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2 Theologies of Religious Diversity: Toward a Catholic and catholic Assessment Terrence W. Tilley Judgments about the fittingness of various proposed theologies of religious diversity vary as much as the theologies do. All too often, however, people rush to judgment on the basis that a given theological proposal does or does not fit with the Bible or the tradition. But such a precipitous response all too often takes the Bible or the tradition as giving a single clear theology of religious diversity, a view belied by the great diversity of interpretations of Bible and tradition, by the variety of problems of understanding religious diversity, by the variety of proposed solutions by committed Christians, and by the lack of consensus within most denominations and between denominations about the judgments made or the criteria for making those judgments. In what follows, I develop four rules from the Catholic Christian tradition that can be used to guide theologies of religious diversity.1 I claim that these rules limn the “grammar” of the major statements proclaimed by the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church during and since the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).2 I also suggest these as useful guides for the consideration of other Christians. At the end of this paper, I evaluate the approaches of Harold Netland and Paul Knitter, using these rules as criteria.3 Each rule is articulated as a commandment. This is a tongue-in-cheek way to signal that there are other formulas possible, even if these formulations do validly articulate a particularly Catholic and generally Christian approach. 55 Four “Commandments” for a Theology of Diversity I. THOU SHALT NOT DENY GOD’S UNIVERSAL SALVIFIC WILL. The first rule, requiring us to acknowledge God’s universal salvific will, distinguishes a Catholic approach from the narrow exclusivism characteristic of someEvangelical theologies. Such exclusivist views imply that either God did not desire to save all people (impugning God’s creative goodness) or that God is not able to make that desire a real possibility for all people (impugning God’s power).4 The key to this injunction is the document of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, and the subsequent series of clarifications and expansions of that document. Nostra Aetate declared that “all peoples comprise a single community, and have a single origin, since God made the whole race of men dwell over the entire face of the earth” (§ 1). It went on to state, “One also is their final goal: God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, and His saving designs extend to all men (cf. Wis 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:6-7; 1 Tim 2:4)” (§ 1). The document further asserted that the church rejects nothing “true or holy” in other religious traditions (§ 2) and that Christ died for the salvation of all (§ 4).5 This is not a new position but a development of an ancient one. In his summary of the teaching of the church fathers before Saint Augustine, Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., noted three points that they held in common. First, they had a “generally positive attitude on the possibility of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles who had lived before the coming of Christ.”6 While there was no clear consensus on just how God saved the holy ones of old, the ancient writers did not exclude them from salvation simply because they were not explicit members of the church. Second, they had a “uniformly negative attitude about the possibility of salvation for Christians who were separated from the great church by heresy or schism.”7 Those who refused to remain in the community enlivened by the love of God were effectively refusing God’s love. So those who put themselves outside the church were putting themselves outside the community of salvation. Third, only when Christianity becomes established as the religion of the Roman Empire—and the actual, if perhaps all too often nominal, religion of most of its citizens—do writers exclude pagans and Jews from the circle of salvation. This is the point that the motto, extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation), becomes rigidified. Sullivan concluded his analysis as follows: 56 | Can Only One Religion Be True? If people were damned, it was not because God did not will their salvation; it was because they had refused the means of salvation he had provided for them. This does not mean that the judgment of guilt passed by Christian writers against heretics, schismatics...


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