Chapter Twelve: Inclusivity and Exclusivity in a Religious Context
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167 12 Inclusivity and Exclusivity in a Religious Context In the preceding chapters of this book, I have argued that a new paradigm for the relation between the One and the Many is slowly gaining ground in Western culture under the impact of an evolutionary / systemsoriented approach to reality, namely, an understanding of the One as emergent out of the ongoing dynamic interplay of the Many with one another. 1 The One, accordingly, is no longer a transcendent entity but a structured field of activity or common space for the Many in their everchanging relations to one another. Such a philosophical paradigm can be derived, as Colin Gunton notes, from the notion of perichoresis for the understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity among the early Greek fathers of the church. 2 It can also be derived from a rethinking of the category of “society” in the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. 3 That is, a society should not be understood simply as an aggregate of actual entities, momentary self-constituting subjects of experience, with a “common element of form” or analogous self-constitution, 4 but rather as a structured 1. The historical background in the history of Western philosophy for this rethinking of the classical relation between the One and the Many has, of course, been provided in my earlier publication Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Intersubjectivity: A New Paradigm for Religion and Science (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2009). 2. Colin E. Gunton, The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 163–78. 3. Joseph A. Bracken, Subjectivity, Objectivity and Intersubjectivity: A New Paradigm for Religion and Science (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2009), 124–37. 4. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, corrected edition, ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York: Free Press, 1978), 34. 168  Part Three: Christian Doctrinal Questions field of activity or common space for those same actual entities in dynamic interrelation. 5 In either case, the point is that the One is no longer a transcendent entity but a structured environment or context for the ongoing relations of the Many to one another. In the present chapter, I apply this new paradigm for the dynamic interrelation of the One and the Many to three progressively broader religious contexts: the relation within Roman Catholicism between the papacy, understood as the universal church, and all the particular dioceses / regional churches scattered around the world; the relations between all the various churches or ecclesiastical denominations within Christianity as a world religion; and finally, the relations of the various world religions to one another in terms of contemporary interreligious dialogue. The One and the Many within Roman Catholicism For some background to this first task, namely, the relation between the pope and the other Roman Catholic bishops around the world, I turn to Bernard Prusak’s The Church Unfinished. 6 In this book he argues that in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the bishops at the Second Vatican Council, without denying the primacy of the pope and the church in Rome, nevertheless tried to recover the earlier understanding of the universal church as a “communion of churches.” 7 To legitimate that claim, he reviews the institutional growth of the church from the apostolic period onward and traces the gradual growth in the influence and authority of the bishop of Rome as the successor to Peter the apostle. This growth in influence, of course, should not be seen simply as a “power grab” on the part of the medieval popes but as an honest effort to protect the independence of the church from the meddling of the nobility into the selection of bishops and therewith control over church properties in a given area. With the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, of course, the prestige and, above all, the legislative power of the pope was seriously called into question. 8 But the subsequent Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church, while it instituted some much-needed reform in the training of the clergy and administration of local dioceses, still strongly maintained the primacy of the pope and the Vatican bureaucracy in the 5. Bracken, Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Intersubjectivity, 129–30. 6. Bernard P. Prusak, The Church Unfinished: Ecclesiology through the Centuries (New York: Paulist Press, 2004). 7. Ibid., 120–30. 8. Ibid., 235–47. Inclusivity and Exclusivity in a Religious Context  169 life of the church. In that...


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Subject Headings

  • Causation.
  • Cosmology.
  • One (The One in philosophy).
  • Many (Philosophy).
  • Philosophical theology.
  • Providence and government of God.
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