Buddhist-Christian Studies 21.1 (2001) 157-161
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Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism
Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. By Jacques Dupuis, S.J. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. 1997. xiv + 433 pp.
There may not be another individual more qualified than Jacques Dupuis to write this book. He has not only spent a lifetime teaching and serving in a part of the world where the encounter between Christianity and other faiths has been particularly pressing (India), but he has also previously reflected intensively and published widely on this topic. Even more impressive, however, is the fact that the scholarship that emerges in this volume reflects Dupuis as a faithful Catholic Christian, both in the sense of paying sincere heed to the wide range of the Roman Church's official teachings on this and related topics (he taught for years at the Gregorian University in Rome and edited, with Josef Neuner, the massive The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church 1 ) and in the sense of thinking along with others in the universal community of faithful Christians. Here we have a master theologian practicing his craft, working within a community of theological inquirers, bringing out, displaying, and putting to work old things and new in the effort to understand one of the most crucial issues of our time.
The result is a comprehensive and lucid discussion of Christian theology of religions that is indispensable as an introduction to students without any knowledge of the landscape even while it also serves as a handy status questionis to those already [End Page 157] familiar with the terrain. The first half of the book (part 1) is an overview of the history of Christian approaches to other faiths, beginning with the biblical material, continuing through the Logos spermatikos theology of the early Fathers, the developments surrounding the Extra ecclesiam nulla salus ("no salvation outside the Church") axiom over the centuries, and the pre- and post-Vatican II attempts to develop a theology of religions in the Catholic Church. This part concludes by summarizing the paradigm shifts from ecclesiocentrism to (in order) christocentrism, theocentrism, and regnocentrism/soteriocentrism. Throughout the discussion--especially of the pre-twentieth-century history that focused much more so on the fate of the unevangelized--Dupuis manages to provide important connections to developments in Christian thinking about the role of the religions in the divine scheme of things.
The second half of the volume (part 2) presents seven of the most difficult theological questions in Christian theologia religionum today. First, concerning the covenant: is there only one, or are there many? Is salvation history particular, or universal? Dupuis' provisional response is that there is one cosmic covenant that is never revoked. This covenant is revealed according to what he calls a "trinitarian rhythm" whereby God covenants through his Word, in his Spirit, and this covenant includes the witnesses of God left in other religions as well. Second, concerning revelation: does revelation come to us from "without," or emerge from "within" ourselves? What about the sacred texts of other traditions? How are Christians to understand the fullness of the revelation in Jesus Christ vis-à-vis other faiths? Dupuis' answer is that divine revelation is indeed scattered among the various religions, even if fully captured only in Christ, and that these revelations are thereby differentiated but complementary. 2 Third, concerning the divine mystery: is the "Real" beyond the categories of "personal" and "impersonal"? Is God one, or many (triune)? Dupuis responds that the religions have complementary and converging insights into the divine reality. Fourth, concerning Jesus Christ: is he one among many savior figures? What does the uniqueness of Christ mean? Is there a distinction or an absolute identity between Jesus and Christ? Is the Christ particular, or universal? Dupuis posits a "searching christology" whereby God reveals Godself in and through the images and symbols of the religions and through which humankind therefore responds to the divine graciousness. Jesus' uniqueness is thereby both "constitutive" (of universal significance) and "relational" (inserted in the overall plan of...