as a resource for Christian theology of religions are, firstly, the historical resonance between the circumstances in which Cusa wrote the book and our current context; second, the fact that the epistemological framework of the text appears especially germane to inter-religious engagement; third, the thematic complementarity between De visione Dei and the pioneering work on inter-religious dialogue that Cusa wrote in the same year, De pace fidei; and, fourth and finally, the expansive nature of De visione Dei’s language along with the experimental nature of its opening exercise provide a basis for an expansive reading of the text.
This thesis will also describe and discuss the breadth of Christian theology of religions in order to identify how De visione Dei can contribute to that field. Particular attention will be given to a significant point of contention - the fault-line between Christian theological approaches to religious diversity which prioritize commonality or ‘common ground’, on the one hand, and those which prioritize the distinctiveness and particularity of the religions on the other. It is a debate often framed between pluralism and particularism. Two of De visione Dei’s central ideas will be deployed in our final chapter to illustrate how Cusa’s text can be creatively utilized as an interlocutor for this currently contentious issue, and to show its value in supporting a rationale for inter-religious dialogue. Those two ideas are Cusa’s emphasis on the epistemological role of dialogue in making visible that which is invisible, and the theological and epistemological significance Cusa places on particularity in enabling knowledge of that which is universal.
In setting out the above-named warrants, and applying some of the prominent concepts of De visione Dei to current issues in inter-religious engagement, it is hoped that this thesis will establish that Nicholas of Cusa’s visionary text is a valuable resource for scholars and practitioners who seek to deepen inter-religious understanding and respect.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Pickard, Stephen, Principal Supervisor
  • Cowdell, Scott, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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