Behind the Masks of God

An Essay Toward Comparative Theology

By Robert Cummings Neville

Paperback : 9780791405796, 210 pages, February 1991
Hardcover : 9780791405789, 210 pages, February 1991

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Table of contents



Chapter 1. On Organizing the Concept of Divinity
I. Pandora's Box of Divinities
II. An Ontology
III. A Primary Cosmology
IV. The Archeology of God

Chapter 2. On Organizing a Program for Theology
I. A Program for Theology
II. Theological Sources
III. Theological Interpretants

Chapter 3. Creativity: A Speculative Historical Reflection
I. Western Understandings of Creativity
II. Chinese Understandings of Creativity
III. Understandings of Creativity in Contemporary Thought
IV. An Ontology of Creativity
V. Human Creativity

Chapter 4. Philosophy of World Religions: A Chinese Test Case
I. History and a Program for Philosophy of Religion
II. Transcendence and Creation ex Nihilo in China
III. Primary Cosmology in China

Chapter 5. Creation and Nothingness in Buddhism and Christianity
I. Fundamental Comparative Categories
II. The Logic of Creation ex Nihilo
III. Comparative Application of Creation ex Nihilo
IV. Comparison and the Primary Cosmology

Chapter 6. Kenosis in Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
I. Levels of Kenosis
II. Kenosis in Contemporary Dialogue III. Being vs. Non-Being?
IV. A Caveat

Chapter 7. Chinese Philosophy of Human Being
I. Sanctification and Salvation
II. Salvation History
III. History and Salvation

Chapter 8. Individuation in Confucianism and Christianity
I. Christianity and Covenant
II. Confucian Identity in the Mean
III. Comparisons, Critique, and Construction

Chapter 9. Wang Yang-ming and John Dewey on the Ontological Question
I. Transaction and the Mean
II. The Ontological Question

Chapter 10. Behind the Masks of God
I. Experience and Theory
II. Theology and Dialogue





Behind the Masks of God develops an abstract concept of creation ex nihilo to compare and contextualize many of the symbols and more concrete ideas of divinity in world religions. The first focus is Christianity, and the book is put forward as an essay in Christian theology. In addition, the essay asks how creation ex nihilo serves to relate Christianity to other religions, particularly those of China. Neville addresses both Buddhism and Christianity, and to a lesser extent Taoism, as test cases for the applicability of creation ex nihilo as a fundamental comparative category for connecting theistic religions with non-theistic ones.

Robert Cummings Neville is Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Theology at Boston University. He is the author of The Puritan Smile: A Look Toward Moral Reflection; Reconstruction of Thinking; Recovery of the Measure: Interpretation and Nature; and The Tao and the Daimon; he is the editor of New Essays in Metaphysics, all published by SUNY Press.


"I especially like Neville's courage in confronting the fundamental issues in comparative philosophy of religion. This book sets an agenda for comparative work that invites philosophical discussion and that makes a contribution to a more systematic approach to the comparative study of religion. The illuminating comparisons between Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity reveal the fruitfulness of his method of integrating theological with historical and philosophical studies of religion. " — John M. Koller

"It will receive some rough reviews, I suspect, from purists in theology, philosophy of religion, and history of religions. In other words, the intellectual fundamentalists will take pleasure in denouncing it. Not being a fundamentalist, I rather like the openness of the book, its honest attempt to raise comparative issues and its serious effort to reach out to another tradition (in this case, the Chinese) in thoughtful and engaging ways. " — Gerald James Larson