Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Eighth Challenge: Religious Pluralism

by Bernie and Eileen Rodel


Continuing with our special Countdown to Synod 2010 series . . .


In chapter two of his book Church: Living Communion, Paul Lakeland focuses on ten challenges that the Church today must address. Six of the ten challenges are internal issues: questions of identity and institutional commitment, authority, the roles of women in the Church, and patterns of ministry. The remaining four issues are concerned with how we think of mission and what sort of public face the Church should present to the world. One of these four external issues or challenges is religious pluralism. The question Lakeland seeks to address is: How can the Church grow into an ecumenical relationship with other great religious traditions of the world?

In order to grasp the critical issues in the discussion of religious pluralism we must have a good understanding of the document Dominus Jesus as cited by Lakeland. On August 6, 2000 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a declaration entitled Dominus Jesus that led to many disagreements about the interpretation of the Catholic Church’s relationship with other faiths and with other Christian Churches. The document gave rise to debates ranging over relations between the Church universal and individual churches, not least other Christian communions, matters of interfaith relations, questions concerning the realities of pluralism, and matters of ecclesial authority and governance.

Dominus Jesus appeared to set further explicit and definitive limits to what actually enables a community to be called a church. Certain aspects central to the Catholic faith are discussed: the uniqueness of salvation brought about through God’s incarnation in Christ; the place of the Catholic Church in God’s plan of salvation; and particular questions relating to religious and ecclesiological pluralism.

Upon closer review the prime target of Dominus Jesus was religious “relativism,” which the CDF believed to be a standpoint that tends to perceive all religions as equally valid paths toward salvation. Consequently, we see a shift in focus – from dialogue as noted in the documents of Vatican II – back to evangelization. The document sought to challenge a “false concept of tolerance” in the field of religious pluralism. Hence Dominus Jesus was concerned with attacking relativistic tendencies, that is, viewing all paths to salvation, even those calling themselves “Christian,” as equally valid and beneficial for their adherents. Relativistic theories endangered the Church’s constant missionary proclamation by seeking to justify religious pluralism. Such is the thinking of the CDF under the leadership of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

After reading the pages in Lakeland’s book on religious pluralism we think there is a real need to acknowledge that Jesus is the “true” but “not the only” bearer of God’s salvation. (See Paul Knitter: The Transformation of Mission in the Pluralist Paradigm.) We think there is a need to re-evaluate this Christological problem within the framework of an estimation of the place of Jesus Christ among other religions. This type of thinking results from the constellation of cultural factors called postmodernity.

Rather than considering in detail some of the negative currents of postmodernity that would form the framework of understanding here, it would be better to look at the positive side of postmodernity and the reception of religious pluralism. Many theologians have passed beyond the tolerance of other religions to a positive appreciation of the religious treasures they contain. They see a breaking down of barriers between people that used to be thought impenetrable. Pluralist theologians do not advocate the reduction of all religions to only one, but they look for commonalities, for the development toward a unification of people, for an ontological unity of humanity. We need to recognize that the universal love of God that is experienced by Christians is, as it were, manifested in the other religions. (See Roger Haight: Jesus, Symbol of God.)

In closing we would now like to quote Paul Lakeland as he describes the role and work of today’s theologians in explaining religious pluralism:

The problem for the teaching Church is that while it wants to treat world religions exactly as we have just described them, and most of the time these days it succeeds, it has to deal with its own and does a poor job understanding the ecclesial role of the theologian. The Church cherishes, proclaims, and lives by divine revelation. The theologian tries to understand. A theologian works liminally, that is, as a kind of frontier person, on the boundaries between what we know and what we do not know. No theologian, any more than any Church leader, can produce new revelation, but it is the theologians’s role in the Church to explore the boundaries of what can be said. It is the role of the teaching authority in the Church to determine, eventually, which of these liminal explorations are consistent with revelation and which are not. And just as the theologian has to respect the tradition and explore it faithfully, so the bishop has to practice patience. Theology is a kind of foraging or scouting expedition into unknown territory, and it cannot be rushed. A theologian carries maps and guides and sends reports back home from stages along the way, but the theologian is not really sure where she or he will end up. Some explorations will result in dead ends, and some will be abandoned. But sometimes you get to the right place by following a more circuitous route than those with direct pastoral concerns find easy to understand. On the other hand, theologians do occasionally need to remind themselves that the objective of their work is a fuller appreciation of the Gospel for the whole community of faith, not just their professional confreres. (p. 110)


Tomorrow we look at Challenge 9: The Church and Political Life.


See also the previous PCV posts
The First Challenge: Identity and Commitment
The Second Challenge: Ministry - Ordained and Lay
The Third Challenge: The Roles of Women in the Church
The Fourth Challenge: Church Teaching and Individual Conscience
The Fifth Challenge: The Religious Formation of the Young
The Sixth Challenge: The Scandal of Sexual Abuse
The Seventh Challenge: Ecumenism

Theologian and author Paul Lakeland will be the keynote speaker at the Catholic Coalition for Church reform's September 18 Synod of the Baptized: "Claiming Our Place at the Table." For more information about this event and to register, click here.

4 comments:

  1. I'm struggling to understand the problem. When we say that Jesus is the saviour of all, what do we mean? Does it mean that the message he exemplifies for the world about the love of God for humanity is a message that, believed, saves all people from radical anxiety? The world is good and the whole creation project is aiming toward a glorious fulfillment. Anyone who joins in to that redemptive project is living the Jesus message no matter what form their religion takes.
    I'm thinking the feature of postmodernity that is operative here is its non-essentialist epistemology. That is so much a part of our thinking now that it is hard to see the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism in relation to the Trinity, please check out my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca, and give me your advice on improving content and presentation.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a rational pluralistic worldview, major religions may be said to reflect the psychology of One God in three basic personalities, unified in spirit and universal in mind – analogous to the orthodox definition of the Trinity. In fact, there is much evidence that the psychologies of world religions reflect the unity of One God in an absolute Trinity.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universal Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    For more details, please see: www.relgiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

    ReplyDelete
  3. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism in relation to the Trinity, please check out my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca, and give me your thoughts on improving content and presentation.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    For more details, please see: www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and the Trinity, please check out my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca. It previews my book, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Your constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    For more details, please see: www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

    ReplyDelete