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Tbe Tbomist 64 (2000): 161-210 CHRISTIANITY, "INTERCULTURALITY," AND SALVATION: SOME PERSPECTIVES FROM LONERGAN ANDREW BEARDS Ushaw College Durham, United Kingdom The 1998 Synod of Asian Bishops in Rome helped to focus attention in a very concrete way upon theological issues surrounding notions such as "evangelization" and "inculturation ," and the interplay between the mission of the Holy Spirit, preparing all humankind in the diversity of cultures and religions to receive the incarnate Word, and the mission of that Word himself, Christ Jesus. One of the participants at the Synod, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, was certainly no stranger ..:o the complexity of the theological issues being raised. In 1993 he had turned his attention to the issue of Christianity and inculturation in a lecture delivered in Hong Kong entitled "Christ, Faith, and the Challenge of Cultures."1 Some years earlier he had offered theological reflections on questions concerning "anonymous Christianity" and allied theological issues in a paper that included a discussion of Rahner's approach to these matters.2 In his 1993 lecture the cardinal attempts an analysis of the dynamics of evangelization and inculturation that involves a critique of a Western relativist evaluation of what such a process can and should entail. He points out that such relativism was voiced against the Christian claim to uniqueness early in the 1 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Christ, Faith, and the Challenge of Cultures," Origins 24 (March 1995): 679-86. 2 Joseph Ratzinger, Principles ofCatholic Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 161-70. 161 162 ANDREW BEARDS Church's history by such Roman writers as Symmachus, and remains substantially the same objection today. Against such relativism he argues, firstly, that any human culture if authentic must be open to the discovery of truth-truth that may challenge and revise some of its deep-seated assumptions. Secondly, philosophical relativism is in fact alien to most cultures and religious world-views. And, thirdly, Christianity can be seen to transform and redeem other religious-cultural world-views in the way it preaches a God now brought dose, in the Incarnation-a God, or "Divinity," often implicitly recognized in these world-views as somehow "distant." A further point Ratzinger makes, and one that I wish to highlight for discussion in this article, is that the Church, the People of God, is itself a "cultural subject." Insofar as there is an intersubjective communion of heart and mind in the body of Christ this must be so. We cannot isolate the incarnate Word from the Jewish world-view and culture which he enters into, transforms, renews, "assumes," and, in doing so, confirms. This culture of the Old Covenant is itself, as Ratzinger points out, a result of what Gadamer might term a "fusion of horizons" with other cultural elements of its neighbors, taking place over centuries. However, such an evolved cultural form receives something of a definitive confirmation from the perspective of Christian faith once and insofar as it is taken into the life and mind of Christ. This process of cultural fusion then enters a new phase, but continues in the history of the Church, in which this Jewish world-view, confirmed and renewed in Christ, encounters and transforms the cultural forces it encounters in the process of evangelization. In this way Christianity, unlike some religions but akin to, for example, Buddhism, creates a universal Christian culture while also allowing (indeed, fostering) what in sociological terms one might call "subcultures"-that is, the varied local cultural forms of Christian societies, nations, cultures. This phenomenon Ratzinger terms "interculturality."3 In some ways this analysis appears to move against the current evident in much of the theological reflection on evangelization 3 Ratzinger, "Christ, Faith and the Challenge of Cultures," 681-83. "INTERCULTURALITY" AND SALVATION 163 and inculturation this century. Pope Pius XI remarked to Fr. M. D. Roland-Gosselin that the object of the Church is not to "civilize" but to evangelize,4 and since the encyclical Summi Pontificatus (1939) the magisterium has often repeated the need to differentiate the two processes. This process of making an increasingly sharp theological distinction between evangelization and inculturation went forward under the impetus of historical developments. A period in which evangelization had gone hand in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 161-210
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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