The Divine Quest, East and West

A Comparative Study of Ultimate Realities

By James L. Ford

Subjects: Religion, Asian Religion And Philosophy, Christianity, Jewish Religious Studies
Paperback : 9781438460543, 434 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438460536, 434 pages, March 2016

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Table of contents

List of Figures and Tables
A Note on Orthography

Part I. Approaching the Ultimate

Defining “Ultimate Reality”

The Phenomenological Approach

Peter Berger, Social Construction, and the Sacred Canopy


Snapshots in the Evolution of a Tradition

The “Axial Age” and Its Legacy

Toward What End?

Part II. God: From Early Judaism to Postmodern Christianity


Setting the Stage: God in Ancient Israelite Religion and Early Judaism

Act 1: The Evolution of God in Ancient Israelite and Early Jewish Traditions

The Emergence of Christianity

Act 2: God of Early Christianity

Act 3: From Augustine to Thomas Aquinas and Natural Theology

Act 4: Luther and the Reformation

Act 5: “God” and the Enlightenment Encounter

Act 6: Beyond Theism: “God” Meets Postmodernism

Summary and Conclusions

Part III. Hindu Traditions: Brahman and the 330 Million Gods and Goddesses of India

Act 1: Vedic Religion and the Gods of Sacrifice

Act 2: The Late Vedic Period and the Axial Age

Act 3: Devotional Hindu Traditions

Act 4: Debating the One and the Many in Classical Hindu Theology

Act 5: Hinduism’s Colonial Encounter and Its Theological Consequences

Act 6: “ Hinduism in America”

Reflections on the Ultimate in Hindu Traditions

Part IV. Buddhist Traditions: From Nirvana to Emptiness


First Things First: A Basic Introduction to Buddhism

Act 1: Searching for the Ultimate in Early Buddhism

Act 2: From Nikaya to Mahayana Buddhism

Act 3: The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism

Act 4: The Buddhist Encounter with the West

The Ultimate in Buddhist Traditions: From Early Nikaya to the West

Part V. Reflections on the Divine Quest


Morphology of the Ultimate

New Visions of Ultimacy: Revelation, Mystical Discovery, and Imagination

The Ethics of Ultimacy

Reconciling Ultimate Realities and Truth Claims

Evolving Toward Process?

Ultimate Contingency


Looks at the concept of Ultimate Reality in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity.


Many books have discussed the development of the notion of God in Western monotheistic traditions, but how have non-Western cultures conceptualized what those in the West might identify as "God"? What might be learned by comparing different visions of the Divine, such as God, gods, Brahman, Nirvana, and Emptiness? James L. Ford engages these fascinating questions, exploring notions of "the Divine" or "Ultimate Reality" within Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Looking at a multiplicity of divine conceptions, even within traditions, Ford discusses the relationship between imagination and revelation in the emergence of visions of ultimacy; consequences and tendencies associated with particular notions of the Ultimate; and how new visions of the Ultimate arise in relation to social, cultural, political, and scientific developments. Ford reflects on what can be learned through an awareness of the various beliefs about the Ultimate and on how such disparate visions influence the attitudes and behavior of people in different parts of the world.

James L. Ford is Professor of Religion at Wake Forest University and the author of Jōkei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan.


"Given the quality of its content and the clarity of its style … Ford's Divine Quest could well serve both graduate and undergraduate courses in world religions, interreligious dialogue, and comparative theology." — Horizons

"…fascinating and thorough." — CHOICE